Of course some of us see each other at various holidays. A cousin here, an aunt there, uncles between fishing trips, and Grandma of course. As awkward as it gets at times, events with my grandmother are always a bit of an eye opener. Grandma still lives in the small town most of us grew up in/around. If there's gossip to be had, she knows it... well if you're into the goings on of the local 65+ crowd (or it's about you).
It's always a bit of a shock, whether you know them or not, to find out that a local widow in her 70's has shacked up with a local widower also in his 70's. The woman is sharp though. If you were near town, parked at the local gas station, seen with a young man, or anything of the sort... she knows about it. Someone from her church group saw you, Linette! If you think it's not going to come up next time you see her, you're sadly mistaken. Okay... I told her. She was on my ass about getting married and I needed to throw someone under the bus and I panicked.
All that aside, I've always been able to count on her for honesty, whether I wanted it or not. I recall a time in high school when I was trying on a dress for an upcoming school event. As I stepped out of the dressing room and scrutinized my reflection in the mirror, dear old Gran said, "Oh, Angie not that one. The pattern just makes you look even bigger!" I took my stung feelings, went back in the little closet, wisely discarded the dress, and looked for something less ass-widening.
It isn't that she wanted to be cruel. She's just made that way. Okay, not really. She was being helpful. She just doesn't always word things in a way that make you feel, well... helped? There are of course times when she's glowing proud and she can't help but tell the world how excited she is about her grand children's accomplishments. When grandma's are proud, they don't care who they tell. They don't care who hears them. They don't care if that person knows their grandchild. They just say it. Now, combine that loving emotion just bubbling to the surface with hearing loss and you've got yourself a very loud proclamation. God save you.
Thanksgiving 2009- Fort Dodge, Iowa
Approximately 1:15 PM
I walked into my aunt and uncle's home to join my extended family for a tasty turkey dinner. I hadn't seen some of them for many months, including Grandma. Added to the mix were various members of my uncles family. While I don't know many of them, I greet my cousin and parents and the rest of the lot and sat my offerings on the counter. Sitting at the corner table I spot Grandma chatting away with another woman in her "golden years". I smiled a polite hello and continued to talk with my aunt.
Quite loudly from the corner table I heard:
"SHE USED TO BE TERRIBLY HEAVY."
"WHO? WHO USED TO BE TERRIBLY HEAVY, ZONA?"
"ANGIE. SHE USED TO BE TERRIBLY HEAVY!"
At that point I wasn't sure if I was going to laugh or cry. I excused myself from the room and stepped outside where I found my cousin (the one I threw under the bus months before... still sorry) sitting on the front porch. "Why did she have to say that?!" I asked. I proceeded to replay the scene for her, with a slightly lower tone than that which was used inside. That's when she made me smile, "She doesn't think it's an insult. The old one is just lucky we've already got the headstone."
I made my way back to the chaos, hugged the little elf woman, and properly introduced myself to the other "grandma"... and somehow managed not to say, "You might not remember me from my childhood. I used to be terribly heavy." Though it did cross my mind.
My goal for the future, is to live long enough to be able to speak at the top of my voice, saying exactly what I mean to say, without caring how it sounds to anyone else, and having lived life with enough love and kindness that my own grandchildren will smile and be thankful that they've already bought my headstone.