For an explanation of this alphabet theme, see my first NaBloPoMo post.
I did say G was not for "geriatric." I did not say it wouldn't be sort of close. G is actually going to be for Grandma.
My grandma turned 96 years old a couple of months ago. She still lives in the three-story house where my mother grew up, and she lives there all by herself. I try not to think too much about her being there, as when I do, all I can think about is her foot slipping on the frighteningly steep stairs from her kitchen to her bedroom or from her back hallway to the cellar and her breaking her poor little 96-year-old hips.
I'm worrying needlessly, I suppose. The woman is obviously invincible. I'm pretty sure she's going to live forever, just to spite my mother somehow. Don't get me wrong; my mother loves her dearly, but the woman drives her batty anyway. I would very much like her to remember this, as I think it might be useful supporting material in another thirty years, but I know that's a lost and pointless cause. This is what we're here for, after all. Children drive their parents crazy; parents return the favor when they can. It sort of seems an unfair unbalance in the universe if I never have a daughter and can't have this same exchange from the other side.
In recent years, I haven't spent much time with my grandma. I live six hours away and typically see her only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. From this distance, it's easy to forget how old she's getting, but I notice it in her letters and cards. They always amuse me, sure (what with the self-addressed labels she encloses and the dollar bill always securely stapled in place so it can't get out). But the increasingly incoherent sentences remind me that her mind isn't what it once was. It bothers me, much like it bothers me to know that she's bored and lonely--that the cranky, anti-social front she's taken on is just her way of saying that she misses her twin sister (who had the nerve to die years ago already, after living two blocks away for decades). I can't really blame her for making herself a shut-in; I've realized I'm well suited for hermitude myself. It's harder to make friends as we get older, and by the time I turn 96, I'll probably have had enough of meeting new people as well.
The cranky, anti-social grandma is not the one I'll always remember, though, and she's not the one I envision when I think of her now. In my mind, she's still the lively old lady who took me on my first bus ride, who walked everywhere--to the park, the grocery store, the bank. She's the one who taught me how to do a jigsaw puzzle (corners and edges first, then look for all pieces of a specific color or pattern and work in sections from there), and how to color without going out of the lines. She didn't argue when I insisted that mashed potatoes were the only part of a holiday meal worth eating, and she always made sure I had chocolate pudding to polish them off. She taught me, involuntarily, that cutting your own hair (or rather, someone else's) is rarely a good idea... (She was banned from trimming my bangs once my mother realized I had more and more of them every time I returned from her house. I eventually spent a year and a half with chunks of hair held back in metal clippie barrettes as my mother struggled to let the unintentional excess bangs grow out.)
My grandma taught me and my sisters all sorts of life lessons, actually... some perhaps more useful than others. Here are five that immediately come to mind.
- Stick a roll of wax paper in your purse when you go to the park. Sitting on a sheet of wax paper makes the metal slide slipperier.
- Volunteering at a Vincent de Paul store is a great way to outfit your family. When you're the one sorting the donations as they come in, you get to keep the best stuff for yourself.
- Never sit on a public toilet seat. Always squat and hover.
- Lucky Charms and Apple Jacks are a perfectly suitable bedtime snack. Just take a Children's Tylenol immediately afterwards to fall asleep. (Did anyone else have their first lesson in uppers and downers at age five? No? That's just me? I thought so.)
- Always carry mints in your pocket and have Cool-Whip in your fridge.
That Cool-Whip one in particular is something I can totally get behind.
Tell me, what did your grandma teach you?