Carolyn, No (Pastor Swank’s Story Hour)

I’m wasn’t feeling too inspired today, so I decided to comb Pastor Swank’s archives for one of his “I Believe in Miracles” columns.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Pastor’s “Miracles” series, I’ll recap the highlights for you:

“The Jacket”: Pastor Swank steals a coat from his church’s goodwill store. He gets into trouble when he makes a missionary visit to a local jail and the guards find a dimebag in the jacket pocket. Pastor Swank gets banned from the jail, but he considers it “a miracle” that he wasn’t arrested for drug possession.

-“The Suitcase” (this one is mysteriously absent from the archives, but I swear I’m not making it up): Pastor Swank adopts of a member of the Crips, and becomes convinced that the young man is out to “do him in.” The kid winds up in jail, but it’s a “miracle” that he never tried to kill Pastor Swank.

“Faith Survived”: Demons infest Pastor Swank’s church and convince his parishioners that he is “of the devil.” Pastor Swank eventually gets kicked out of his parish, but the story has a happy ending, since the people who conspired against him wind up dead.

Now that you’re all caught up, here’s the Pastor’s latest miracle: “Carolyn!”

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Carolyn was my mother’s mother.

Or “grandmother,” as we say in English.

She came to live with us when I was but a child. In fact, I don’t recall exactly when life was without Carolyn. She made the best raisin-filled cookies. I mean the best. They were plump and the raisins were juicy.

“Plump” and “juicy”… doesn’t this remind you guys of a song from the early ’90s? Something like this:

“I like cookies and I cannot lie
You other Pastors can’t deny
When Grandma bakes those oatmeal flakes
And raisins in the dough you get sprung
Wanna pull up tough cuz you noticed them cookies was stuck
Deep in the oven they’re bakin’
Watery mouths they’re makin’
Oooh cookies, I wanna caress ya,
And then digest ya.”

And now, back to Swank-Mix-a-Lot:

There was no skimping when Grandma made cookies. The whole house smelled of newly baked surprises when Grandma set her hands and heart to it.

“But when she sat around, the house smelled like old people. So we liked to keep her active.”

I remember her white hair piled high atop her head. I don’t recall Grandma with anything but white hair ? lots of it.

Pastor Swank makes his Grandma sound like an older version of Cousin It.

“Joseph Grant Swank! Get in here and eat Grandma’s cookies! I made ’em just like you like- real thick and juicy, so find that juicy double, when Pastor Swank’s in trouble, I beat ‘im with a Bible cudgel…”

And her housedresses. Well, Grandma only had housedresses as far as I could tell. She wasn’t one for “making herself up.” There was no cosmetic drawer in Grandma’s bedroom. She was a very tidy, clean woman; but as for rouge and all that sort of thing, Grandma didn’t “do.”

In other words, Grandma wasn’t no ho.

Grandma wore a hearing aid. That bothered other people a lot because it squealed. It made loud sounds in the most inopportune places and times, especially when I had friends over for a visit.

But since the Pastor’s friends were all imaginary, her hearing aid didn’t bother them that much.

Or when we were entertaining company for dinner. Squeal. Squeal. Squeal. That burst-forth took over the air and our ears so that everyone looked at one another as if some grand discourtesy had hit.

Yeah. I fuckin’ hate it when that happens.

Grandma sat in her rocking chair a lot. That chair was in the corner of the dining room near two large floor-to-ceiling windows. She rocked and rocked and rocked. I often wondered what she thought about when sitting there with no book, no magazine. I don’t recall her reading much. She did like to rock, however.

I know the feeling:


“Big Raisins!
Big Raisins!
Talkin’ ’bout the cookies that Grandma’s bakin’!”

(And yes, I’m obsessed with turning songs about big asses into songs about raisin cookies. It’s the least I can do to keep young minds pure.)

One fault that Grandma had was her tongue. She gossiped a lot. There weren’t that many people to talk to for she didn’t go out. Like I mean that she wasn’t playing bridge or bowling or cruising around the Mediterranean.

I can’t imagine people on Mediterranean cruises being very interested in Grandma Swank’s gossip.

But there were neighbors. And so she’d gossip to them ? about us.

And you would too if you lived with someone who talked about demonic possession all the time.

That didn’t set well with my mother and father. They found out how Grandma made up some really outrageous lies. And we were Christian folk. We went to church, had family devotions, sang hymns with friends around the living room piano and that kind of life. So what Grandma told our neighbors was just a bad set of tongue-and-teeth located right inside her mean mouth.

I can’t think of anything clever to say here- it’s just too ridiculous. Anyone else wanna try?

Finally, at one point, my parents had Grandma go to an “old folks? home” to stay. It was in the same town as where we lived; but they simply could not have her ruin our home any more. So they had her change living quarters. I recall visiting her. She’d cry and want to come back to us. But my parents had put up with too much of her wily tongue for Carolyn to return.

However, one day my parents changed their minds. Grandma was back home ? but this time with stipulations. I think she got the message, but not quite.

It took a stroke really to get the message to her heart. And with that stroke, Grandma landed in her own bed ? night and day. The one side of her body did not look healthy and it showed especially in her face. I felt sorry for Grandma, no matter what tongue she had.

It was then, when having a stroke, that her soul was changed. At least that’s the way my parents would put it. Grandma got “saved.”

And that, ladies and gentleman, is the miracle- Grandma had a stroke and stopped being a mean old bitch.

Well, whatever it was, Grandma was a completely different creature than pre-stroke. After that, for a year she lived to be the sweetest Grandma a boy could have. I loved her so much. She seemed like Jesus. She was very nice and friendly and kind.

