Every Saturday morning at 9am, Grandma was particular about getting her hair done. Tinted orange, teased, and sprayed, she was ready to take on the world after leaving the beauty parlor. Usually she had a few complaints about her hair dresser, but no matter of convincing ever swayed her from departing and trying out someone new. Grandma actually went to beauty school herself, and when I was in the second grade, she gave me a perm. It turned out ok, however, I still remember the giggles we shared as she couldn’t remember which faucet handle was hot versus cold. Later, Mom told me that Grandma was actually a beauty school dropout, to which Grandma just laughed.
Grandma introduced me to Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love a Rainy Night” and Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together”. We used to sing them, and when I was gifted with a 45 in my Easter basket, I was over the moon. Grandma also loved Elvis…and she thought Bruce Springsteen was pretty hot.
My cousin and I decided to help Grandma out one afternoon when we were around 12. We washed out her cupboards and organized all her pots and pans. She was very appreciative, and called to thank us many a times over the next few weeks and asked where we put things, because she couldn’t find it.
Grandma made me peanut butter fudge one year for my birthday. It was in a nice big tin–supposedly I was supposed to share. I took it to my room instead, and unfortunately it got moldy before I could eat it all. Her and I laughed about that often. Just this past Christmas, Grandma asked me to make her some peanut butter fudge–“none with that powdered sugar crap”. And I did…and we laughed about that story again.
When I started driving, Grandma, my Great Aunt Pearl, and their friend Colleen, took me out driving. They loved to give me advice, and it was so much fun to listen to them laugh. We usually ended up at a restaurant, which turned into a tradition that continued for many years. We often took some side trips to garage sales and thrift stores too.
Grandma made the best beef vegetable soup, pumpkin roll, and potato salad. Three years ago, she gifted me with the potato salad recipe, and watched closely as I made it. “A little of this, a little of that, canned milk is the key, and just eyeball the color.” We’ll see how it comes out when I make it without her supervision. She also gifted me that day with a purple shawl that her mom had made–it has become my blessed meditation and prayer shawl.
I had the pleasure of learning to gamble from a pro. Grandma was a hoot. She’d always get irritated during Bingo when I would only play one sheet, instead of the max of three. “Cause you know, the odds are better!” It was hard enough to keep up with one–I don’t know how she did it. And she would always send me to get snacks at half-time. The canes and walkers would knock you out of the way to get there first for the old school pizza. I told Grandma it was like sending me into the lion’s den, and she’d laugh and tell me to remember to bring back the pizza.
Grandma and I took a few trips together. We took a senior citizen bus tour to Atlantic City. Grandma would get irritated with me because I didn’t “bet” the max bid. And when I did win, she’d say, “You could have three times that if you’d listen to me.”
Her and I went to Las Vegas. We went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum–Grandma got pictures with Elvis and “Bruce Baby” as she called him, aka Bruce Springsteen. Not only did we see an Elvis impersonator, we also went to a drag show, and even better, the Australian Thunder Down Under Male Review. There’s more to that story, but Grandma hated me telling it, and would tell everyone I was telling tales…so we’ll just leave it at that. It is one of my favorite memories, because we laughed for hours.
In June of 2010, Grandma and I drove up to her sister, Aunt Helen, two hours away, in my new car. The three of us road tripped it out to Chicago, to visit their sister, Aunt Ruth, who they hadn’t seen in 15 years. Grandma was supposed to be my navigator. I’d be talking away, glance over, and her head would be down, sound asleep. I’d poke her–“I’m not sleeping. You’re telling tales again!” Aunt Helen would giggle in the back. It was a great trip–we had so much fun, and it even included a stop at a Riverboat Casino.
Grandma had met many of my friends, and liked to keep tabs on what was going on in their lives. She had her own way of keeping them straight. “You mean the one who talks all the time?” or “You mean the nice one who we went to take lessons (chair yoga) with?” That was Grandma. She loved when my friend Steve would tease her. He always called her “Marjorie of Western Drive”, and she’d laugh. One New Year’s Eve, Steve had her laughing so hard that she went and locked herself in the bathroom to catch her breath. When she finally opened the door, Steve was standing in the door jamb, grinning. She squealed, and slammed the door shut, and locked it, and you could hear her laughing hysterically. She always called him “the crazy one”.
One of my favorite things, Grandma has a dresser drawer full of costume jewelry. It was a special occasion when she would bring it out and let us pick something, or if she selected something from there as a gift. My high school prom dress was accessorized from that drawer. Grandma had the best taste in earrings–and always gave me some wild ones. Grandma always said you were naked if you didn’t have earrings and lipstick on. Going through her clothes the other day, I found an awesome pair of silvery, slinky pants that fit perfectly. And makes me wonder, where did she wear these? I can’t wait to wear them!
