December 17 is one of favorite days since 2 of my favorite people share this birthday: my brother Scott (65 today) and our Granny (gone). Allow me to share some memories & comments I posted elsewhere on this date 5 years ago.
Granny, for me, was V.A. “Tilly” Fisher, our dad’s mom. Of course, we had 2 grandmothers, but since my mom came from a large family, we shared Granny Massey with lots of cousins. With Dad being an only child, we had Granny Tilly to ourselves.
Tilly raised my dad as a single mom (twice-married, twice-divorced), working as a seamstress for the Air Force for over 30 years, moving from Texas to San Diego and then back to San Antonio in the late 30s, where she lived in the same boarding house in the King William Historic District until 1972 before moving into the “mother-in-law” apartment at my family’s home.
After Granny retired (medical disability due to a hip injury — she used a cane but still drove herself all over South Texas to visit her sisters), she earned the nickname “The Sewing Angel.” She would take donated fabric from the Salvation Army, buy trim and supplies and make dresses to donate to little girls in need. For many, this would be their first new dress.
Granny always told me she was just glad somebody gave her the cloth and took the dresses away, as if it was no big deal. Eventually, she must have made and donated over 1,000 handmade dresses.
Granny taught me how to play poker. Oh, sure, I already knew the rules. But when the folks left Granny as my baby-sitter one time, she showed me how to Play Poker (with matchsticks): anteing up, betting — and bluffing. The first time I tried to look at her discards after she bluffed me, she curtly informed me, “Men have ben shot for less than that.” Same for sneaking a peek at the bottom card.
Granny once told me: “Alan, your brain’s worth its weight in gold. At least, it oughta be — it’s never been used.”
Granny preceded David Letterman with one particular Stupid Pet Trick, involving the family dog, Ararf. Ostensibly my dog, he was only a year old when I left for college, so he became the family dog, obviously. Granny somehow got Ararf into the habit of eating — nay, craving and begging for — a most unusual treat. She would feed him a half head of iceberg lettuce daily and the dog just ate it up. Confused the hell out of a dog I brought home several years later who couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the dog.
In 1976, I was fresh out of college & had a van w/ a bed in the back and the urge to roam. Upon hearing my plans to wander, Granny said to me, “Off to see the world, eh? You probably won’t want to listen to your little old Granny when you get back, so I’m giving you just one piece of advice you’d better remember it the rest of your life:
Don’t keep wearing your shoes until they’ve got holes in them because you never know when you might be on a sinking ship and if all you’ve got to bale it out with is your shoes and they’ve got holes in them — you’re done for.”
Thank you, Granny. I will never forget.
My Big Brother: Scott
Happy Birthday to my Big Brother Scott!
What can I tell you? the guy’s been there forever, as far as I can tell, leading the way, whether it’s breaking his arm jumping off our slide, setting the elementary school record for going to the principal’s office twice in 30 minutes or taking me to see the Who back in 1967 when I was just 12 years old.
My brother Scott opened the doors of rock & roll for me after he bought his first guitar — a Silvertone from Sears, sometime prior to that first Who show in 67. For his first band’s first paying gig — playing in front of the local K-Mart, his band (was it the Synz?) got to select 3 albums each from the record dep’t. Scott chose:
- The Grateful Dead (their first album)
- Are You Experienced? The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Peanut Butter Conspiracy
As he commented later, “Two outta three ain’t bad.”
My brother played in several high school garage bands, notably one called Dr. Christie’s Galvanic Curative. Despite a brief flash of notoriety and a handful of outrageous gigs, eventually, Dr. Christie’s came & went. As the Sixties ended (and high school, for Scott), he became a singer-songwriter, performing at Houston’s Sand Mountain before heading to college in 1970 where he met another freshman musician, David Rodriguez, around the piano in the basement hallway of their dorm.
Scott & David partnered up musically awhile in college, sharing a house my and my friends moved into later. David would continue to perform — and record — music for the rest of his life, but though my brother continued writing & playing & singing, he chose not to pursue performing.
In addition to their birthday, Granny & my brother Scott share the family trait of stubborn independence, an absolute insistence on being yourself. For Scott this would include converting to Judaism after he left home and later changing his name to Scott Whitebird so long ago few people can remember him otherwise.
But one thing he can’t ever change: he’ll always be my Big Brother.