Yo Quiero Taco Bell
***Well after my grandmother had lapsed into dementia, she told us, "Taco Bell is my favorite Mexican restaurant because they serve REAL Mexican food." Absolute proof that Alzhiemer's had irrevocably claimed my grandmother and would never let her go. My sister and I exchanged amused glances as if to say, "Out of the mouths of babes and demented old folks." Before any of us had a chance to reply to this frail, thin limbed, slumped over, wheelchair bound woman who had once been a swimmer and a fiesty little woman who completed the L.A. Times crossword in less than twenty minutes every day since I can remember, my mother, with a sneer on her face that would have scared the Devil's Dam spat, "Taco Bell does NOT serve REAL Mexican food!"
My poor grandmother could not defend herself, which hurt so much more because a sea sponge could have defended itself against my mother, she simply, meekly said, "Okay."
It had always been my mother's wont to take umbrage with just about everything, and she could not help but take umbrage with what my grandmother had just uttered, and because she could not let such a preposterous notion go unchecked, even though in five minutes my grandmother would politely ask who we all were, my mother continued in her cruel vehemence. "Have you ever even tasted REAL Mexican food before?" my mother taunted.
In her more nimble mental days, my grandmother had taught thirty years of elementary school children in the L.A. public school system, and she would have put her dauthter-in-law in her place with a remark that would have had us all smirking and snorting and leaving the room so as not to burst into laughter at my mother's expense, but in her present mental condition she could only reply, "I guess not."
Not wanting to allow my ill-tempered mother to destroy the fond memories of the shell of my grandmother--for pity's sake what would it hurt for a sweet little old lady to beleive, no matter how misguided, that Taco Bell served REAL Mexican food--I quietly said, "Well mother, it must be a REAL Mexican food restaurant," making sure that the anger did not show in my voice.
"Why?" was her terse reply.
"Because it has TACO in its name." My sister and I again caught each other's gaze as if to say, 'It's on!'
"Well, that doesn't mean..."
"And there is a cute little Chihauhau in the commercials," said my sister. "It doesn't get any more Mexican than that."
My father, usually complacent silently allowing my mother to run out of air, when she spoke her nonsense, said, "And the Chihuahua speaks spanish."
"Spanglish," added my sister.
We were having a hard time containing our myrth.
"A Spanglish speaking Chihuahua is veeeerrrrryyyy Mexican," I said.
"None of this proves that Taco Bell is a REAL Mexican restaurant or that they serve REAL Mexican food," hissed my mother.
"Well, let's look at the food they serve," said my sister.
We all had several answers ready, "Tacos," said one of us. "Burritos," said another. "Tostadas," another. "Taco Supreme," another. "Chilito," yet another. My grandmother even chimed in, "Chilito, yum!"
"You're all just ganging up on me!!!" choked my mother.
"No, Mom. We just agree with Grandma. We are just expressing our opinions on the subject, just like you," I said.
"This is a Democracy, you know," was my sister's snarky reply.
"What about quesadillas," said my father. "And the Chihuahua has a Mexican girlfriend."
"And he lives in a Mexican neighborhood," said my sister.
"Let's not forget the Gorditas," I said. I patted my grandmother's frail knee, and I said, "As a matter of fact Grandma, Taco Bell is probably the only real Mexican food restaurant in the whole United States."
"Viva, La Mexico," said my sister.
My father came around my grandmother's wheelchair and looked right at my mother as he said, "So you go right on believing that Taco Bell serves REAL Mexican food, Mom."
"Okay," was my grandmother's triumphant response. The smile on her face almost looked as if she knew and appreciated what we had just done.
The four of us looked at my mother and awaited her response.
She actually snorted before turning tail and storming out of the room.
My grandmother looked at me and said, "Who are you?"
My father, my sister, and I all exchanged knowing glances. "I'm your grandson, Grandma."
"Oh," was her accustomed answer. I could have said that I was the artist-formerly-known-as-Prince, and she would have answered the same.
"What in Hell is a Chalupa, anyway?" asked my sister. The four of us had a wonderful visit after that. We took an additional five minutes or so just to make my mother wallow in her anger.
As we approached my sulking mother in the waiting room, my sister said, "I'm hungry."
"Anyone up for some REAL Mexican food?" I asked.
My mother glared at each one of us and then calmly walked out the door. She didn't have anything substantial to say to any of us for a week, which usually suited all involved just fine.***
The girlfriend sat there in silence for a minute, and then said, "Wow! I guess your Mother really deserved that, huh. We don't have to eat at Taco Bell if you don't want to."
"That's all right. I have a burrito, sans sour cream, every once in a while, just to remember Grandma." With my best Chihauhau impersonation, I said, "Yo quiero Taco Bell. "
For Grandma Lucille (1910-1999)