My granddad always use to say, “Smile and the world smiles with you. Frown and you frown alone.” We often lose touch with spoken and honestly felt gems from great people like Granddaddy Mangum. But when something or someone brings folks like that back to life somehow, well… life seems to make sense again.
Most of our time is occupied with stupid stuff. I know mine is. And has been for 67 years. What do I watch on television today? Why is my leg hurting? Should I spend my last few dollars on vitamins, or do I cave in and buy cigarettes and booze? How the hell can I get out of washing dishes for one more day? The unimaginable list goes on and on in reality.
Then there are the folks we encounter. “Why the hell did that bitch slam her car door into the side of my car?” “Where did my landlord get off on unexpectedly visiting his house when it’s filthy and full of cigarette smoke?” “How the hell did that ref cause my team to lose that game?” Y’all get what I am saying. People piss other people off. Every day. Every moment. And we apparently have no other recourse but to simply wonder what we will be watching on television later.
I have been watching a lot of television lately. Not because of slammed doors, landlords or lost games. Other unpredictable circumstances have caused such a thing. Along, of course, with my own decisions to find and to choose my own safe place in front of a wide screen. Tonight, my choice was perfect.
Tonight I watched what I thought would be just a stupid and mindless comedy. And one I thought I might identify with. It was called, “Our Idiot Brother.” That’s a notion I felt certain my siblings would agree with. I only watched it to provide myself with even more understanding of the possible fodder my brother and sister might use to describe myself. But it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. It was funny. To my surprise, it was serious. And real.
It was about an adult brother with three adult sisters. He was pretty much a fuck up. Kinda like me. He was honest. He said and did all the right things at all the wrong times. But he never lost his smile. And at the end, his entire family was smiling with him.
Look, I have a few very special friends who have taught me how to smile. And special family members and God have always encouraged me to keep it up. But it’s tough sometimes. It’s much easier to succumb to anger, despair and self loathing. But the ending of that movie reminded me of my Granddad. Just like the guy in the movie, Granddaddy Mangum never gave up. He never screwed up like the guy in the movie, but, damn it, he always smiled. And his world always smiled with him.
The movie I watched tonight ended with the song, “Beautiful” by Carol King. The lyrics that really strike home are these: “You’ve got get up every morning with a smile on your face. And show the world all the love in your heart. Then people gonna treat you better. You’re gonna find, yes you will. That you’re beautiful. You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful as you feel.
I don’t know how Granddaddy Mangum ever met Carol King, but somehow he is spiritually connected with her as much as he and she are with my family and me. Life suddenly makes sense again.
It’s all in the smile.