A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


 My grandmother, Mae Menta, passed away a few days ago on May 12, at the ripe age of 100 (she got her money’s worth, as my dad aptly put it). It’s funny, but reading the comments in the online guest book associated with her obituary, I had to grin to myself at all the references to her warm heart, kind smile, and the like. And, sure, my grandmother had all those things and more, in abundance. But that’s not the grandmom Menta I like to remember.

My favorite memories of my grandmother usually involve a no-nonsense woman dispensing sit-up-and-fly-right advice to the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, who routinely (you better believe it) needed such straight talk. Yes, Mae Menta was warm and loving, but when you needed to hear something, boy, you heard it, straight no chaser.

She also had a biting sense of humor, and a sharp sense of when to use it. Once, about fifteen or twenty years ago (when she was a mere 80 or so), there was some family gathering or other at my grandmother’s home in South Philadelphia. One of my cousins, about 19 or 20 years old at the time, was sitting around the dinner table with us, and was in a foul mood over something (he was usually a nice young man, but you know how young people get sometimes). Anyway, at one point my cousin said something curt and disrespectful to my grandmother, which immediately silenced the table.

Did my grandmother act hurt and dejected, and wait for everybody to leap to her defense? Nope. Without missing a beat (a professional stage performer couldn’t have timed it better), she eyed him like a laser beam and said: “And what the Hell’s the matter with you? The girlfriend didn’t come across last night?”

There was shock, dropped jaws, and hear-a-pin-drop silence. But then, slowly, the laughter came, and then outright guffaws around the table, even from my cousin, who couldn’t believe his grandmother had actually said that. Of course, grandmom's little zinger was the exact thing needed in that situation, and my cousin and everybody else were fine and happy during the rest of the meal.

That’s the grandmom Menta I remember, a woman who could speak for herself, thank you, and knew how to take care of business. I’m sure I’ll come to miss the smiles and the warmth, too, but for now, I’m going to wrap myself in those memories of her sharp wit, biting intelligence, and no-nonsense attitude.

So, Salud, grandmom! Don’t let them give you any Hell up there. Not that I really need to worry.

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