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I’m sitting at the kitchen table with Grandma H and she tells me, “We have to go back to the cemetery. We made a mess of the graves.”
My jaw drops.
“We put those fake flowers where the crocuses will come up. And the crocuses haven’t come up yet because they know they aren’t supposed to.”
The heater pings.
My mom asks, “What was that?”
Grandma H says, “The spirits.” She bursts out laughing. “No, just the heater.”
We are at a little picnic at my aunt’s house. My dad moves his chair back near the sliding glass door.
Grandma H says, “Don’t sit there, you’ll back into the glass and get decapitated.”
I ask, “Decapitated?”
She nods. “His head will come right off.”
We are talking about my grandfather’s bad driving.
Grandma H says, “He couldn’t really move, he had a fat neck. Seventeen and a half.”
Grandma H tells us about her last trip to the casino. “A guy sat down beside me. He had a scab on the side of his head. I couldn’t help looking at it.”
“What did you say?” I ask.
“Somebody hit you?”
“What did he say?” I ask.
“No, I fell on the floor,” she says. “So I told him, ‘It looks painful.’”
“What did he say?”
“Nothing. He got up and moved away from me.”
Ah, Springtime. When everything returns to life. New beginnings.
With Grandma H, it’s grave cleaning time.
She pulls into the cemetery driveway and tells me, “You are the look out. If you see a rapist, you tell me.”
“Uh..okay?” I say.
“And you run as fast as you can.”
“I’m going to have to. He’ll take one look at you and be after me,” I say.
Grandma H giggles hysterically.
We pull up and park the car. She tells me to grab the rake. When we get to the graves of her parents and her sisters, she does some weeding and assigns me to raking. As I’m raking, she says, “You’re not being the look out. You have to rake and be the look out.”
Grandma H says, “I’m only taking out library books if I find something good.”
“Those three I took out disappointed me. I skimmed them. But you know it’s outside,” she says.
“What is it? The bushes, a person what is outside?”
She sighs. “It’s spring time. Time to be outside.”
“Ah. I didn’t get that from it’s outside.”
She shakes her head.
Grandma H decides she wants to try Olive Garden. On the ride over, I say, “I think you will like the breadsticks.”
Grandma H says, “I hate breadsticks.”
“They call them breadsticks but they are more like rolls.”
“No seriously chewy like hotdog rolls and long like breadsticks.”
“I’ll try them.”
We get to the restaurant and Grandma H takes her first bite. “These are delicious!”
“We can get more right?”
“And the salad too?”
For the next hour she tells me four times how great the breadsticks are.
Her eggplant parm meal comes and she say, “I’m only eating a little pasta. I’ll take it home so I can eat more salad and breadsticks.”
I don’t eat my spaghetti so she scrapes it onto her plate and takes it home for dinner.
Grandma H comes into my mom’s house and announces, “We have to go to Poppy’s grave to check on the angel. I think the grave diggers ran her over.”
“What?” My mom and I ask in unison.
“They are digging a new grave near your grandfather’s. And I think they backed into the angel and broke it. We have to go check.”
I nod. “Sure.”
She gets a menacing tone in her voice. “And if it’s broken they are going to fix it.”
“Okay, let’s just make sure they did something wrong first,” I say. Grandma H has a tendency to open with mean.
Grandma H’s favorite place to drive by is the horses on Woodtick Road. There are about 6 horses in a paddock below street level.
Every time we drive by she slows down and gazes at the horses. Her voice gets buttery and her eyes sparkle. She adores the horses. And it never gets old. We’ve been driving by them for two months and she gets excited each time.
Sometimes it surprises her and she tells me, “I like horses. I really like horses.”
Today Grandma H and I went on our weekly outing. I needed to drop off two snail mail queries for agents at our local post office.
Grandma hates parking. She pulls in and goes “Uh-oh.”
There’s a freaking oil truck taking up four spots. Luckily there are two spots open. I point to them and say, “There’s two spots.”
Grandma pull into both spots. Literally. The middle of the car is on the line between the spots. I look at her. “I didn’t mean take two spots. You should have picked one.”
She shrugs and cuts the engine. “Just go mail your stuff.”
A while later, we are driving down the main road, Wolcott Road, and she sees signs that say Road Work Ahead.
“I’m not going that way,” she says.
I look down the road. “The roadwork is on the other side.”
“I don’t care.” She puts on her blinker to take Sharon Rd.
There’s a guy in front of us and we have a green light but it’s a left hand turn and there is oncoming traffic. He edges up. She edges up. He turns and she is right on his butt. I see the oncoming traffic and gasp.
“I saw them. We had enough time.”
I mutter, “We always do when it’s my side of the car.”
