Chorophobia

My grandmother shows up almost three hours late. At first, I’m not worried. I know how long it takes her to get moving these days. Getting out the door to Walmart is an hour-long odyssey. It isn’t just a matter of slow moving limbs, either. She has a set routine she follows before she goes anywhere. Pills and bills sorted and stowed. Cups and bowls washed with care. Wet ‘n wild lipstick applied. Doors locked and checked, then double checked. When I try to speed things up by taking over, the process grinds to a halt.

I hope I’m that sharp at 88. Actually, I hope I’m not still around at 88 because I’m not that sharp now.

Just when I start to map out her search party, she drives up in her spiffy black sedan. The first thing I notice is her hair, snow-white and stylish. She’s not wearing her partials, but her bright eyes counterbalance gaps in her smile. She knows she’s almost three hours late but she’s happy she made it at all.

She hands me a mystery wrapped in foil and a plant she forgot to give me at Thanksgiving. The cats and I kill plants, so I will leave it in the hotel room along with a modest tip on the desk like a plea. Please take good care of my plant. Bless You. Signed, The Black Thumb.

We take my grandmother to lunch at an old riverside restaurant trapped in time. The decor is wood paneling and salad bar. She folds her paper placemat and slides it into her purse to take home. I fight the urge to snap a photo of mine and now can’t show you what it looks like. There were vintage illustrations of a sea captain and crabs. Was there a cartoon clam smoking a pipe? I can’t be sure.

I order shrimp salad on a roll and my grandmother orders a steak sandwich. My husband remarks later he’s never seen anyone enjoy a sandwich so much. Half of it goes home with her. She rests it atop garnish and what’s left of a withered dill spear. This will provide at least one more meal, maybe two.

The word mindfulness gets lodged in my head after I spend time with my grandmother. It makes me think about the word I chose last year as my word of the yearNourish popped into my head and so I picked it and spent all year dodging it. Nourish, I thought as I popped milk duds in my mouth and played dumb-numb games on my phone.

Acceptance would have made a better word for 2014. But I accept that I chose another word and did nothing with it, further proving my point. This year I may not pick a word since I haven’t finished the last one. This feels both mindful and nourishing, or possibly punishing.

Soon we will join my grandmother for a big celebration at the Lithuanian Hall. She skipped over Christmas and has been talking about this for weeks. She tells me what she’ll wear because she knows I haven’t given any thought to what I’ll wear. She tells me I should drive down the day before so we can get ready together. This is serious business. I must not let her down.

I can’t wait to take pictures in the old hall I haven’t visited in nearly twenty years. When my grandfather died, I wrote a letter deep in grief to my new boyfriend who is now my husband. I wrote about how my grandfather used to drag me out on the weathered floorboards of the old hall to dance. He’d whip me around in a polka or waltz or waltz-polka. I always resisted at first from deep self-consciousness and maybe fear of whiplash.

There’s something about dancing. All that movement stirs up dust in the dullest corners and oils stiffened limbs. By the second dance, I never want the night to end.

The night always ends anyway, but it feels best to get lost in it with those who love us as hard as we love them, maybe harder.


Note: Inspired by CoachDaddy’s latest post, I used the Hemingway Editor to pare down flowery sentences. Professor Dowling, wherever you are, I hope you’re happy. This post was also written in the spirit of Just Write, via The Extraordinary Ordinary.

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27 thoughts on “Chorophobia

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  1. God, I love your writing. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned before that when you write about your grandmother it ALWAYS makes me think of mine, and I miss her so.

    The Hemingway Editor. Thanks for the link. What a great tool!

    Happy New Year to you and yours,

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  2. I love hearing about your grandmother and am amazed that she still drives at 88. Mine stopped driving in 1986 when I was given her giant green Pontiac Bonneville as my first car. The waltz-polka with your grandpa sounds magical. Happy New Year Kristen!

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    1. A couple friends in high school had grandparent cars. Massive rides, well cared for. In fact, i was supposed to get my grandparent’s old silver Thunderbird, which was enormous, but it leaked oil and broke down constantly. Phew. It would have felt like navigating a bus. Thanks for your comment and happy new year to you too!

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  3. Your stories are always so much fun to read. Grandmothers can be such good people. As New Year’s approaches I remember how I used to sit up with my maternal grandmother and all he Old Maid friends when they played Canasta on New all evening. At midnight she would take us down the stairs and out onto the city street where we would bang cooking pots with spoons for the New Year. Good times.

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    1. Grandmothers indeed tend to be good people. Most of the memories i have of grandmothers, mine and others’, are from childhood. These memories are the real treasures. Thanks for sharing yours here.

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  4. Beautifully done, Kristen! You write beautifully, anyway. The Hemingway editor just helps keep me focused, I think. I love it.

    And I love the imagery here. I can see you, your grandmother, the place mats, the doggy bag. Beautifully done.

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  5. I love the way you write and I love your grandmother. I really hope you don’t mind that I’ve adopted her as my own in my heart…she feels that real to me because of you. Thank you for that.

    Happy New Year Kristen!

    Sherry

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  6. I know I’m echoing a lot of other commenters here, but I just love your “grandmother posts”. I’d quite like to adopt her too 🙂 And btw, I am curious, did you really leave the plant? Tell me you took it home and you’ll love it, really.
    Wishing you much love and peace and mindfulness in 2015 🙂 Happy New Year! xx

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    1. I enjoy writing about her, so im glad to hear others enjoy reading about her. We really did leave the plant. It was a small christmas cactus, the same kind our cats bit off in pieces and killed over the last two years. (That one started off a real beauty too…full of lovely red blooms.) My husband has a few small plants in a terrarium and we have a couple other bigger things they don’t seem to bother. The decision was not easy and i feel very guilty.

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  7. Great story, thank you for sharing with us! This whole word-of-the-year thing is new to me this year, everybody’s talking about it…. what their last year’s word was, how they are choosing this year’s…. some people are keeping it a secret until I see them for the first time in 2015, a few have cut to the chase and just announced it outright. So I though I’d give it a try for 2015. I’m doing “action.” As I sit here with a computer on my lap and a cat on my legs, and an empty ice cream dish on the table next to me, it seems it might be a challenge. But I’m doing my step 5 tomorrow, so that’s action! I’m on my way. