Every two or three months, our family’s language gets all hosed up and we have to call a grammarian. It is getting harder and harder to find a good one who will make house calls. First it starts with Mom. This fall she will be 84 and sleeps in what was once Freddy’s room in the basement before he moved out on his own, so to speak. She will get all hot and bothered about having peas for supper three nights in a week and say something like, “Damn you, Tommy. Why then just let an old woman die.” I don’t wish to correct her grammar and say, “Aw, Mom, don’t talk like that. Dad wouldn’t want you talking like that. We are getting along just fine. Dad would be real proud of how we are making do.” Later when I tell Shirley, she says “Not real proud, Tom, very proud.”
Over the next few days, the language all over the house goes to hell. Even Shirley is saying “If only your mother would just do something with her own self. She just sits around the house feeling sorry for herself all day and watching them soaps. She won’t even go to the store with me to get the video tapes she watches over and over.”
Fred drops in just to say, “Dad, can I get a bit of loan to pay my car insurance. It’s due before the end of the month, ya know.” This after he spent over $100 on Playstation games just last night at Walmart. I know, I was with him. It was that “ya know” that finally did it to me. No, I didn’t know. How should I freaking know? Why should I even freaking care? Shirley asks if I would like to take a walk while she talks him through this.
Our family grammarian said she could drop by tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m., but this might be the last time she can do this for us as a personal favor. She has needs too, even nonverbal ones. She needs to be treated as a professional. She asked for our insurance card. She says, contrary to what most people think, grammar basically is not a matter of right or wrong. She asks how does it make me feel when someone uses a word that seems incorrect. Next time, she says, you might all need to come into the office like my other clients. I am afraid that what she meant was just like everybody else.