Friday, March 12, 2010

Kiss My Dupa

When I was growing up, spending time with my paternal grandparents, Pap had a habit of sitting in a chair in the corner of the kitchen beside the woodstove, sometimes reading, sometimes just sitting there over his ridiculously strong cup of tea, looking curmudgeonly--he had more hair and fewer teeth but otherwise resembled Nebbercracker from the movie Monster House in some significant ways. I know Nebbercracker was supposed to be a scary bad guy, especially at the beginning, but I found myself a little nostalgic and missing Pap even in the opening scenes of the movie.

Anyway, there he sat, in the chair in the corner of the kitchen and Nan was often puttering around the house or watching TV in the living room. The house was a converted hunting cabin and had only three rooms so when he yelled for her, in his phlegmy, grunty way (emphysema), she wouldn't have any problem hearing him.

"Em," he would yell, and then pause for a response, which wouldn't come, so he'd yell again.

"Em!"

"Em!"

"Emma!"

Meanwhile, my grandmother was wherever she was smirking and rolling her eyes, knowing what was coming, and not answering because of it.

"Em!"

"Em!"

"Emma!"

This would sometimes go on for three or four rounds before finally, finally Nan would cave and say, "What?!" or sometimes (if this was, say, the third or fourth time that day that Pap had gotten into this mood), "What, you crazy old son-of-a-bitch?!"

And always, always, always, Pap would say, "Kiss my dupa*!" He was a sixty-something-year-old man with a six-year-old's mischievous glint in his eye. Sometimes--even if it was the fourth or fifth time that day he'd pulled his clever little trick--he would laugh so hard a coughing fit would ensue.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately--not merely because it's the kind of funny-in-a-warped way story that is so typical of my grandparents--but because in my own funny-in-a-warped way brain, it's become a metaphor for my entire life.
There are some things about myself and my life that I would really like to change. I would like to be more motivated and energetic and I understand that the main way to get moving is to actually move. I want to spend less energy procrastinating and more energy actually accomplishing. I lecture myself pretty much perpetually. The last ten minutes before I fall asleep, many of my thoughts begin with "First thing tomorrow, I will..." and yet day after day after month after year, not much changes.
So there is the lecturing side of myself--the well-intentioned, you-can-do-more-better-faster self but then there is the other side, sitting in the corner, clamoring for attention. ("Em!" "Em!" "Emma!") And that more-better-faster person tries nobly to resist the pull of the non-productive, unhealthy, but oh-so-deeply-ingrained creature of slothful habits, but finally, finally, always, always she gives in and shouts, "What, you crazy old son-of-a-bitch?!"

*Growing up, I knew "dupa" was "ass" and just assumed it was German, given my grandfather's heritage. But, turns out, if it is German it is regional slang borrowed from one of several Eastern European neighbors.

6 comments:

  1. That smirking voice in the corner is always the one telling me I CAN'T change anything. IF I manage to do more, better, faster, I find I have run very quickly against the wind, around in a circle and end up sitting, out of breath, in the place where I began. The real changes were internal. When I finally realize this I BECOME the smirking voice in the corner...

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  2. I am starting to think that there must have been some valuable lesson to be learned in the dynamics between the two of them but I must have missed it while I was having a panic attack about killing Nan's mother's heirloom African Violets because nobody ever told me that you can't get them wet...I don't know if it is Pap's influence or Nan's but I have discovered that LIFE is the smirking voice in the corner that keeps prodding me along until I finally respond only to hear "Kiss My Dupa!" at crucial moments of potential change.

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  3. Youngest Sister3/22/10, 8:31 PM

    My favorite of theirs was always:

    Nan: "I'm sure on the ball today."

    Pap: "Oh, yeah? Well bounce up and kiss my ass." (followed by wheezing laughter)

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  4. I don't know how valuable the lessons ultimately are--or if they're even really there. I guess I think lessons are in the eye of the beholder and what we think something means is just as instructive (and self-revelatory) as what it might actually, objectively mean. If, in fact, anything at all can be said to objectively MEAN anything...We, as a species, have a hard enough time agreeing upon what CONSTITUTES reality--we're utterly hopeless at coming to collective & unanimous agreement about what it MEANS.

    And YS--that's a favorite of mine too. Also every once in a while I will agree with someone by saying "Right!" And hear her voice in my head: "Right--with Eversharp!" It took me years to realize it was an advertisement for writing instruments that she had co-opted (and semi-bastardized). I would say, "We're going to the lake today?" and she would say, "Right [write]--with Eversharp!" and I had NO IDEA what the hell that meant. It's probably indicative of something or other that I never asked what it meant--just absorbed it as-is.

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    Replies
    1. OMG! My mom (who was from Germany) would say dupa all the time! This is freak hilarious.

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  5. My grandparents fought like crazy! but they loved one another...love that old guy in Monster House!

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