I am probably the worst person for keeping in touch. It’s not that I don’t think and care of others, I just have a tendency to get comfortably lost in my own little world, and time slips away, and before I know it, days have become week, weeks months, and you know how it goes. Since my grandmother has moved into a nursing home, I’ve been trying to make it a point to call her at least once a week. This is something I should have done before, but there is something about the word nursing home that helps put time, or the lack thereof into perspective.
My grandfather used to come down and visit us at least once a year, sometimes twice. Each time he would stay for two weeks. In that two-week time frame, he would tell the same three or four stories, over and over and over. It was hard not to become impatient. I would think, “Grandpa, you have lived how many years, and four stories is all you can remember?” Of course, I would never say that to him. The next time he came, he would have three or four different ones to tell, and it would be the same routine. And then he died. And what I wouldn’t give to have him come visit once again, to see his short little Michaels’ legs barely reaching the end of the recliner, his pant legs, rolled several times into thick cuffs, around his ankles, and to watch his eyebrows spasm, as he told the same stories to me again and again. But that wont happen. Thankfully, though, I do have memories of his stories, but only of the ones he told again and again and again. Sadly, though, even those are foggy to me.
I am very blessed to still have my grandma, and I love visiting with her. While she doesn’t tell stories, like my grandpa did, she likes to talk about memories that she and I have shared. We talk about the laughs we’ve shared, and even times that weren’t so funny at the time, but we laugh about now, like the time she yelled out the kitchen window, when I was about ten, and was hanging clothes on the line for the first time, and wasn’t doing as quickly as someone who had a clue as to what they were doing. I was just about in tears, because I couldn’t get the crease in grandpa’s dress pants to line up, and all of a sudden, I hear this snotty voice say, through the kitchen window, “YOU’LL NEVER GET A JOB!!! YOU’LL HAVE TO GO DOWN SOUTH IF YOU EVER WANT TO GET A JOB!” That hurt my feelings, and made me mad. I didn’t like my grandma much during those years. But you know what? Three weeks after I graduated from high school, I moved down south, and I’ve never had any trouble finding or keeping a job. In fact, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful job working for the USPS. We laugh about it now. And it really is funny in hindsight. Especially when she was living down here with my mother for a while, and wanted so badly to go back to her home in Wisconsin. I would tell her that it was all her fault, that she was here, had she not told me I’d have to come down here and get a job, then Mom wouldn’t have followed me down here, and you wouldn’t be here either. So. I explained, the joke was all on her. And of course she would remember that day, long ago, and laugh.
We also talk about “our late night bedroom talks.” I moved in with my mom and step-dad, when I started high school. Not long after, she moved in. Remember, I didn’t like her that much at the time, and was not looking forward to her moving in. But it did not take long for us to bond, and it is one of the most wonderful blessings I ever could have had. I would sneak into her room after my mom and step-dad were asleep, and we would sit up for hours, her sitting at one end of the bed, and me at the other, or she would be sitting on a chair in the walk in closet, while I sat on the floor, and we would just talk and talk and talk. I felt understood, and listened to. Grandma would share stories of when she was dating my grandpa, and I would share stories, about the guy who was a regular where I worked, who I had a major crush on. She would give me advice, that didn’t feel like advice, like always make sure you pay more attention to the ladies than to the men. Especially if they are with the men. “But grandma, the men pay more attention to me than the ladies do.” I explained, to which she told me that was natural, and that was why I needed to pay more attention to the ladies.
When grandma came down here to live with mom, I was so happy. And when her kids all went in together to send her to Graceland, and I got nominated to be the one to take her, I was so looking forward to it. The day we left, she was poking along, and wanted to stop and eat lunch before we ever got out of Jackson. I told her that if we didn’t hurry up, Elvis would be dead by the time we got there. Sure enough, he was. But we never had more fun than any other two people in the history of visitors to Graceland. We stayed at Heartbreak Hotel. Above each of our beds, was a large picture of Elvis. Grandma was in the bathroom getting ready to go to dinner, and I hollered and told her Elvis had come to see us. she just laughed and said, “Yeah right.” I climbed up on her bed…..the cuter picture of him was above her bed….and I took a selfie, way before selfies were cool….maybe before selfie was even a word, of Elvis and me. She finally came out of the bathroom and I told her, sure enough, she had missed him, and I showed her the picture of Elvis and me on the LCD screen on my camera.
We caught the shuttle bus, and it let us out caddy corner to BB Kings, on Beale street. We walked several blocks, to the restraint where we had supper, enjoying the lights and the beauty of the Cinderella style horse-drawn carriages. Because it took so long for her to walk, we ate a bit quicker than we needed to, just to make sure we would not miss the shuttle bus back to the hotel. We made it back with plenty of time to spare, so we sat on the corner, I on the steps of a building, and grandma, on her walker seat, and we waited. Grandma made the comment about us working the street corner, and what a sight we must be….with her and her walker. We were laughing when a man came from around the corner, and asked us if we had any money on us. I told him that I never carried cash. He asked if I was sure I didn’t even have a quarter. At that time, a patrol car pulled up, and asked if he could help us. I explained we were waiting for the shuttle bus, and he said that it ought to be there in just a few minutes, and then God bless him, he sat in his car, and looked out for two sitting ducks, who couldn’t even make a living working the street corner if we tried. Instead of someone offering to pay us, we got asked if we had any money. We still laugh about that.
The next day, we got up and went to Graceland. It was so much fun to be with grandma, because I knew how much she was enjoying herself, and what a treat it was for her to be there. It didn’t trouble me at all how slow grandma moved from one place to the next, I just loved that she was getting to enjoy her time there. I did not rush her, or even try to hurry her along the least. I just enjoyed being with her at her pace. It broke my heart when she was not able to climb the stairs to tour the Lisa Marie. I offered to stay down with her, but she told me to go up there and see it for her too, so I could take pictures, and tell her all about it. And when I went up there my bare leg, accidentally brushed against the end of his bed, and I couldn’t wait to tell grandma when I got back down to her! How many people have touched Elvis’ bed with their bare leg???? Even if it was just my calf. We were like two school girls with a crush on the same guy. We had so much fun.
So now when I talk to grandma, she always brings these same memories up, and often several times in the same conversation. But I don’t mind. I am so thankful that we have these memories to share, and that they mean so much to her. I miss getting to see her, but am thankful we live in the era of the telephone, with low long distance rates, because every time we talk, an hour can easily go by. When I hint that I should probably go, she often will start a new conversation, letting me know that she is not ready to go, and if I don’t just need to go, I am happy to talk to her a little longer, even if we are only repeating the things that we’ve already said. And when we do finally have to hang up, she tells me over and over how much she loves me, and how much she loves all of the laughs that we have shared. It’s almost like every time we say good-bye, she is saying it, as though it may be the last time we will get to say good-bye. I figure grandma has quite a bit of time left, but it is always good to be prepared. And if it’s reassuring her to reassure me, then I am blessed and thankful for her reassurance. And it always feels good to hear that you are loved.