The Bleeding Criminal
Guest Post by Chris John Amorosino
For a six-year-old like me it was a most exciting place. I didn’t understand what happened there, but how I loved to watch and listen. It was the dining room table in my grandparents’ house after dinner. After my grandmother cleared the table and the kids were banished to the living room TV, the adults reconvened around that table.
For me, that table was at head height. I had to look up to see anything on or around it and when I did, bright light from a ceiling lamp pierced my eyes. With a white table cloth and serious adults gathered around on all sides, that table became an operating table upon which they would dissect the day’s critical issues.
They examined politicians. Cut into world problems. Discussed how to bring society back to health. Smoke rose from that table as if it were a factory. Glasses emptied fast. Voices rose and became edgy. Fingers pointed. Fists banged. This was important, adult stuff.
But one adult seemed unique. My grandmother never dominated or swayed opinions like the others. Her infrequent contributions consisted mostly of two short phrases. When she agreed, she’d say, “God bless.” When she disagreed, she’d say, “God forbid.” Every other adult seemed hell-bent on scoring their points. They’d fire opinions back and forth like soldiers shooting across enemy lines. Not grandmother. She listened and kept bringing up this God fellow.
In a strange way, my grandmother was both the least active participant and the foundation of it all. It was her house, her table. We’d just eaten her meal. She cleared the table, passed the fruit, served the wine and made sure everyone had everything they needed.
Behind her on her wall hung a strange contraption. It looked to me like a dead criminal on two crossed pieces of wood. The criminal’s head was down, he wore a huge circle of prickers around his head, and he bled from many places. Gruesome. That man must have done something terrible to deserve to be punished like that. But, why did the man hang in my gentle grandmother’s dining room? Often, when she talked, the contraption sat right over her head like a halo.
Sometimes grandmother refereed those loud, brutal conversations. She’d stop a particularly loud exchange saying, “Oh, Frank (my grandfather), God forbid! Frank, God forbid!” One time when that didn’t work she put a classical record on her stereo and began dancing around the table by herself.
Grandmother died years ago. But, she got me thinking about “God bless” and “God forbid.” She got me thinking about that gruesome man on the wood. She was the most spiritual person in my childhood. She’s dead, but I know where she is. I know where she is.
Chris John Amorosino is a Connecticut-based business writer and author of the essay collection, God & Odd: Something Weird Is Happening On My Way To Spirituality. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org