She says, “I’d have swerved into a car to save you.”
“Great so we’d be hit on both sides.”
She starts laughing.
As we pass a field on Sharon Road, she tells me, “A man committed suicide there 80 years ago.”
I ask, “How did he commit suicide?”
“He was having an affair with the neighbor’s wife.”
I ask, “He committed suicide while having sex?” This is a kinky story.
She shakes her head. “No, I’m telling the story from the beginning.”
“Ah. It would have helped if you said that.”
We get to the mall and go to Olive Garden. There’s a line and the prices are higher than IHOP. So we go to our place, IHOP.
I order the above which is “Green Eggs and Ham” and is part of their The Lorax related specials. I loved Dr. Seuss.
So I tell her, “I’m having green eggs and ham.”
She looks at it. “So you are. That’s like the Dr. Seuss books I used to read Paulie.”
“I think I read them to you too.”
Grandma H has a coupon that when she spends $25, she gets 2.50 off the bill at the grocery store. So we go over. We get the items she needs but they tally to $18. So I show her Chobani yogart 4/$5.
“What flavors do they have?” she asks.
“Strawberry,” I say.
“Your aunt can’t have seeds.”
“I thought these were for you.” Strawberry is her favorite flavor. But I switch to selecting flavors for Auntie.
“What’s that lemon one?”
“Pineapple,” I say.
“I’ll take it.”
“Should I get another vanilla? You need four.”
“What happened to the strawberry?” she asks.
“You said Auntie couldn’t have that.”
“That’s for me. Two are for her, two are for me. And I want the strawberry.”
“Okay.” I grab it and add it to her cart. Our total comes to 24.18 after the $2.50 discount.
Last weekend it was the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, we saw my aunt at the cemetery by his grave. We pulled in to see her and Grandma H was sitting in the car. Grandma H saw us and leapt out.
“Your grandfather died today. Five years ago.”
She waves toward his gravestone. “Go Pray.”
I look at her. She knows I’m not Catholic.
She dissolves into giggles and doubles over.
My mom looks over. “What’s going on?”
Grandma H and I are giggling like kids.
“Nothing I say.”
Grandma H chuckles and gets back in the car.
Yesterday, Grandma H picked me up for our weekly getabouting. Inevitably, we both have errands to run before we get to the lunching at IHOP.
After I tell her what errands I need to run, she says, “I need to go to the bank and get a head.”
I pause. Does she mean a bond? Maybe $100 bill with Jefferson’s head on it? “A head of what?”
“A head.” Her tone indicates I’m the idiot here.
“What kind of head do you get at the bank?”
She shakes her head at my stupidity. “A head to put my wig on.”
Ah! “So you need to go to the bank and to the wig shop.”
“I think you should get a wig cap too to tuck your hair under the wig,” I say.
“That last one was too tight,” she says. “I’ll just get pantyhose and cut them.”
Dear God, Grandma is the anti-Martha Stewart. “How about we ask the salesgirl for a looser wig cap?”
She sighs. “Okay, but the last one squeezed my head. It hurt.”
I ask, “Why didn’t you say something?”
She thinks. “Oh, I guess that would have helped.”
“It definitely would have conveyed that you were in pain.”
As we pull out of the cemetery after visiting her mom’s grave, Grandma H waves to the newer section of the graveyard and says, “I wouldn’t want to be buried there.”
I ask, “Where would you like to go?”
She says, “Home.”
“You want to be buried in your house. That’s kinda weird. Do you think Auntie will mind?”
Grandma H bursts out laughing. “No, that’s where I’m headed now. I want to be cremated.”
No matter where we go Grandma H occupies 2-3 parking spots. I’ve never seen anyone park with as much guts as she has.
At IHOP, Grandma H orders a lemonade and puts her straw in the glass. Two minutes later she starts looking around, demanding, “Where’s my straw?”
“It’s in your lemonade.”
She looks perplexed. “Where? I can’t see it.”
I lift it up. “It’s right here. Do you need your glasses?”
“No, it just blends in since the straw is clear and the lemonade is light colored.”
It kinda does. But I can still spot the straw pretty easily. “Grandma you okay?”
“Fine. But this lemonade is on the sweet-side.”
“Do you want me to ask for lemons?”
“You’d think they’d come with it being that they are used to make it.”
After we go to the bank in the mall, I remind Grandma, “I think you should use the other branch. You’re too much of a target walking around the mall.”
“But I’ll have to get friendly with them.”
“How can you get friendly with them when you’re always mean to the tellers?”
She laughs. “I suppose that will be difficult.”
“Better they get used to you as you are.”
(This is not a picture of Grandma in her new wig.)
Last Wednesday, Grandma H decided we would add wig shopping to our to-do list.
