"Baby, do you understand me now…"
Dateline: Buffalo, NY
I am the grandchild, of a Mermaid.
I know that to be true, because she told me.
We were standing on a break wall when Tess bent down and whispered this into my ear, "I used to live there," and then she reverently pointed to the Niagara River.
I was four or five years old, but I will never forget the day my Gram told me she used to be a mermaid.
It was the day my Grandfather died.
Quite a shock for a young child, the giant of a man who taught me how to swing a baseball bat, Clayton Robbins, was gone.
But on the other hand, a mermaid just told me she loved me.
Tough call for a child on whether that was a bad day or not.
I'm standing with my father looking down into a toilet bowl. Freddy, my goldfish, is still sleeping on his side in the porcelain sea. Dad says that if Freddy doesn't "wake up" soon, he's going to flush.
I loved Freddy. I some times forgot to feed Freddy, but that doesn't mean I didn't love him. I would stand by the table he was on and being eye to fish eye like we were, I would make my mouth into O's just like he would.
Freddy and I would talk like that every day. He would make an O; I would make an O with my lips. He would close his fish lips; I would close my kid lips.
For a fact I talked more to Freddy than I did talk with my parents.
For a fish, Freddy was a really good listener.
But my father had to get to work, and Freddy was still asleep, so as Dad started to reach for the flush lever I yelled out, "Wait a minute, wait a minute…where's Gram, get Gram…maybe she can wake him up…please get Gram…"
"Donnie, Freddy is not going to wake up. Gram can't wake him up."
"Yes, YES she can! She can wake up Freddy! Gram's a Mermaid and she can wake up Freddy! Please?"
Then my father bends down to my level, one knee on the floor, one hand on my shoulder. When he does that, whatever it is about never seems to work out very well for me.
So I start to cry.
Kid’s way of leveling the playing field.
"Donnie, buddy, what did you say?"
"Get Gram. She…she…she can wake up Freddy. Mermaids can wake up Freddy."
When Dad calls my mother like that, it REALLY never turns out to good for me.
Crying or not.
Suddenly there is a lot of talk above my head and then I hear this, "Tess, Tess can you come here a minute."
My Gram, the Mermaid, lived with us, and finally they called her to wake up Freddy.
More talk above my head. The talk moves out to the hallway. Freddy and I are the only ones in the potty. He's still sleeping; I'm still crying.
Finally Gram comes in and kneels down to my level.
Gram kisses my cheek, wipes my tears, "Donnie, why did you tell your dad I was a mermaid? Honey, I'm not a mermaid."
I'm crushed. I have a sleeping dead stupido fish floating in the potty and now my Gram is telling me she isn't a Mermaid. WTH!
"You told me you were a mermaid; YOU TOLD ME!"
Now my dad comes back in and kneels down; a double kneel. Great, now I'm going to bed without dinner.
"Donnie, there is no such thing as a Mermaid." Low blow Dad, my stupido dead fish is still sleeping in the potty and now this. Got to admit though, it knocked me back a bit, took me off my crying game.
"Yes there are! YES THERE ARE! Gram told me! Gram told me she was a Mermaid! She showed me where she lived as a MERMAID you stupido!"
Right away I started sobbing hard and loud trying to mitigate calling my Dad a stupido.
"Donnie, what are you talking about?”
The sobs worked.
"Gram showed me, showed me when Grampa died." And then I started sobbing for real. I missed my grandfather, Clay.
"We were standing on some rocks in the river and Gram pointed to the river and said that's where she used to live."
I called her out on her secret…and won.
More talk above my head.
Now all three, Gram, Dad and Mom, were kneeling down. I'm thinking GREAT, just GREAT, no TV for a week."
Dad talks first, "Donnie, that was the break wall in the Niagara River."
Then Mom. "Gram wasn't pointing to the river Donnie."
And as I turn to my beloved Gram she says this. "Donnie, oh honey, I was pointing across the river, not to the river. Donnie hun, I used to live ACROSS the river, in Canada. Honey I'm from Canada. I'm a Canadian, not a Mermaid."
Great! I start sobbing even more as I realize I have to now tell Davey, Stevie, Bobby, Joey, Tony and Louie, plus that stupido girl down at the end of the block that no, my Gram is not a Mermaid; but something called a Canadian.
And stupido Freddy never did wake up.
"…sometimes I feel a little mad…"
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Next in Buffalo Tales….
"I was a Cast-Away…"