Whaaa?

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When I was younger, my Mom’s father, whom I knew as Granddaddy, was 97% deaf. When he was young, he was filling up a gas tank at the station, when the tank exploded—shattering one of his eardrums and causing his unfailing deafness. While this was tragic, it caused for some pretty amusing family interactions later on down the line.

When Granddaddy would come to visit, my Mother would proceed to do this thing where she sort of bent over at a 90-degree angle and screamed directly into his ear. My Granddaddy, having a very gruff voice and an outwardly cantankerous-seeming attitude (he was a pussycat in reality), would then continue to face away from her and grunt loudly, “Wuh?” She would then sigh, and repeat whatever it was she was saying at decibel levels harmful to normal human ears.

“Daddy! Can you help Rhea and Kurt get ready for dinner?”

“Wuh?”

“DADDY! IT’S DINNER TIME! CAN YOU HELP RHEA AND KURT GET READY FOR DINNER!”

“You said; it’s dinner time?”

“YEEESSSS! HELP RHEA AND KURT GET READY!”

“Oh, oh, yes, I’ll go get ready.”

My Mother would then stand upright, her face red from screaming, and sigh, walking away whilst shaking her head. This happened pretty much constantly when he came to visit. In restaurants, parks, school plays—there was no option because he couldn’t hear one…damn…thing.

As a child, I actually don’t remember this being at all strange. Granddaddy was just deaf. That was the way of the world. Funnily enough, I actually don’t really remember him being unable to hear me at all. To be fair, I was very young, but in retrospect, maybe he was just trying to torture my Mother.

I loved watching the two of them screaming and signing and waving each other off when communication was a moot point. It was charming. But my Mother, oh how she hated it. She had lived with this since birth, and as is often the way with parents and children, their faults tend to send you into a blind white rage.

My Granddaddy has since died, but the universe has a funny way of catching up to you in its infinite wisdom. Now, my Grandmother from my Father’s side is pretty much 97% deaf. Lucky me.

For a while now it has become clear that her hearing is diminishing:

2009

“Grandmother, would you like to go to Mimi’s for lunch?”

“Oh yes, Rhea, I looooove their muffins.”

2010

“Grandmother, would you like to go to Mimi’s for lunch?”

“What did you say?”

 “Grandmother, would you like to go to Mimi’s for lunch?!”

“Oh, yes, please. I looooove their muffins.”

2011

“Grandmother, would you like to go to Mimi’s for lunch?!”

“What?”

“Grandmother, it’s lunch time! Where do you want to go?”

“Welll, I don’t know if you know of this little place, Mimi’s, but I looooove their muffins.”

“Yes, that’s what I suggested!”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t hear you.”

2012

“Grandmother! What do you think about MIMI’S for LUNCH!?”

“Rhea, my hearing aid isn’t in, I’m sorry, I just can’t hear you. Give me one second,” she’ll say, and as she’s adjusting her squealing hearing aid in her ear, she’ll say to me in this coquettish voice. “You know what we might do today? Let’s go to Mimi’s. They have these muffins that you would just looooove.”

It’s frustrating. You want to leave her in the Mimi’s parking lot talking to herself with her damn muffins, but the rational side of you understands it’s not her fault and the emotional side then takes a beating for having thought such terrible things. But I now understand why my Mother would be exhausted after Granddaddy would go back to Mississippi; ready to drink a bottle of wine or sit quietly in a sensory deprivation chamber until her cortisol levels returned to normal.

At times my Grandmother will just talk over me because she simply doesn’t hear me speaking. When you take her to a restaurant, she’ll look at you to translate, which you then have to do as politely as possible in front of the confused waiter and patrons as you bend over and scream at this tiny white haired woman. Or you say in a normal volume to the waiter, “You have to scream at her a bit,” as Grandmother carries on her one-sided conversation with the waiter who has been telling her about the lunch specials. To my Grandmother, this is an indication that she is ready to receive her lunch order, so she goes about her business, and compliments the waiter’s apron as if they shared a special bond.