Grandma H has a good head of hair, but she doesn’t like having to get it done every week. So she told me she would wear a wig in between hair appointments.
I’m on board because this sounds reasonable enough.
So we head to a wig store in Waterbury. Wigs range from $140-350. For a short haired wig?!
Are you kidding me?
I used to wig shop in LA and San Diego during my club kid days of some moons ago. A wig that went down to my bum cost me $50.
While we’re waiting to try on a wig, another shopper says to Grandma H, “That one looks good on you.”
I try not to laugh. Grandma H looks stunned.
I explain, “That’s her real hair.”
The lady looks suitably surprised. “Oh, well it looks nice.”
I love Grandma H but it looks overteased and hairsprayed. Nice is not in the realm of possibility.
Grandma H tries a few on to get an idea of the color and style she would like. But we can’t pay those kind of prices.
After the sticker shock, we decide to try another store. We head over to a less expensive hair place where the wigs go for $29.99. That’s reasonable.
Grandma H explains to me, “I plan to wear it like a hat. Just when I go out of the house.”
I try not to crack up at the image of her in a hair hat.
We end up finding two pretty nice wigs and get them for $58. (We got a little discount for buying both.)
Grandma H whispers, “I only have $40 on me.”
So I say, “I can spot you the money.”
Then I go make the purchase for her.
Later, we go to the scratch off place and Grandma H buys $20 in scratch offs. I forget that old ladies divide up their cash by their activities. God only knows how much she has in that purse divided amongst ten different purposes.
She ends up winning $50 recouping the cost of the ticket and one wig. It’s a good day for Grandma H.
Grandma H and I always have the weirdest conversations. Case in point, I get in her car and mention, “This seat is all screwed up.”
She says, “You know why? We had to put Russ’s wheelchair in the backseat.”
“Because he’s dead.”
I’m confused why does his dying require her to put the wheelchair in her car? I must have missed something. “But why did you get his wheelchair?”
“Because he’s dead.”
“His wife gave it to me at the hairdressers since she had it in her car.”
“BECAUSE HE’S DEAD.”
“Do you get all dead people’s wheelchairs?”
She sighs. “No it was ours and we loaned it to him.”
“You kinda left that part out of the story.”
“Oh, well that’s why.”
“So, to clarify, you don’t collect dead people’s wheelchairs?”
She laughs. “No.”
Grandma H announces on the way to IHOP, “I’m not really hungry. I ate some chicken.”
“But you knew we were going to breakfast,” I whine.
“I got up early. I was hungry.”
“You remember those three pancakes I got last time?”
“Yup.” Where is she going with this?
“I want one pancake. That’s it. You tell the waitress.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Luckily, when we get there, I find the Rooty Senior which is one pancake, one egg, one bacon and one sausage. She’s thrilled.
Grandma H and I finish lunch at IHOP and she announces, “I want to go to the cemetery to see my mom and sisters.”
I agree. Partly cause I don’t want her going alone and partly cause I like cemeteries.
We turn off the main road and inch down the gravel driveway. Trees loom around us.
Suddenly, Grandma says, “If someone come out of the woods, I want you to run to the car and lock yourself in.”
My jaw drops.
She continues, “Don’t worry about me. I’ve lived a long life. You have to save yourself.”
My heart thrums in my ears. “Uh, I thought we were going to the cemetery to visit loved ones. Why are you casting me in a Lifetime movie?”
Then when we park, I say, “Let’s lock the car.”
She agrees and puts her keys around her neck.
I shake my head. “Great. Now I have to save you since you’ve got the keys.”
We walk to the gravestones and talk to her sisters a bit. She tells them how she misses them.
My favorite moment is when we turn to her parents grave and she exclaims, “She was the best mother in the world.” She says this with absolute conviction three times.
I ask, “What about your dad?”
“He was okay.”
We end with a macabre discussion of how she wants to be cremated and slip away. No wake. No funeral. No gawkers. Then she explains how she wants the family to gather together to drink a glass of wine and say something nice about her. Her wish is to have her ashes spread in the ocean, but she said the kids can hang onto them for a while if they want.
This brings me to the brink of tears.
I know everyone has to die. But it’s sad to contemplate the death of someone sitting right next to you.
I suggested dividing up the ashes so all the kids get a piece of her. She doesn’t think they want that. Some people have no clue how much they are treasured.
Yesterday Mom and I were running errands. Question: Would you pay money for these flowers? Even at the dollar store?
I wouldn’t. They look knocking-on-death’s-door ill.
How was your Memorial Day weekend? I had back-to-back picnics with my family. The first was a family-only small spontaneously gathering of like minded individuals. Brie and Jarlsberg cheese. Yummie pickins. My aunt has Remi Martin cognac. With a splash of Diet Coke. Delish.
