My grandmother’s name is Barbara. Apparently she was occasionally clumsy, and would drop things. Particularly in the kitchen. So a plate would crash to the floor and shatter, and from the next room, where my grandfather was probably watching sports on a black and white TV, he would yell “NOW WHAT DON’T WE HAVE, BARBARA?!?!”

I like to think he meant it lovingly but it’s almost more fun to think about if he didn’t. Remember – this was a different era. Men treated women differently. Picture Mad Men, then rewind 20 years.

My grandfather was an engineer. My understanding is that he worked with NASA as a sort of handyman.
At least that’s how I’ve idealized him. I’m sure someone in my family will comment below with his precise job title and employer, etc, but he was definitely a hanydman of sorts. He was highly skilled but not wealthy.

His “NOW WHAT DON’T WE HAVE!” in a booming voice conjures up all sorts of funny ideas. Nothing about “Are you OK?” or “What happened?” He just sat in his LA-Z-BOY chair with his feet up, and then: Clang! Smash!


Man it cracks me up. It really does.

It’s just so white trash, it kills me. Is that where I get my sense of humor from? Was he yelling it ironically? Was he making fun of jerk husbands, in the way that I make racist jokes sometimes, as a way of making fun of racist people?

My grandmother is 91 years old. Pop-Pop passed away almost 20 years ago. I wonder, sometimes, if she misses getting teased when she does something clumsy. Last month she broke both of her arms after a bad fall. It must have been terribly painful. [Don’t worry, she’s recovering nicely and will be home next week.] Did any part of her wonder what Pop-Pop would have said?


I’m sure he would have rushed over to help and only later started in on the jokes. By all accounts, he was a great man. But does she miss that ribbing? What that part of their relationship?

I still have moments when I’m not with my wife and I do or think something that I know would make her laugh. Sometimes I’ll text her or email her, like when I fart on the train, and we can still share the moment together. Other times I don’t, and I just laugh to myself knowing she would enjoy it. But man, that would be terribly lonely if she wasn’t around anymore.

On those rare occassions when Greta drops something in the kitchen, and I’m in the living room, I take my voice down an octave and up 20 decibels and yell “NOT WHAT DON’T WE HAVE, GRETA?!?!”

She loves it.