Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tuesdays with Grandma

Yesterday, I was feeling pretty perky for a Tuesday, so I decided to use that energy for something good.  I went to visit Grandma.

Grandma lives in a senior retirement community.  It kind of reminds me of a cruise ship.  She has a lovely, clean apartment, and access to the following:  2 beauty parlors, a cinema with recliners, a quaint café, two gorgeous dining rooms, a little store to buy milk and other sundries, an exercise room, an art studio, and a library.  Oh, and a bar. 

“Have to have the bar!” Grandma says sarcastically. 

At the community, there are movies played and various cultural excursions offered daily.  They provide transportation to church, to the grocery store, and to the mall.  They offer diversions like Bingo and Po-ke-no, a game that requires a lot of pennies.  (Grandma is always flush with change.  If she’s had a good night at Bingo, she’ll pay for my lunch when I come to visit.) 

They play Lawrence Welk in the community room every evening at 7:00.

Here are some events planned JUST TODAY:  Pet therapy with Diane!  A Chair Exercise class!  Guest Speaker Mike the Getaway Guy in the Meeting Room!  Band practice at 7:00!  Beth’s Classical Music Program at 3:00!

I get excited looking at all of these events.

“Grandma.  Want me to come watch The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance with you?  I’d like to sit in those comfy chairs.”

“A movie?  I’ve gone to four movies since I’ve been here.  I walked right out of the last one.  I couldn’t hear a thing.”

Grandma is overwhelmed by the calendar. 

“These city people always have to go go go.  They can’t just sit and be still.  When I tell them it used to take me 40 minutes to get to the mall, they just can’t believe it.  City people just expect everything to come easy to them.  They have to be entertained all the time. “

“So that’s a no to Poetry with Mary Lou on Saturday? “

“Poetry with who?”

Yesterday, I met her at her apartment.  We always walk to the café, which is about three to four corridors away. That’s how you measure distance there, in corridors.

“Just leave your purse here,”  Grandma commands.

I place my purse on the floor and deftly pull out my cell phone and slip it into my pocket.

“Can’t you be without that thing for even an hour?” Grandma says. 

I’ve been caught.  We go through this every time I come to visit, which used to be weekly but is now more sporadic.  Some days, I’m just not perky enough.

“I have to take it with me.  The kids’ school expects to be able to reach me if there’s a problem.”

“And what did your mother do when you kids were in school?  Stay by the phone all day? “

“It’s different now.  This is just the way it is.”

Grandma throws her hands up in the air.

“All this technology has to stop someday.  Don’t you think?  I mean, how much further can they go?  There has to be an end.”

“I firmly believe that computerized robots will take over the world within 20 years, rendering the human race obsolete,” I say.

“Well, I’ll be dead by then.”

We walk rather quickly to the café.  Grandma has a new hot pink walker.  The nice thing about these walkers, I have to say, is that if one gets tired, there’s a seat built right into the thing.  You just have to turn the walker around and plunk down.  Very convenient.

The café is bright and clean, and has an eclectic staff, which Grandma always comments upon.

“Look at that boys hair.  Have you ever seen something like that?”  I have to admit the boy’s hair, which is shaved on one side of the head and long and wavy on the other side, is unusual.  The long side is constantly falling into his eye.   He kind of looks like a cocker spaniel with only one ear.

The food is good.  I eat a grilled cheese sandwich with a pickle.  Grandma always gets a chicken sandwich on a roll.  We each drink a diet Pepsi. 

There is a large, two-sided faux fireplace in the café where a man has pulled up his walker, which he sat upon, slumped over, asleep. 

“That man was here at 10:00 when I was out for my walk this morning,” says Grandma.

“Aww, he’s like a puppy.  Curled up by the fire.”

“I don’t understand why they can’t sleep in their own rooms.”

It does seem to be a common issue at retirement communities.  There are scores of elderly men and women who choose to doze off in the most public of places.  You walk into the main lobby, and there are three of them, drooling and dreaming. 

We walk to one of the other lobbies so Grandma can show me the damage that occurred when the pipes froze last week during the Polar Vortex.  I have to duck under a tarp.

“How tall are you, anyway?”  Grandma, who did not have to duck, asks.

“I’m 5’5”. “

“I was 5’4” once.”

Back at her apartment, we settle in chairs and I get the scoop.  Avis back in Schroon Lake is still blind and living on her own.  Virginia is adjusting well to life in her nursing home.  There’s a new person who moved in down the hall.  They come, they go.  Mostly they go because they die. 

“I felt very overwhelmed at Christmas,” Grandma says.

“Where there too many people?  Were the kids too crazy?”

“No, I mean the presents.  I’ve NEVER seen so many presents.  Kids these days just have so much stuff.  We got one present at Christmas.  One year, I got a suitcase because I was going on a class trip to Washington D.C.  Your grandfather never got any presents.”

This is the part that gets wearisome.  It’s the same every week.  I want to tell Grandma that I’ve read Tom Brokaw’s book: I know all about the plights of the greatest generation.  (Full disclosure: I have not actually read Tom Brokaw’s book.) 

The trick is to smile and nod, and eventually the lecturing stops and she delves into some story from the past.  This week, it was about her father and the store he ran, the store that my grandfather took over when he and my grandma were married. 

Grandma is turning 90 this month.  She’s lived through two world wars, a depression, the introduction of the washer and dryer, the dishwasher, the microwave, the television, vaccines, Beatlemania, space shuttles, the computer, and (alas) the cell phone.  She’s lost her husband, her brothers, her parents, her newborn son, her 7-year old sister, and most of her friends. 

I’m cutting Grandma some slack.  But, since she disdains computers, I know it’s safe to blog about her. 

She makes for excellent blog fodder.  

1 comment:

The Retiring Sort said...

Good for you, for taking time to spend with your Grandma. If you need a different topic, next time take a blank family tree and a tape recorder, and get the skinny on your ancestors. You'll learn the oddest things! XOXO