It was exactly a year after her stroke that Jesus took her home to be with Him. Now as I look back, that’s the year that I remember most about Grandma Carolyn. That was my smiling, endearing, understanding Grandma whom I had hoped for all those years before the stroke.

“My only regret was she didn’t have the stroke sooner.”

“It was a miracle,” my mother would say when we’d sit around to talk about the change in Grandma. And I truly believe it was just that.

So if you have crabby old people living in your home, ask God to give them a stroke- that’ll teach the old coots to be appreciative…


Comments: 21


Perhaps Grandma talked to the neighbors because her family couldn’t be bothered to listen to her, unless she was making cookies, and for some dumbass reason treated her like a giant pile of smelly shit because her hearing aid made noises? (Didn’t they all, way back when? Who cared?)
Frankly, it sounds like Grandma had some of the more standard old-age-associated problems. Senility, we might have called it. Dementia. They wouldn’t have known about the chemical causes, but surely it would have occurred to them that most old people behave differently than they did when they were younger, and that most younger people will eventually be old. A little compassion might be nice.
Failing that, you know, she is your grandmother, and maybe you could ask her what she’s thinking once in a while instead of rooting around in her bedroom drawers and assuming she’s just mean instead of sick.
Miracles? For pity’s sake. All I see here are tragic missed opportunities by a self-righteous and punishing family.
I wouldn’t trust Swank to help me Find Waldo, let alone Jesus.


Yeah, putting old grandma in a home because she gossips with the neighbors and only bringing her home when she’s paralyzed is real Christian. I think it’s in Luke 23 where Jesus does the same thing to Mary.


As usual, my response to Pastor Swank is “What the hell? *headdesk*”


Now as I look back, that’s the year that I remember most about Grandma Carolyn.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that I wrote mostly about all the other years of cookie-baking interrupted by bouts of confinement for hearing-aid feedback and unelaborated nonspecific gossip. What I remember most is captured in this one very short sentence, which describes Grandma Carolyn doing nothing worth noting for an entire year, and that’s what I loved about her.


What if his mother’s mother (Engligh translation: grandma) were telling the truth about his “Christian” parents? And they were the evil ones? Where’s the miracle?


Brad, I was laughing so hard at your takedown of Swanky that it wasn’t until I started reading the comments from People Smarter Than Me that it sunk in what a complete asshole this guy truly is. Doesn’t his description of Carolyn, pre-stroke, sounds like some compilation of old-lady stereotypes? Why do I get the feeling the ONLY thing about her he actually remembers is that she suffered a stroke, and the rest is fictional? (Well okay, I CAN believe they dumped the poor woman in a nursing home, although the idea of her “Begging” to live with those cretins stretches things a bit.)


I wouldn’t call Swanky an asshole- he’s too crazy. I reserve that term for people who aren’t (as) mentally deranged, like Hugh Hewitt 😉


I had a small stroke four years ago. Miracle? Fuck you, asshole. No, really. Fuck you.
And I’m still here (miracle!) and working out (hosanna!) and not taking shit from asswipe fucktards like you (ah, priceless)…


You’re right, Brad, that is an important distinction. I stand corrected. Still, his attitude towards his Grandmother seems kinda asshole-y to me.


“Asshole” works for me. Hell, if Bush’ll execute the deranged, and Swank’s own family’ll dump them in homes, I don’t see why we can’t call ’em assholes.


Swank wouldn’t know a miracle if the Resurrected Christ walked across a lake and punched him in the face.

But you have to give him this: he’s honest. I’d sure he’d love to be like that Mega-Shift guy and crow about the dead returning to life. Now that’s a miracle! Hell, Swank doesn’t even give us predictable miracle glurge about puppies and babies smililing. He tries to reach into his own, rather pathetic, life and make out his families own deficencies as a miracle.

Hysterical Woman

I wonder what Carolyn said about them. In the essay Swank writes that his mother suffered from a “nervous breakdown”, which is a euphemism for any psychatric problem. He says Carolyn was to blame for it. Of course, as a kid I wouldn’t expect him to know what that incident was about.


This is off-topic, but please have your readers look at this post–it’s very important:


Christ, what a fucked up family. I am starting to under stand the pastor a lot better.


Kill the spammer.


RK- Yes, we’re all going to Hell. No, we don’t give a shit.

Incidentally, I hear that Satan is developing a whole new circle of Hell for spammers…


Okay, the Swank story to date:

When he was a kid, his grandmother told lies about him and his family, causing everyone to hate them. But they put her in an old folks home, and then she had a stroke, and died.

As a pastor in the South, his congregation told lies about him and his family, so he got fired. But later the bastards all died, and then went to hell.

When he worked as a drug counselor, the management told lies about him, so he got fired. Although I can’t remember it being part of the story, presumably these people died too, possibly in a suspicious fire or other “acident.”

Summary: people are always telling lies about the Pastor, and getting him in trouble. But then they die. So, Brad, you’d better watch it …


SZ- Y’know, my friend Kristin made the exact same point.

Of course, calling Pastor Swank crazy isn’t lying- quite the oppoisite.


I wonder what Carolyn said about them.

Who wants to bet it was something like, “My daughter has married a Bible-thumping moron and he’s driving the whole family crazy with his bullshit… yesterday I caught him in the barn cornholing young Joseph and he threatened that if I told anybody he was going to have me put into a home!”

Mrs. Tarquin Biscuitbarrel

That sounds more like it.

Mm-mm, pass them raisin cookies raght cheer.


I am interested to know how the young Pastor Swank knew what was and wasn’t in Grandma’s dresser drawers.


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