Like my Granddaddy, I’ve come to accept that this is just the way of the world. She is pretty much deaf, and that is that. So yesterday I called her as I was walking home from an errand. I dialed her number on my cell phone and took a deep breath…

“Helloooo?” she answered.

“HI GRANDMOTHER, HOW ARE YOU!”

Two people across the street turned to stare at me indignantly as my Grandmother said into the phone, “Oh, Rhea! How are you? Whatcha up to?”

“I HAD SOME GOOD NEWS FROM WORK THAT I WANTED TO TELL YOU ABOUT!” I screamed into the phone as a pigeon, disturbed by the noise, flew away from me.

And thus the conversation continued on. Me screaming on the phone, turning red in the face as I hollered into the phone; her asking periodic questions or talking nonsense because she was confused about where we were in the conversation. The cycle has come full circle. As usual, I am grateful to have my Grandmother, but when you’re scaring pigeons, you really have to question if someone will get home to their spouse and tell the story of this crazy lady they saw on the street screaming about her job on the phone.

The Home

My 91-year-old Grandmother recently moved to a retirement home. How did she ever tolerate such a situation, you ask? Well, she slipped and fell going out to the mailbox. Luckily she wasn’t hurt, but she was stuck there on the ground for 45 minutes before a neighbor came by to help her up. Not that there weren’t opportunities for assistance before those 45 minutes had passed. A car did drive by, and instead of throwing something in its direction or frantically flailing her arms about over her head, she looked the passenger dead in the eye and waved at them politely, because those car people (not anyone she knew personally) couldn’t be trusted to help her ass up off the ground.

Now, of course, she’s blissfully happy in the home. After years of straight-up depression, and 6 months of being unable to cook for herself because she literally couldn’t handle the pans on her own, she goes to exercise classes, has an extensive circle of friends, and wants to re-learn how to play Mah Jong so she’ll have a competitive edge. I’ve never been happier for another human being in my life, but I have to tell you, it took some time to get there.

My Grandmother grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas and has lived there her entire life. She knows almost everyone in the near 200,000-person city. Everyone. When she goes to church, every Sunday, her pastor mock complains that my Grandmother’s receiving line is longer than hers. It’s true, and her fame throughout Little Rock is extreme. When I was living in DC, someone came into the store I was managing and handed me their ID. When I saw they were from Little Rock, I said, “Oh, my Grandmother is from Little Rock! You probably know her.”

When I told the woman my Grandmother’s name, she said, “Oh! I’ve never met her, but I have heard of her.”

It makes sense. My Grandmother, hands down, is the cutest person in the world. She stands mightily at a whopping 4’11”, including her puffy permed white helmet of hair. She has a thick but proper Southern accent, which she uses to charm anybody who walks into her vicinity, bending them to her tiny will without effort. She has been a dedicated member of her church since birth, made a living through the Great Depression, was promoted to a management level over men at a bank during the 30’s (back when that was unheard of), and participated actively in the Civil Rights movement during the Little Rock Nine episode—on the anti-segregation side of things. She is a pioneer of her era. But she’s also stubborn as a mule, unflinchingly so. I find it best not to cross her. You don’t want that kind of passive-aggressive wrath to come down on you.

So it was with her decision to move to the home. The summer before she fell, I was visiting, not only to see her, but also because she needed some help cleaning some of the things out of her 2 bedroom/2 bath home, which was growing progressively unmanageable for her. We were sitting, having breakfast, and I asked her where she was on moving to the home. At that point, we had been having this conversation for some time, as her old age, lack of transportation, and lack of cooking ability in addition to her complete and utter denial had left her in a dangerous state alone in her home with no one to look after her 24/7. For anyone who’s had stubborn grandparents or parents, you can relate. Babies and grandparents have many of the same needs, as they require constant care and maintenance. But you try looking a grown ass adult who has managed their own affairs for decades right in the eyeball and telling them that they aren’t equipped to live on their own anymore. Also, that you know best. Now try doing it to a woman who changed your diapers and scolded you when you acted a fool as a child.

