Granny had been brought up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and went to church once every two or three years, usually on Mother’s Day, hoping my father would join her and learn to appreciate her innumerable virtues.  He never went.  On Sunday mornings, he worshiped God at the Bobby Jones Golf Course—no exceptions.  I would have to go with Granny in his place, a boy of ten who, one time, embarrassed her by grabbing a handful of Oysterettes and chug-a-lugging two or three tiny glasses of Welch’s grape juice before she grabbed my arm and explained to the old lady sitting next to her, “His mother takes him to the Episcopal church.”

At the age of 50, my father suddenly, inexplicably announced that he, too, intended to become an Episcopalian.  Granny, who despised my mother, felt betrayed.  One evening when my father was attending Confirmation class, she found my mother in the kitchen and blurted out, “I’d never go to the Episcopal church.  Some of the biggest sinners in town go there.  Old Alva Barringer teaches Sunday School there, and she’s sleeping with half the men in town”—a charge that I later discovered, though a wild exaggeration, contained an element of truth.

Taken aback, my mother said, “Granny, we’re all sinners.”

“I’m not,” she said indignantly.

“There was only one perfect person,” my mother said.

“Oh, who was that?” Granny asked, genuinely curious.  She expected my mother to say An insurance salesman in Altoona, Pennsylvania, named Al Snyder.

“Why, Jesus was the only one without sin,” my mother said.

Granny’s eyes narrowed to slips “Well, He wasn’t all that good.  He went off and left His mother.”

Granny lived with us and was perpetually on display, enthroned on the rocking chair in the living room, picking her nose (a family pastime), demanding to be noticed.  The three of us would keep to our wing of the house at night—sometimes thirsty, hungry, but unwilling to pass her reproachful face to get to the refrigerator.  Three nights a week, my parents would go to the movies—Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, when the feature changed.  It didn’t matter what was playing—the latest Alfred Hitchcock, Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops.  They didn’t care.  In the dark of the Florida Theater, they were safe from Granny (and, I might add, from each other).

After dinner, they would leave the table, go back to their bedroom for a minute or two, take a deep breath, then half-walk, half-run through the living room and out the side door.  Granny would stare at them, eyes pinpoints of hatred, then go back in her room and pout until bedtime.

One night, shortly after my father’s Confirmation, she waited up for them.

When they came through the door, she said to my father, “Joe, you call yourself a Christian, and you won’t even take your mother to the movies.”

“Jesus didn’t take His mother to the movies,” he said, and quickly headed for the bedroom.