By Mary Lynn Bruny

When you’re a kid growing up, you don’t think too much about how your grandparents live. You see them a few times a year, they stuff your pie hole with food and sometimes sneak you sweets. It’s just part of the whole familial system you participate in as a small human.

But then the day came when my boyfriend (now my husband) went on a trip with my parents and me and met my (now late) maternal grandparents in Florida. It was only when we walked through their front door that I truly saw my grandparents’ home in all its quirky glory.

First, it was completely dark inside. The living room had heavy curtains to block out the strong Florida sun. The only illumination was from the blaring television that was never, ever turned off. The volume was always cranked so loudly that we had to shout to be heard over “Wheel of Fortune” or “Jeopardy.”

The next thing one couldn’t help noticing was that it was an absolute sweatbox of heat. Despite the fact it was more than 100 humid degrees out, my grandparents never, ever ran their air conditioning. My grandfather contended this was an expensive luxury for “rich buggers.” According to my grandfather’s view of things – which he expressed vigorously and often – rich buggers caused all the ills of the world. As a small child I thought he was referring to actual bugs and wondered how they got rich and what they were doing that was so wrong.

After we adjusted to the darkness and the oppressive heat, my kind grandmother graciously offered us food that had been sitting out for many, many hours in anticipation of our arrival. She was not big on proper food storage. My mother – who knew this – looked at the table with its glistening lunch meat and melting potato salad and hissed to my boyfriend, “Don’t eat those!”

The problem was the other stuff on the table, old-world food like headcheese (which is nowhere near being a cheese but more a gelatinous concoction of grossness) and pickled pigs feet (which unfortunately are exactly what they claim to be), were not exactly preferable dining options. I handed my distressed-looking boyfriend a plate of potato chips and an off-brand soda (name brand for rich buggers, of course).

After making our plates we moved to the dark living room with its heavy baroque furnishings to eat, sweat and scream polite conversation at one another. When my boyfriend tried to sit in an armchair I stopped him. This chair and one side of the couch was where my grandparents’ crazy-eyed, nippy and frenetic dog Fifi sat. We didn’t pet Fifi. We didn’t talk to Fifi. We didn’t look Fifi in the eye or she would go nuts. And we never, ever sat in her spots. Not only because she was a loon, but because Fifi had some condition where the fur from the back half of her body fell out and left hairy swirls my grandparents never removed. Fifi territorially guarded these furry nests like a deranged little lion. Luckily, she was stashed in a bedroom during our visit though I could vaguely hear her angry protestations during the commercial breaks for hemorrhoid ointment and denture cream.

After our voices got hoarse and we could no longer scream at each other, we thanked my grandparents for a memorable visit and headed to our hotel. Its brightly lit, cool, clean interior felt almost shocking to our systems. Not a bad shocking, mind you. Frankly, it felt nice being rich buggers enjoying AC.

By Mary Lynn Bruny. Mary Lynn writes about local real estate and home-related topics. Contact her at [email protected]. To read previous The Lighter Side articles, go to