She sat up rather erectly and looked at me cautiously. “Rhea, I want to go when I’m ready. I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do.” She had been repeating this for months, as if that would make me back off. But clearly the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

I took a deep breath, and I leaned in, ready to turn on the tough love. “Grandmother, I’m not trying to rush you, but could you explain to me what you are waiting for… You can’t cook for yourself anymore, you don’t have a car, finding transportation is difficult, the house costs a lot to maintain, and you seem sort of lonely.  Wouldn’t moving be a good idea? It seems like a lot of the things you’ve been upset about would be taken care of at the home you’ve described to me. I just want to understand your thinking. ”

She looked at me, pretty steadily, her eyes unwavering as she sized me up. She tapped her filed fingers on the table for a heavy moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Rhea, I just want my independence.”

From what? Looking at her across the table wearing the blue flowered house-dress she had owned since I was old enough to remember, delicately eating her low-sodium Welch’s grape juice, a banana and fiber filled cereal, which had brought her back from the brink of diabetes, she looked totally normal and in control. But then she stood, holding the counters as she went to put the dish in the sink, opening a pillbox loaded with pills that would keep this and that in place. It was a reminder. She was very very old.

When I was growing up, she was one of the more active people I knew, and this was when she was in her 60’s and early 70’s. I spent most of my summers as a young kid in Arkansas, trying to keep up with her as we went from place to place. She was unstoppable.

But as she aged, various things began to fail, as happens when your body gets tired. First, she hurt her knee and couldn’t walk up steps. Then, her esophageal issues flared up, followed by a blood clot that eventually gave her a mini stroke, which she of course survived to the shock and awe of her doctors. Blood clot tryin’ to tell her how to live. Nonsense.

Over the years, as her body deteriorated around her mind, she grew more isolated and less social, for all the shared reasons that the elderly have. Aging puts wear and tear on your body that you’re not ready for. You can’t drive anymore, which severely limits your ability to do things. And then all your friends and family start dying around you. Your mind also starts to function less well than it used to. So you repeat things. You forget where you put things, which makes you more paranoid about theft. You talk about the same things over and over again because you don’t have that many new things to go over, and the past is much more important than it ever was. Nostalgia reigns supreme. This is something every living person on the planet will face should they get to be the age my Grandmother is. It is not an insult, it is not cruel—it is just how it is. And she would tell you the same thing.

However, as her social circle and physical capacity shrunk, my Grandmother grew more into herself. While she had many family members who visited and helped out, for the most part she was on her own, day in day out. Bless her heart the tiny woman was depressed. This resulted in some pretty provocative guilt tripping when I had to get off the phone to conduct my normal affairs and many hours on the phone hearing the same stories about the good old days, but our relationship endured.

So when she called me to tell me about this 45 minutes of sitting under the hot Arkansas sun, it was clear that she had had some time to think, stuck there on the ground—probably furious as a wet cat in a thunderstorm. She pronounced, “Rhea, I have always known when it is time to step down, and I am going to move.” When she made a decision, dammit, she stuck to it. Within two months, she was moved, her items distributed to family, the house put on the market, and bless her heart, she bought all new furniture for the new apartment, saying, “I want to start fresh in my new life.” It was a godsend.

At the time, I was wrapped up in work and was unable to go to Arkansas to help her pack her things. But move she did, and I knew it was time to go visit her in her new environs. I wanted to be supportive, because I knew how hard it was to admit defeat.

I called her, to ask if January would be a good time for me to come and visit. After asking her if there was w-fi in the home so that I could work remotely for a week, we talked about sleeping arrangements. She and I both knew that I couldn’t crash on her couch. She got up pretty regularly at the crack of dawn, and plus, I would be very much in her space in her 1-bedroom apartment as she went about her business.

She politely told me of the housing they had “on-campus” for a reasonable rate. While it was a great offer, I had an Aunt who lived in the Heights, which is pretty much the Ritz-iest neighborhood in Arkansas, other than the country club. And free, as well as relaxing, is significantly better than living in a home for a week, courteous staff and heart-healthy meals not withstanding.

