I’m sure we all have examples of comedy arising out of the most serious and unlikely situations in our lives. The following is a true account of something that happened when I was seven-years-old.
In the middle of a winters’ night, my brother and I were scooped out of bed and bundled into the family car in our pyjamas. We were ushered into the kitchen of our grandparents’ bungalow where our aunties fussed over us with sweet tea between fits of sobbing. The door to the hallway was open and I watched as Mum and Auntie Pearl were speaking urgently in quiet voices.
“But you must go in and see him, love. You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t.”
“But I want to remember Dad the way he was,” my mum was saying, sobbing hard.
At that moment, the lady from down the road, who’d been given a fiver to ‘lay Granddad out’, exited the bedroom and went on her way. Mum was eventually talked into going in to say her last goodbyes to her father, only to come flying out of the room ten seconds later, screaming like a wounded animal. She crashed into a picture on the wall which fell and smashed.
“His smile! His smile! His horrible smile!” she was screaming. Our poor mum lay in a darkened room for five days while Dad burnt beans on toast and set the chip-pan alight.
Come the day of the funeral, my brother and I were back in Gran’s kitchen in our Sunday Best, being fussed over again by our aunties. Mum was just about holding it together when the funeral cortege pulled up outside. My dad went and knocked on the bedroom door, telling Gran that it was time to set off to the church. But Gran wouldn’t come out and the door was locked.
“Come on, Rita, It’s okay Darlin’, we’re all with you. Just open the door.”
But Gran was having none of it and refused to open the door. We could hear her sobbing loudly inside. Eventually, Dad had to go out into the garden, break a window and climb into the bedroom. He found the old lady sitting on the end of her bed: black hat, black coat and gloves, bobbing up and down, clutching her handbag. Dad sat on the bed next to her and put his arms around her. She was way past consoling. Then, eventually, Then, after a while, he realised she wasn’t sobbing at all. She was laughing.
“What is it?” He asked
When she could finally speak, she said, “Me teef don’t fit.”
“Me teef don’t fit.”
Then Dad realised that, on the bedside table between the single beds, there were two glasses of water in which my grandparents soaked their false teeth overnight. The lady down the road who’d laid Grandad out had put Gran’s teeth in Grandad, thus the misshapen mouth that terrified my mum the night he died.
I remember a very confused vicar trying to hold a service at the end of the grave as the coffin was lowered, Gran and my mum hugging and giggling, Granny all gums.