My father was a lost cause, Granny informed us shortly after arriving to spend her final year of wisdom and illness with us, and by the time she was almost ready to be judged herself, confined to her armchair in the living room from morning until evening when he – The Great Sinner – would carry her to bed, she had given up speaking to him entirely, judging him solely with her eyes.
Despite her assurances that even a venial sin could get you barred from heaven, there were occasions when my mother’s mother was so taken with the idea of damnation that a definite hint of affection could be detected in her voice when she spoke of it. She would turn bright red as her sermonising became more vitriolic, and her eyes would seem to shine. My father called it the ‘venial glint’, and said that if she didn’t feck off to heaven soon he would have her removed from the house – or remove himself – to escape it.
Venial sins were like pennies, she told us, adding up to make a pound, and if you didn’t repent your pennies you would be left with a pound of mortal sin. I was sure that if she didn’t stop talking about venial sins my father would commit a mortal one.
My mother was a sinner by virtue of marrying my father, who was soon forced to enjoy his evening whisky in the shed. I was a sinner for not finishing my vegetables and a heathen for watching cartoons. The newsreader was a sinner for wearing make-up, the weatherman for predicting God’s wind, and the dog for being a dog. We were all doomed.
On the evening she finally departed for heaven, there was an air of quiet celebration in the house. I was allowed to watch television instead of doing my homework, my father was allowed his whisky in the living room for the first time in almost a year, and my mother sat peacefully while the colour that had drained from her face within days of Granny moving in began to return.
I wondered whether Granny was as happy as the rest of us that she was finally up in heaven, and whether her exacting standards would be too much even for the angels. My father, after a whisky too many, wondered aloud how long – if she had managed to get there – it would take for God to have her removed, now that she was living in his house, or whether the big man would simply remove himself and return to us mortals for an early second coming, just to escape that venial glint…
It was a sin to say such a thing, I was sure, but my mother said that God would understand, now that he’d finally met her in person.
Written by Chris Connolly Illustration by Thomas McCarthy