The second was a larger picnic including friends. And friends of friends. Succulent steaks, tasty salads, and rum and Diet Coke. Nice time.
And Johnny Weir was there.
That is the uncanny part of my weekend. Completely random that he’s a friend of my cousin.
He was an absolute delight, doing a flip off the diving board and into the water.
And he is jaw-slamming-the-floor gorgeous in person. His skin is flawless and his eyes are the most mischievous green I’ve ever seen. You-can’t-help-but-stare-at-him beautiful.
The only thing that eclipsed him was my Grandma H striking “Ms. Lake Compounce” poses on the diving board. And telling an 8-year-old that if she splashed one more time, she’d drown her.
It was a weekend of not-to-be missed events.
And I am officially 69% done revising my second manuscript. I want it completed before July 8th. Looks like that is going to be attainable. *Fingers crossed*
My grandmother is a creature of consistency. Any divergence from the norm merits a reaction.
Case in point, we are at IHOP and they bring her strawberry and banana pancakes. She didn’t expect the whip cream and demands, “What’s this?”
The waiter, accustomed to curmudgeony, old people smiles. “it’s your pancakes. I’ll eat them if you don’t want them.”
My grandmother laughs and apologizes.
He leaves the table and she whispers, “I thought it was a birthday thing with the whipped cream.”
Mental note: Whipped cream shakes grandma up.
Did I mention the ride to the mall? I drove. Normally, I employ GPS, but Grandma decided she is better.
I have to admit, the admonition to, “Stop there’s a red light,” or “Turn on Sharon Rd. It’s coming up…coming up…now turn” were quite an experience.
It was GPS for the anal retentive.
She also did not appreciate when I took a shortcut and diverged from her directions. She seriously thought I would get us lost.
Last but not least,when she finished her eggs and turned to her pancakes, which sat beside her for half an hour, she became enraged. “How the hell do they expect me to eat off this little plate?!”
She tried to flag down the nearest employee to help her by madly waving her hand and yelling, “Waiter! Bus boy! You come here.”
I turned around and realized he was the host and he was seating the table behind me. Poor guy.
He came over and she demanded a larger plate. The waitress had to come and help out because he’s the host. Poor poor host.
I do enjoy the fact that she’s old enough to yell at anyone and they take it. That is a definite plus to being over 80.
Today, my grandmother picked me up to go out on the town. She knows I have no car since I just moved back to CT 1.5 weeks ago. So she decided Wednesday will be our day to run errands and go galavanting. Grandma is my girl outing of the week.
She’s pretty cool. We run a few errands–register to vote, register the dog at town hall for me. Grandma loves the fall foliage btw. She points it out to me as she drives and I snap a few pics.
Then we head to the mall to window shop. She mentions that she needs a new bra. But she just wants to look and not buy.
To me, needing a new bra is a crisis situation. Deathcon 4. Not quite on the level of the Middle East peace crisis, but damn near close. I mean a bra is the centerpiece of any woman’s wardrobe. It affects how your clothes drape and how you feel about yourself, because let’s face it despite women’s liberation we all like to have a nice rack. No one wants them to sag or droop. And a good bra can correct a lot of the havoc mother nature is wrecking on your breasts.
I mention that I buy mine at Victoria’s Secret and that they make all kinds of bras. I stress the importance of investing in 2-3 bras that really fit well. So we go to Victoria’s Secret and they tell me they have done away with all there 40+ sizes. Unless you buy them online. Just so you know, grandma falls into this category. Right now, we need to try things on and figure out what style is right for grandma. So screw you Victoria’s Secret.
Next we end up at JCPenney. I’m thinking they will have bigger sizes and better prices anyway. We browse through but only see up to 38 in size. So I ask the sales lady and she looks at me like honey you can’t wear a 40 or higher. And I’m like no this is for grandma. She is still skeptical and measures grandma. We find out what the correct size is. Then she picks our 4 different styles and we convince grandma to try them on.
I go in and end up helping her with the clasps. Grandma tells me I should find a job as a bra fitter since I’m unemployed. I try my best to keep from laughing since it’s a bit of a change from auditor. We go through 7 bras before we find the one that fits right. Success!
Then I convince her to buy it. I push for two, but she holds firm. When we go to check out the store has a nice surprise for us–it’s buy 1 get a second one for 88 cents. Grandma leaves the store with two new bras for the price of one! She’s thrilled to get a deal and two well-fitting bras. I’m happy she’s happy.
Then we grab lunch and chat.
It’s funny, I always end up being a personal shopper to the ones I love. With OL, it was dress slacks. With grandma–bras. Wonder what Mom will have me picking out with her?