Wednesday, January 4th, 2012
I’ve been thinking about my grandmother a lot lately — my maternal grandmother. I’ve written about her before, but she’s been on my mind more often than usual. She passed away in 1992, I believe it was, and we were estranged for most of my teen years due to some complicated Dynasty-like drama between she and my father. But before that, she was my best friend. She lived across the street from us in San Diego, where she’d moved from Redondo Beach to be with my mom after she was diagnosed with cancer.
In retrospect, I’d say my grandmother was “a character”. She was what some might call “feisty” or “spirited” or even “eccentric”. I just knew she felt like my other half. I loved being with her and we used to laugh so hard at things. As an adult, having spent time with kids under 10, their senses of humor are still developing and can be a bit dodgy, so you laugh with them because they’re cute, but it seems my grandmother genuinely found me funny. I thought she was hilarious.
I’d sleep over at her house quite often and once we were lying in the dark, giggling and thinking of all the words we could for throwing up. Hearing your grandmother, who despite being eccentric, was pretty well-to-do and uppercrusty, say things like “barf” and “upchuck” and then laugh with you about it — that was awesome. It’s a weird memory to cherish, but I do.
Before my grandmother and my dad were at odds, she adored him. She used to wear a t-shirt that read “Jerry’s Mother in Law”, back when having your own t-shirts made was all the rage in the early 80′s.
My grandmother appreciated the finer things, but that didn’t stop her from liking chili from a can and beer in a glass. Often we’d have Dennison’s chili for dinner with saltines, I with a Dr. Pepper (her other favorite thing), she with a beer poured into a tall pilsner glass. We’d have this fine dinner, she in her leather wingback chair, I seated on the floor beside her, using her ottoman as a table while we watched T.J. Hooker.
My grandmother had the most delicate hands. They were old and touched with arthritis, but they were soft with backs that were purple and thin-skinned, like bruised berries under a phyllo pastry.
My grandmother often got wrong numbers. Apparently, it was just one number off from the San Diego Fish Market, so she’d often get calls at early hours asking about mackeral or halibut or whatever. She also used to get calls from someone with an accent who, upon my grandmother saying hello, would demand, “Stat Choo?! Stat CHOOOO?!” in a thick accent, which always amused her. Sometimes she’d reply in turn and they’d go back and forth for a minute or two before hanging up.
One of my favorite quirks of hers is that she hated to be called anything but “Grandmother”. Grandma was too casual, in her opinion and Granny was downright vulgar. Nana was geriatric, she said, but Grandmother was refined and respectful, so that’s how she rolled.
I miss my grandmother sometimes. She’s one of the few family members I can say I felt I knew as a person and not just as an authority figure or parent. I’ve been dabbling a bit in genealogy lately and when it comes to her, I’ve hit a dead end. There was always some “family secrets” and stuff we didn’t discuss and I knew her sisters were her half sisters, so it’s made me even more curious about her past and my overall family history.
I won’t see her in heaven, because I don’t believe in that, but I can say that I sense her with me sometimes — usually when I’m drinking beer from a glass.