This weekend I visited my grandma, for the second time in about a month. That’s at least one more time than I typically visit her in a 6-month period, even though she only lives about 2.5 hours away. I don’t know why 2.5 hours has always seemed like such a long drive. It isn’t. Not really. She’s 88 years old and one of my favorite people in the entire world. We never do much when I visit; just sit and talk, and if the right murder mystery show is on – like 48 Hours or 20/20, we watch that. Or, if it’s during the day, we’ll comment on the various talents and hairstyles of some of today’s popular country artists while we watch music videos on CMT.
My grandpa (who is 14 years her junior and in seemingly great health) takes it upon himself to be the family cook and housekeeper now. Although he much prefers to keep himself busy outdoors by fishing on the lake, cutting grass (theirs and the neighbor’s), or putzing around the yard.
At some point during my short visits, my father almost always makes an appearance, and it’s always incredibly awkward. I know that the moment I tell my grandma I’m planning to visit, she calls him up to make sure he comes over. She tries to force a relationship between us that just simply doesn’t exist. He doesn’t speak, doesn’t make eye contact, he just sits hunched and frail, lips puckered like he’s sucking a lemon but it’s really just the way his lips fall over his gums since he’s missing so many teeth and refuses to wear the false ones my grandma bought for him. Looking at him now, it’s easy to feel sorry for him. But knowing that he did this to himself makes it harder.
At one point, he thanks me. For visiting my grandma, for bringing my carpet shampooer and cleaning her carpet. And I say, “you’re welcome” only because I have no idea what else to say. Part of me wants to be offended that he feels like, perhaps as my father, that he should thank me for being a good granddaughter. As if he had anything to do with it. But then I realize that he probably just doesn’t know what else to say to me. Like in my birthday card from him earlier this year that read “Happy birthday. Your grandmother picked out this beautiful card for you. Please call her when you can.”
Eventually, he leaves. And for once, my grandma doesn’t ramble on about how she’s so worried about what will happen to him when she’s no longer around to take care of him (financially). I know she’s thinking it though. Instead, she likes to ask me if there’s anything in her house that I want after she passes. I don’t know why old people insist on talking about this stuff, but they do. Last time I was there, she insisted on taking me to her plots to show me her headstone. Fun times. I get it that when you’re 88 years old, these things cross your mind, but man is it depressing.
I guess that’s why I’m trying to see her more often. It’s easy to be almost 30 and think about all these childhood memories with my grandparents, forgetting that I can still make memories with them now. I don’t have to rely on all those old childhood memories. And most people aren’t that lucky. So if you have a grandparent still living, go hug them while you can.