“Grandmother, I think that I will probably stay with Aunt Jamie during the time that I’m there…”

“No, you can’t do that! I know you think I’m crazy, but there is a lot of crime in Little Rock right now.”

I paused, knowing that over the years she had gotten substantially more afraid of not only theft, but of the nighttime hours, which was anytime after her 8:00pm bedtime, approximately 6 hours before I got tired. When she still had her house my brother Kurt and I would visit, periodically needing to escape her crushing yet sweet attention, as well as the consistent offers for us to take her things, because when she was dead and gone she wouldn’t need them. One night when we had gone for much-needed margaritas, she called us, panicked at 6:30pm, saying that we simply must get home soon as possible because it was getting dark. Twilight wasn’t even a thought in the sky. Her paranoia was not new news to me, but having survived Cairo and New York City on my own, I thought I could handle Little Rock, Arkansas with relative ease, especially within the walls of a rented car.

“Grandmother, I think that I will be alright in the 30-minute car ride to the Heights, I…”

And she cut me off, practically crying out, “No, Rhea, you don’t understand! They’ll ram your car so they can steal your things! You don’t know what they’re doing here right now!”

I thought of this scenario, pulling away from a stop sign only to have a car filled with big burly men with guns slam into my front fender, leap out, and run around to the driver’s seat to demand the keys and my purse, politely leaving me with my chap stick and jacket, in case I got cold. I moved on from the subject, saying that we would see, and asked her to tell me more about her new friends.

She lit up, and was telling me all about her new friends, the wonderful staff, and the wonders of living “on-campus.” And then she let a story slip that defined my Grandmother to me.

When I was living at our first house with the boys (my Dad and Uncle) and Grandfather, my mother had to move in with us so we could support her. She lived in the basement and everything was fine. At the time, I was volunteering at the home, because my church helped to found the retirement community. I was spending so much time there, so I offered to Mother that she come with me. She looked at me, utterly offended, and said, “You think that if you show it to me, I’ll want to move in, huh? You can’t get rid of me that easy.” I of course paused, and said, “Whatever you want, Mother. I have to leave in a few minutes, so it’s up to you.” So I went about my business, and got ready to go. When Grandfather and I got to the carport, there she was, all dressed and standing by the car, waiting. I knew better than to say anything, so we all got into the car and went. The next day she applied for a room and was out of our house within a week.

I laughed uproariously. My Grandmother, ignoring the obvious comparison, carried on with her story.

I was still volunteering there quite a bit, because I liked it, so I would visit with her when I went to volunteer. I also called her every day, to check in on her, because that was what we did. One day, I was visiting with her, and after a time, she sat up in her chair, and in an exasperated tone said to me, “I know that you want to check in with me, but I can’t have you calling me every day. And if you think I’m going to sit with you and visit every day, I cannot. I have things to do, and me and my friends are busy with activities!” I said, “Yes, Mother.” So we switched to visiting every few days so I could respect her privacy.

I was dumbfounded. It was hilarious. But she carried on…

You know, my Mother always preferred to do her own laundry. Every Friday, she would pack up her laundry and go to the laundry room to do her washing. One day, she was mid-way through her washing, and she felt a pain in her chest. So, she finished everything up, went back to her room, put all her things away, and then called me to inform me that she would be going to the hospital. Then she called 911 for an ambulance. I met her at the hospital, and she died a few weeks later. Turns out, she had had a mild heart attack. But she was fit to be tied if she wasn’t going to finish her washing.

I was laughing so hard that tears came to my eyes. It was a ludicrous tale, but it settled things in my mind. My Grandmother had learned to be the way she was from the best, and she was fit to be tied if it would be another way.

She is settled now, which settles me, but it makes me view my old age in a very different light. I used to be afraid, based on her isolation, that eventually the time would come where I would be just friggin miserable. But I know, based on this demonstrated pattern, that I will try to address it head on, and move to the home at a reasonable age so I can play canasta, get taken to my myriad of doctor’s appointments, and so on and so forth until the day when I too have a heart attack in the laundry room.

