Monday, June 13, 2011

Leave Them Laughing

The one thing the world will never have enough of is the outrageous.

Salvador Dali
There's an old saying in Show Business, when you are doing a comedy or a comic sketch "Always leave them laughing."

My readership is so low these days that I thought I would indulge myself a bit and once more write about my grandmother. Those of you who often join me as travelers on the vagabond's journey may remember and enjoy it. I hope so.

Her name was Charlotte Cole. That was her married name and her professional name. She was born in the 19th Century, as were her three children, two boys and a girl, my mother. Charlotte was trained as a youngster to sing, dance and play the piano, she was also given acting lessons..

She married a man who wanted to be a pioneer. So the two of them set off for Nebraska where he built a sod house and was a farmer and rancher. Charlotte gave birth to all of her children in that sod house.

One day she told me about getting supplies from the village. While her husband was working in the fields she would drive an ox cart into town. When the cart was filled there was no room for her so she road back sitting on the ox.

When her husband died her boys were grown and her daughter was a teenager. They moved to Lincoln, Nebraska where my mother finished school. Charlotte taught my mother to sing and dance, and a day came when they joined a traveling theatre company as a variety act. My grandmother was always very young looking so they became the Cole Sisters, a song and dance duo. She had amazing stories to tell about those years.

They played in some very rough places, some of them weren't states yet. Men would come to the theatre with their rifles. The theatres were often very primitive, with little or no sanitary facilities for the actors. There was no such thing as privacy.

One of the skits that was performed involved a Native American being shot and killed by the villain of the piece. Wherever the company went they would hire a local Indian to play the part. In one location he arrived for the show with his whole family and when the villain fired his pistol, once, the entire family fell down.

She told about another time when the entire company got diarrhea during the performance. The only way out was through the back door which was covered by a piece of scenery. As soon as the first act was over and the curtain closed there was a mad dash to the out houses which immediate filled up leaving every one else to use the forest out behind the theatre.

They eventually got to New York City. In those days the motion picture business was located in New York, before Hollywood was born. So Charlotte became an actress in silent films.

She taught me things and encouraged me to go into show business. She was the only one in my family who did.

One of the most remarkable things about my grandmother was her sense of humor. When something struck her funny she would laugh in such a way that everyone around her was infected by it and would laugh along with her even if they didn't know what was funny. One day we were driving somewhere and the wind blew her hat off, right out the window. My brother went chasing after it and each time he leaned over to pick it up the wind would blow it again. After a couple of times watching that she started to laugh. Even though it was her hat she couldn't resist the humor of it and neither could the rest of us. My poor brother eventually saved the hat but didn't appreciate being laughed at.

Another time she was visiting me, my mother and my sister. She decided to take a bath. When she was finished she couldn't get up. My mother and sister tried to get her up but were unable to, she was a bit overweight by this time. So they called me. Charlotte held a towel in front of her, I grabbed her under the arm pits and hoisted her up, then went about my business. Charlotte was unfazed by the whole thing.

The most memorable story about her and her sense of humor happened a few days before she died. She was very independent. She had lived for many years by herself in a residential hotel in New York. One day she called my mother and said to come and get her because she was passing on. We were living in a New York suburb at that time. So we drove into town and picked her up.

This was in the 40's. In those days you didn't enter an upscale New York hotel without being properly dressed. So I wore a tie and jacket. I was 14 years old. Not only that but Charlotte never went out without being immaculately dressed, which meant a nice outfit, her fox fur stole, gloves and a hat with a veil.

When we reached our apartment, which was on the second floor, Charlotte took one look at the stairs and declared that she would not be able to climb them. So I got a chair. We put Charlotte in the chair. Mother got in front, I got behind, and we lifted her step by step up the staircase. Except that every time I leaned over to grab the back of her chair my tie fell in front of her face and she had to blow it away. Well, about half way up the stairs it struck her funny and she started to laugh. Within moments she, mother, I and the two people from the first floor who came out to see if they could do anything, were helpless with laughter.

We finally got her upstairs and into a bed. Two days later she went to the hospital and made her exit. She was 88.

I'll never forget that day. There she was an old lady knowing that she was going off to die and yet she found something humorous about her own passing. I vowed to be like her. If I have to go, that's the way I want to go. Leave them laughing.

Dana Bate
The Vagabond
My lower bridge came loose this morning. It's painful, very painful to chew, impossible to bite. No money for a dentist, no insurance.
Never give up.


Big Mark 243 said...

You are a Cornhusker by blood? I will have to get out to Lincoln and look around to see if I can find traces of your family!

I am sorry to hear about your bridge. I have had to endure a situation comparable to yours a few years ago. Not fun.

As far as readership goes I think it is a seasonal thing. Summer is on the way and folks are busy with other things... and then there is Facebook to attend to when they are on line...

Pat said...

I loved reading about your grandmother, she was quite a character!

Arlene (AJ) said...

Oh what wonderful memories you have of your grandmother, you were indeed blessed. Her contagiious laugh had to bring peace and joy to your hearts and everyone she touched. Reading your words about her brought a smile and laugh to my heart.

krissy knox said...

Your Grandmother was a blessed woman, and you were blessed to have her! For her to have the peace she had to live, and the peace she had to die, blessed her and everyone around her. May we all be this way, and may we all touch each other this way. Even though I have read this story before when you have posted it before, it has blessed me just as much this time, and even more, somehow! thanks for sharing, db! :)

krissy knox :)
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Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Laughter, a wonderful thing :o)