Friday evening, Todd's parent's house, during our visit home, upstate NY:
“Michelle, she looks just like you!” Todd’s Gramma says loudly. “Every frickin’ inch!” she laughs.
Her white hair is styled high on her head, each strand glued in its place with hairspray. Her make-up is heavy. Thick eye shadow over each eye. Dark brows are penciled on. Bright lipstick lines her mouth.
Riley is hiding behind me, peeking out with one eye at her great grandmother. It’s taken an hour of crying for her to get this close. Gram C. is 90 pounds, soaking wet (if she’s lucky), but still, she’s just so… much. Riley scampers out of the kitchen to join her brother and her cousins playing downstairs.
Gram is on a day visit from the nursing home. She tells me she’s one of the few people there who still care about their looks. “Michelle, there are people younger than me there, younger than me, who never get dressed! They don’t do their make-up. They just sit around and eat and sleep and shit, and that’s it.” She says, shaking her head, disgusted.
Gram C. smokes cigarettes.
Laughing she says, “I’m gonna go have my marijuana.” She's used it for years and still cracks herself up with that line.
This week she scored a big victory. She will get to keep her cigarettes in her room instead of asking the nursing home staff every time she wants one. "I told them they are MY cigarettes and I shouldn’t have to beg for them.” (There was also a little something in there about how if she had a gun she’d shoot them).
Gram’s little sister Sarah is 80 and she‘s every bit the firecracker. She recently had her portrait painted by an artist she’s been seeing. Gram C. doesn’t think he’s Sarah’s "type" and accuses her of “stringing him along.” Sarah won’t show us the painting and I ask her if it’s a nude. She likes this and cracks up.
Gram C. and Sarah have a daily morning ritual where they call each other and argue, until one of them hangs up on the other.
After dinner, my sister Kelli stops over. Gram C. and Aunt Sarah share with us their latest dirty jokes.
This one from Gram:
“A woman is looking for dates, so she puts in a personal ad. She agrees to meet with one gentleman. He gets to her house and rings the doorbell but when she comes to the door she notices he has no arms. She decides to give him a chance and interview him. She asks him all her questions, and then she asks her last one. You’ve got no arms but what about sex? I mean, are you able....?
How do you think I rang your doorbell? He replies.”
Laughter all around as they go back and forth, swapping jokes.
Later, Gram takes my arm. “Michelle….in three years I’m gonna be 90!” Her face shifts from joy to worry.
“And?” I say
“It scares me. I don’t want to be 90.”
“Why not? I ask.
“It’s old. I don’t want to get old.”
I hold her hands for a long moment and we study each other’s eyes. I've known her for 11 years, but never realized we have so much in common? At 27, I dreaded being 30(I'm way over it now)! I still want to tell loved ones who to date or who not to(still working on this). We both love Todd to our depths.
Riley comes back into the kitchen. I hold my arm out to her and this time she walks up closer to Gram. Gram yanks her in, hugs her, kisses the top of her head. Riley tenses, but allows it.
Gram looks up at me, beaming.
“Every frickin inch!” she says.