Working it out…seeing where it goes….
My grandma digested my grandpa’s death within a week. A marriage like a long, satisfying meal that would remain a warm memory for her empty stomach. She wore black for the funeral and never again. She stopped pulling her hair tight and let it cascade like spider silk down her back. She grew more flowers and said fewer words and kept reading the Bible before bed and in the cool blue hour before dawn. I was eight, and I thought she was the most beautiful thing in the world.
I remember every moment I spent with my Grandpa because there were so few of them. He preferred my tomboy sister Emmy and looked helpless when I asked him if he’d like to join my stuffed bears for afternoon tea. But I lied to Grandma and asked her questions about him, pretending to be interested in the answers. She responded to this line of questioning by brushing my hair until every knot was combed out and my scalp tingled. On the best days she would use her nimble fingers to make a plump French braid down my back.
She lived in another time, but we did too. It was 1988, but the town was running to catch up with a decade that seemed to move faster than the others. My big brother wanted technology that was straight out an HG Wells novel while we were still battling with a 1956 Maytag refrigerator. When we got our first flea market Atari, Grandma would squint skeptically (jealously?) at it, as her story time shrank in favor of 8-bits and achy thumbs. Even I started to pull away, favoring Teen magazine and self-inflicted make-up demonstrations in the bathroom.
Dad took her to the clinic on Fat Tuesday. The widower doctor flirted with her while listening to her heart so that a good flutter could not be distinguished from a bad one. All her life she was surrounded by boys – she still called them that even when the hair sprung from their ears and they shot spittle from their mouths. She was diagnosed with nothing but a bum knee that forced her to sit every hour or so, and the boy doctor gave her a prescription for when the pain was bad.
To celebrate her clean bill of health, Dad took her to buy the Easter ham. She cradled it all the way home like a new grandchild wrapped in swaddling cheesecloth. Easter was grandma’s favorite holiday as far back as I remember.