GRANDMOTHER!!!

crazy_grandma_04

I’ve spent the last 7 days in Arkansas trying to help my Grandmother downsize her things so that she could potentially move into an assisted living apartment… should she so choose. The problem is, it’s like trying to dig a cat’s claws out of shag carpet. For all the years that I’ve known her, she’s told me time and time again how she will step down when necessary, and has in fact done so—for the most part. When she was 80, she stepped down from a two-story house to a one-story house. Then at 83, she stepped down from driving a boat of a puke-gold Cadillac to not driving at all and donated her car to charity. However, now that it’s time to step down from a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, single-story house to a 2 bedroom apartment she simply will not budge.

Truthfully, she wants to be carried out feet first. She prays on it nightly, I am sure. But the problem is, no matter how she fervently insists on dying the minute your back is turned, she maintains her strict diet, exercises, and sticks to doctor’s orders as if God himself parted the thundering clouds, pointed at her and in his infinite booming voice spake unto her, “Take your 81 milligrams orally each evening at precisely 5:34pm! If you do this, you shall earn all of the glories of heaven and more!”

As a result, for a woman over 90, she’s in remarkable shape, physically and mentally. She can still walk through the house in 30-minute circuits for exercise, read a book in a day’s time, tie her own shoes, remember where she put her keys, and mostly, she chews her own food—so long as it isn’t mushrooms. The reason I bring up mushrooms is to illustrate the point that while my Grandmother is still very with it, she is 90, and she will repeat any story, or a cycle of stories, if prompted by her trigger word. Heaven forbid that you mention A) mushrooms, B) food or C) have a small coughing fit because you’ve swallowed water down the wrong pipe trying to kill yourself listening to this story for the third time in a day. See, mushrooms have the unfortunate effect of causing my Grandmother’s esophagus to swell up almost instantly, as she will readily tell you should you mention the affronting fungus. In 1943, she ate a mushroom that had been surreptitiously buried in her pasta, and her throat swelled so badly that no air could get through. She was promptly rushed to the hospital, where she had a surgery to open the airway. And that surgery caused her to have scar tissue in her throat that she has to roto-rooter out every 6.5 years or so—depending on how her general swallowing routine is going. My sweet broken record of a Grandmother will explain it to you in vivid detail, should you be foolish enough to offer her a bite of whatever thing you were eating.  As you attempt to cut her off, with hand gestures and the like, she will tell you that to do the procedure, they simply dope her up, stick a tube down her throat and scrape away at the scar tissue, so that she can breathe. Then she will go on to explain to you that she is also forbidden from eating peppers (too spicy), anything with seeds (they get stuck in her teeth, particularly in this one spot where the dentist grafted the filling in the wrong direction—another story that must be told in tandem with the mushroom one), apples (too hard), anything spicy, nothing with sugar, nothing with caffeine, nor carbonation, or anything with the slightest hint of alcohol in it… Or so I am reminded, one way or another, several times per day.

However, despite her physical and mental wellness, she has a bad ticker, her long-haired Samson, and she’s had several “incidences” where it has become clear that she needs to consider moving to a smaller space with mild supervision. Most recently, when her heart protested its long life, she was hospitalized, and I endured the hells of plane-based travel. A week later, on my originally planned familial tour of duty, I was joined by my brother Kurt, who I had asked to come with me due to her progressively failing health.

We spoke on the phone prior to the visit, and as I filled him in on the fact that our Grandmother was coming closer to accepting an assisted living situation (as she had stated in the hospital a week earlier), we plotted as two rational adults do against their family members, debating how to tactfully avoid her telling us not to worry but that she was as good as dead every 20 minutes and how we could get her to throw away some of the excess stuff so that when it did come time to move her, she wasn’t swimming in 7 closets filled with towels that all seemed to have a story attached to them.

After our arrival and some revisited tales of her gastric distress/ diarrhetic pill regimen/ what fun she had pushing a hoop down a dirt road with a stick in the 1920’s—all prompted by an offer to go to dinner at her favorite restaurant—I decided to take the plunge regarding our plan to rid her of her prized excess possessions.