Grandma loved the Cleveland Indians…and loved to yell at them from her favorite chair. Her favorite insult was to call them “dumb crumbs”. She also loved her game shows and politics. She often told me that I needed to be watching the news so I knew what was going on.
Grandma and I worked together for awhile at Walmart, when I was in college. She was a people greeter, and quite the social butterfly, and enjoyed telling everyone that I was her granddaughter. She retired from there eight years ago, at the age of 85. Even three weeks ago when I was in, people were asking about her and if she was behaving. “Of course not!” was always my typical response.
I loved to tease Grandma…I think the feeling was mutual. There were many a times when she would huff, and then go “BROOKE”. And my response back to her was “Gran-maaaa”. She was convinced there was a snake in her drawers at one point. She was telling me about it, and I got to giggling. She started giggling too, and then asked what was so funny. I said, “I was just thinking about what Freud would say about you having a snake in your drawers.” She smacked me, and we both howled with laughter.
Grandma was concerned about our love life, or the lack there of. She fixed me up on a blind date 20 years ago. Unbeknownst to me, she advised him to bring a lot of money, telling him that I eat a lot. She was trying to fix my uncle up with the nurses last month at the hospital. And on Christmas Day at Hospice, she was checking out the nurse for me, and making eyes at me. I pointed to his ring finger which had a nice ring on it, she shrugged her shoulders. I told her she has a big job ahead of her if she’s playing Cupid for me and and my uncle. She, on the other hand, always said for herself, “I don’t need no damn man”.
On the note of playing Cupid, Grandma called this spring because she had forgotten her house key, and she needed the senior center to drop her off at my house. I went out to walk her in, and the stinker was trying to play matchmaker with me and the van driver. After he left, she said “I’ll have to ask if he’s single.” Later, as we are making this into a Dairy Queen run, she says “You know how you think these men are nice, and then you see them on the news because they have murdered women? Maybe I won’t ask if he’s single.” “Thanks Grandma for showing him where I live.” She laughed and says “Oh, you can take care of yourself.”
Grandma had interesting phone etiquette. She’d call, pause, and then say, “Are you still in bed?” It didn’t matter if it was 9am or 9pm. Or she wouldn’t say anything, and just slam the phone down. When I’d call back, “You comin’ down?” If I didn’t go see her every week, she’d tell everyone I was mad at her.
I found it particularly funny that when Grandma was jet propelled by gaseous explosions, she’d always blame it on me, because according to her, that never happened unless I was around.
When Grandma had surgery at the Cleveland Clinic several years ago, I spent the night with her up there. She was still loopy from her surgery, ornery as ever, and saying things she probably shouldn’t, and then blamed me for it. She tried to fix me up with the nurse, and he laughed, and told her that he thought she was cute. “I don’t need no damn man” was the response. She wanted me to do Reiki on her–specifically around her throat because she wasn’t allowed to drink water. I said to her, “Grandma, if someone walks in here, they are going to think I’m choking you.” “Well, I’ll tell them you were. Now put your hands around my throat” and she laughed.
Grandma was always willing to help me out with projects. She helped with several of my belly dance costumes, making pillows for my office, and refinishing my kitchen chair cushions. Just in November, we had a craft night, making wreaths, along with some Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner.
When I was in the 5th grade, Mom and Dad went on a cruise. Grandma stayed with me and my sisters, and we played a lot of cards that week. Grandma informed us that we were allowed to say whatever we wanted, as long as we didn’t say the Lord’s name in vain. Fast forward 30 years, and Grandma informed me that since I was now ordained, that I wasn’t allowed to cuss at all anymore. I replied with “Well, what am I supposed to say now?” with a few added words in there. We both burst out laughing, and laughed until we were crying. I told her I’m ordained, not perfect. And I reminded her that her recent mantra has been “It’s a bitch getting old”. That was Grandma.
I tried to go visit Grandma once a week. She’d always ask, “So what’d ya know?” Our visits usually included Dairy Queen–we’d both get a hot dog, vanilla shake for her, and a Mocha Moolatte for me. We’d play scrabble on her computer, and she’d always bring in a bowl of Cheetos, her favorite. When it was time for me to leave, she’d say, “You don’t have to run off.” “I’m not.” Her response was always, “You know I won’t be here forever.” We’d both say “I love you” and “See you later alligator”.
And now is forever. I was blessed to have a wonderfully sassy, supportive, and spunky Grandma. I love you…See you later Alligator.