Girty was a quirky old bird, she was the kind of lady who you wished was your mom, but you knew that if she actually was, it would eventually get too weird for words.
I met her at an oil painting class I was taking at the local art center. She was very quiet and fit the stereotypical description of a grandma… you know, the knit sweaters, floral print past the knee dresses, sensible flats… but with cooler hair.
She never said much, and I always figured she was painting Petunia’s or some wondrous fall landscape or something. To say I was shocked when I saw her work was a severe understatement. Her paintings resembled demonic feminist acid trips in hell, with flames, blood and ovaries proudly gracing the canvas. One of her paintings showed a kite flying in a fiery desert storm, the kite wasn’t exactly a kite either… it was an aborted fetus.
I remember the exact way I felt the first time I saw her work, mystified, confused, amazed, and shocked all at once. I stood there and stared at it, and then turned to her, back to the painting, and back to her again. It just didn’t seem right, that someone “like her” would produce such conflicted, disturbing, creative feminist work. She looked like she should have been flogging chocolate brownies at the church.
“Well what you were expecting?” she asked
“Well, dear… maybe it’s not the way I paint, but more the fact that you expected my work to be a certain way before looking at it.”
“I suppose you’re right… You just-”
“I know… You thought I was an old boring bitch didn’t you.”
“No it’s not that-”
“It’s okay dear… when you get to my age, you will probably start shopping at orthopedic stores and wearing knit cardigans too… At 76 it’s too hard to keep up with the fashions, and no one’s looking anyway… Well, except for maybe you.”
Girty and I became friends after that class. She would sometimes swing by to pick me up after work so I didn’t have to take the bus. I always wore White knuckles all the way back to her house, as we slowly but dangerously dodged death in her powder Blue K car.
People would drive past her honking as she veered into their lanes unknowingly. Occasionally they would roll down the window and give her the one fingered salute, in which she would promptly reply “Oh fuck off… I’m old… Leave me alone!”
The more I learned about Girty, the more I realized that she was anything but a stereotypical grandma, and in fact… she didn’t even know her grandkids.
Girty married a Navy commander in the 50s, but divorced him rather quickly after meeting a seducing jazz musician named Mitch in a smokey nightclub. After her divorce with the Navy commander was final, she married Mitch, the trumpet player, and followed him around on tour living a life of excessive drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. She began writing poetry. Some of her poetry was even sold to Mitch’s record company and later turned into hits.
Unfortunately, Mitch cheated on Girty with several women and absolutely broke her heart. She almost did time for beating him bloody in a club with a bottle of scotch. They let her go, realizing why she was beating him. Another divorce came a short time later, along with half of everything he had and a nasty drinking habit worse than ever.
Girty spent several years alone, writing, drinking and selling poetry books. Her resentment and hatred towards men was becoming evident in her work. In the early 60s she was experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs and became pregnant with an activist’s child. She aborted the baby, fearing retardation, and had the very man who’s child she aborted appear outside of the clinic with a group of protesters declaring that she was a murderer.
A few years later, she became pregnant again, this time with a traveling salesman’s child. A tawdry one night stand in the hotel where she met him. She decided to keep the baby, hoping that it would be the sort of change that she needed in her life. As an only child, and having parents who disowned her after her first divorce, Girty was lonely and just wanted to have a connection with someone that lasted longer than an orgasm.
Darla was born! A beautiful baby girl. Girty did everything by herself with no support from anybody, except for her next door neighbour Sharon. Darla and Girty spent the next several years enjoying being the apple of each other’s eye, until one day Darla grew up and asked her mom “Who’s my father?”
Well fuck if Girty could remember his name… His name wasn’t on the birth certificate, nor did he know of Darla’s existence, nor did ever speak to Girty again after their impromptu romp in that NY hotel room. Darla continued to pressure her mother to find out who her father was, and became increasingly angry at her, until one day, while pregnant… she walked out on her mother and never looked back.
Girty had a tear in her eye as she told me the story. It had been fifteen years since her daughter walked out on her… And all she knew, was that her daughter was married and had three kids. Girty tried to write, call, and even showed up on her daughters doorstep with flowers and gifts for the kids.
“Talk to me when you are ready to tell me who my father is” is all she would say. Every single time.
“So… what can I do” she said as she lit a smoke. “I have nothing. I never thought about this when I was pregnant with her. I never thought it would come back to haunt me. It was a one night stand. I didn’t need or want his help or money.”
I grabbed her hand and looked at her sympathetically. She cracked a smile as she said “You know, Darla is about your age. You kind of remind me of her a little bit.”
“Do you think you’ll ever make up with her?” I asked
“I hope so dear. Every day I don’t speak to her my heart breaks a little more. It’s why I paint. I’ve given up writing. I don’t have the same hatred that I used to, it’s hard to articulate… So now I just paint.”
It was getting late, so I decided to head home and get some sleep. Before I left I swiped a piece of addressed mail from Girty’s table so I could go home and research Darla.
I googled her daughter Darla, and found her “mommy blog” on the internet, filled with stories about her wonderful kids, lazy husband, and conflicted non-relationship with her ‘evil’ mother.”
Her latest post sounded sort of lonely. I decided to leave her a comment anonymously;
“You know, she’s not gonna be around forever Darla… She loves you. You’re all she has. She is an amazing woman, and she is telling you the truth about your father. “
A few weeks later I decided to drive over to Girty’s house in my new moving box of heat that I purchased off my manager for $2500. It rolled. I got to her house and saw a car in the driveway, weird, since Girty was kind of a loner.
I rolled slowly beside the curb to see if I could peer in through the big front window. Surely enough, there was Girty and Darla, sitting there having tea. I smiled and sped up, deciding not to interfere on their long-awaited reunion.