“Grandmother,” I yelled towards her good ear, so that the entire restaurant could easily hear. “You know, I was thinking about the conversation we had in the hospital about you potentially moving into one of the two homes. While Kurt and I are here, what do you think about us going through some of the excess stuff you have and donating it to charity? Not any of the major stuff, maybe just things like the extra towels in your closet or some of the extra cooking stuff, since you told me you don’t cook anymore. What do you think?”

“Weeelll, Rhea,” she paused, like the Ents in Lord of the Rings. “I think that might be a good idea. I’m not ready to go to Presbyterian Village quite yet, but when I do get ready, it might be nice for it to be easier.”

I sat back, stunned that she had agreed. A part of me knew that this meant she was actually considering moving, which she had needed to do for about 6 months to a year, according to my cousins. And I thought, finally, I won’t need to sit up nights wringing my hands worried that she would fall and lay there for four days like a turtle unable to roll herself up.  How wonderful, I thought, that she can visit with other people, get taken to the grocery store, to her medical appointments, go to the beauty shop, all these things she had been complaining about since she had stopped driving her car 7 years ago. I was relieved, hopeful that she would actually take this step and be safer as well as happier.

We agreed to go through her house room by room, and the next morning we began with a storage closet near the garage, upon her suggestion. My Grandmother, the little 4’11” dictator that she is, sat at the kitchen table and ordered Kurt and I to remove each thing from the closet, lay it in front of her, and she would tell us where we could stick it. We acquiesced, but as she ordered 4 large glass vases back onto the top shelf, along with 3 unused telephones, and one decrepit candle that looked like the type that Oliver Twist would carry around, I knew we were headed for trouble. As we were emptying this accursed closet that time forgot, we pulled out an old beaten pot with a large handle and showed it to my Grandmother. She screeched, “Oh, yes, don’t you dare throw that out, that was my Grandmother’s!” I suddenly understood that the handle was there so that one could hang it over an open flame because electricity hadn’t been invented yet. Had she used it since her Grandmother’s death, or even beforehand? No. Had we ever seen this cookery or heard about it before this very moment? No. But, we shakily returned it to the closet, then pulled out a “Steam Vaporizer” with a man in bell-bottoms and a moustache on the front of the box smiling at the device. Once again, she cried in delight, “Oh, I could use that, put it back on the top shelf”… where I can’t reach it. Then came 17 vases from flowers others had given her over the years that she had never thrown away, then 25 (not exaggerating) carry all bags that you would take to Whole Foods for the 10 cent credit, all of which she said that she was using. All of which had been buried underneath 4 distinct holiday-based layers of decorative bags as well as 20 or so Easter baskets church goers had given her, still with the plastic green death grass that you always see seabirds flying with around their necks.

After the 25 cloth bags, I was beside myself with logical agitation. She was only purging things that were literally trash. I couldn’t help but react, thinking mostly of the fact that she would have to move sooner than later, and that sooner would be facilitated by lightening the load before she seriously hurt herself in that big empty house filled with things. I decided it was time for some tough love. I got down on her level, looked her straight in the eye and said, “Ms. Grandmother, do you really use these cloth bags?”

“Yes.”

“When was the last time you used them?”

“Rhea, I use them all the time!” (I repeat, they had been buried underneath the aforementioned items, as well as piles and piles of trash, including a board with two handles to it that she insisted I keep, a cookie jar, and 40 of her used prescription bottles that it appeared she had just thrown haphazardly into the closet.)

“Grandmother, why don’t we throw away just a few of them and I’ll leave you with enough so that if you go shopping you can use them?”

“No, I need those!” she cried, sounding legitimately upset… over cloth bags.

Anyone with half a brain could see what the real issue was. This was hard for her because it meant that she was one step closer to death, and one step closer for a Depression-era child to having to give away all the stuff that made her feel secure. Moreover, she was an independent, intelligent, and stubborn individual—three traits that made this process incredibly difficult. Of course, in the scope of my family’s historical apple tree, I had not fallen very far from the third of these traits, and I was not to be swayed. Nor was she…

What we had, was an emotional hoarder on our hands. And what followed was a weekend of blood, sweat, tears, emotional blackmail, and a woman unprepared to give up things she had collected since the time of the cave man.

