Thursday, September 23, 2010

Grandma's House

I got a call at 7:37 this morning. Unfortunately, with my work schedule that’s not a bad time to reach me.

“Hi Grandma.”
“Did I wake you?”
“No, I’m just on my way out.”
“You know that furry scarf I gave you?”
“I shouldn’t have given that to you.”
“I can give you another scarf for it.”
“Grandma you don’t have to buy it from me, you can just have it back.”
“No, no, I want you to have something else.”

Grandma actually gave me several things last night. She called me last week to ask if I wanted a chair. I told her I would come check it out.

In a couple weeks my 90 year-old grandmother is moving out of her house and into an assisted living facility. It’s a little sad because she’s lived in that house my entire life. It’s “Grandma’s House”. When I walked in last night it smelled like her house and I immediately started to miss that smell.

Unfortunately the chair she was talking about is way too big for my house. She tried to give me a couple other chairs but they’re too big too. I asked if I could have the smaller rocking chair but she said someone else already asked if they could have it. I guess I arrived kind of late in the game. Most things already had beneficiaries. Grandma made it very clear that my father gets the Doug Snow painting and Carter gets the piano. In fact, she makes that clear every time I talk to her. I don't really like claiming things of hers right now anyway. She's still here. When I was little and my great grandma Eddith was alive, she would have us put our names on things in her house all the time. It felt funny. And after she died it was all arbitrary. I don't think I saw anything I put my name on anyway.

Grandma Durham continued to walk me around her house telling me who gets what. I admired a small table over by her sliding glass doors.

"This is nice" I said,
"Oh, I think that's from that one place. You know the funny store where you put things in boxes."

Somehow I knew exactly what she meant. "IKEA?"

"Yes! IJEA," she said.

We went into her kitchen where she gave me some food because I came straight from work. I had some nuts, yogurt and cheese. I meant to write that in order to express the random food she feeds me, but as I finished typing that I realized it isn't much different than what I would feed myself at home if I didn't feel like making an actual meal. I told her I was tired and couldn't stay very long. And then she began to tell me a story.

It was a story about a man who takes her on walks. And how he told her that his mother died. Apparently he was Catholic -- an irrelevant detail, but most of them are. She asked how he was doing and he said he would be fine. She was concerned at his lack of emotion over the whole thing. I think my mind started to wander, but when I came back she said something about a woman who never laughed and never cried.

"And do you know where she ended up?" Grandma asked,
"A mental facility?" I ventured.
"A mental facility. Now you can go."

Is Grandma trying to send me a message? Does she think I never cry? I immediately stopped asking myself questions and before I could go I found myself looking at scarves.

She tried to give me several but I turned them down. I did choose one that I might wear. Grandma called it "quiet but elegant." I also got a scarf with race cars on it. Why? I don't know. At this point I had abandoned the thought of "usefulness" and began to consider the fact that it's nice to have something of Grandma's and it's nice to have costume accessories.

"Do you like nightgowns?" she asked.
"No, not really."
"That's too bad because I have a lot of really nice nightgowns. But girls your age just wear tee shirts to bed don't they."

I began looking through her nightgowns because she was so proud of them.

"Oh, that one is a Christian Dior. I bought that when I thought I was going to marry Phil Richards. Remember Phil Richards?"

As we walked out into the hallway I noticed what looked like an old photograph on the wall by her bedroom.

"Who are they?" I asked
"That is my mother and her niece when they were little girls. Do you like that?"
"Yes, I do."
"I don't know, I guess I like old photographs."
"Take it."
"Do you think it will be worth something some day or something?"
"It's worth something to me right now."
"Aren't you cute."

Yes, yes I am. I have no idea where I'm going to put it. Not in a public space in my house -- that has been established. Because of the Victorian nature of the photograph what with the white dresses, blank, emotionless expressions, it is a little eerie if looked at in the wrong light. One of my roommates expressed if she sees it at night she'll think they're ghosts that used to live in this house. Somehow I understand. So Hettie Pearl Turnbow Divers and her niece will have to stay in my room where I know they're not ghosts.

Grandma asked if I collected Lladros, which I don't. But I do collect angels.

Grandma told me I could have her angel Lladro. And then she told me the story that comes with it. So here's the story, almost verbatim:

"There once was a man who lived close by. When he was very ill I would go over there and say to his wife 'Get out of here!' and then she would leave and I would read to him. I read St. Petersburg to him. And do you know what he told his wife? He told his wife, 'When I die, I want Betty to have this angel, because she's my angel."

I told Grandma I would happily take the angel. And I would call her Betty (after her). And that just tickled her to no end. I knew it would.


Lisa Marie Trent said...

That was a great item. Good for you.

SRA said...

Both great items...the picture and the Lladro. And the stories to go with them make them all the more valuable. Your grandma is great...reminds me of my 96-year-old Grammy.

carter said...

Not that one would necessarily infer this from your post, but I'd like to make it clear that at no time did I ever make a play for Grandma's piano or for any other item in her house. I never asked for it, and I don't think I would have ever even thought of wanting it, were it not for her asking ME if I would like it. And I graciously accepted her magnanimous gesture. I have no idea why she feels the need to talk to you about it continually.

Jergs Family said...

This is a great post! I've gone over a couple of times too, she wants to give me all of her nightgowns as well, which I refuse to wear for many reasons. Not the least of which is that I despise nightgowns! Anyway, it is sad to think that she won't be there anymore, but I'll bet her little apartment will have her smell!

I do have to say that I got the most darling skirt from her - of course she told me it was "very expensive and I think I paid $125 for it". But you wouldn't believe the compliments I get when I wear it. Best of all is the look on my friends faces when I tell them it is from my 90 year-old grandmother! Classic!

Lisa Marie Trent said...

I wish I could say the same about the skirt grandma gave me.

Jaime said...

Laura, you're such a good writer. This was beautiful. Love you!