In the end, in addition to putting out 8 full bags of recycling/trash, we were able to donate:

Item

What we Donated

What Was Left After the Donation

Fitted Bed Sheets 4 2 per bed
Sheets 7 2 per bed
Pillowcases 14 4 per bed
Pillows 4 Too many to count
Towels 3 trash bags full 3 full sets for guests (including washcloth, hand towel, and 1-2 regular sized towels)
Easter Baskets 20 0
Vases 17 25 that she showed me hidden in a different closet after the reaping was over
Telephones 5 2 in the closet—not including those plugged into the wall
Answering Machines 2 0
Heating pad 3 1
Tupperware without lids 7,000 pieces 15,000 pieces
Suitcases 2 5 (she doesn’t travel anymore… and refuses to if asked)

As the week has reached it’s close, I realized that this week would forever be retold from two drastically different perspectives, but in the tradition of my Grandmother, these stories would be told again and again and again:

My Grandmother would retell it as a tale of two generations, with a subtle protagonist and antagonist:

“My grandchildren came down to visit and to help me clean up my house. See, they were just throwing away extra things, mostly donating them to the church, but I kept wanting to say, ‘I’m not dead yet!’ But they meant no harm, they just don’t appreciate the things I have the way I do. I like to have the things to look at them, and that’s not really important to young people these days. But you should have seen them, oh, they worked like the dickens! Especially Kurt, he heaved everything from place to place! Climbing up on the cabinets, taking each and every piece out just to put it back again! Oh, he was so tired! But, Rhea, she’s just like her mother. She’s not sentimental, she just wanted to throw everything out… But some of those things were still good! For instance, I’m not going to throw away a perfectly good vase just because it’s old. This generation, they don’t understand that old isn’t necessarily bad. However, they really were such a help to me. If I make it to Presbyterian Village, see that’s where my mother and my mother-in-law died, I will have to cut down, and as Rhea said, I wouldn’t store it or take it with me so… I guess, at my age, things mean something to me. Maybe I’m just a sentimental fool. However, they are right, it really is time to readjust a few things. I just didn’t think they’d want to throw away everything! Come see, let me take you through the house and show you what they threw away and what they didn’t. I’ll take you through every room and point at each item, recalling its meaning so that you will know why I didn’t want them to throw it away. Come, come, let’s go… NOW!”

Whereas my brother and I will permanently remember this visit as the 12th circle of hell over alcohol:

“Let me preface this by stating that I love my Grandmother. Kurt and I went down to visit her and try to help her downsize a bit in case she needed to move. She would have none of it. She wanted to keep everything, even old wooden spoons from 1856. It was crazy. She got to the point where she would follow us out to the garage to be sure that we returned a few of the 25 cloth carry-all bags you might find at Whole Foods instead of escaping with them in the night. Problem is, she never used those stupid bags!” (pause for swig of alcohol) “So, one night, we went out to have a drink so that we wouldn’t kill her in her sleep, and we were just coming home when at 7:58pm we get a frantic call from her asking if we were dead because we had been out so long. She wanted to make sure that we would get home soon because it was getting dark… The sun had barely starting to set. It was a vibrant dusk, and my Grandmother is worried that we have been mugged and killed in the poshest part of Little Rock, Arkansas.”

At the end of the day, I do love my Grandmother, and I am not trying to say that she is crazy or that she is incapable of making up her own mind. She is just at the next phase of her life, and it is difficult when you can see from the outside just how far someone has fallen, and are powerless to make their decision for them. My Grandmother, stubborn, eternal woman that she is, will most certainly outlive us all. And at the end of days, the Armageddon of this world, she will sit in her den on her rocker near the window, clutching a carry all bag filled with all her crap from a forgotten era, rocking and laughing as the days grow dark.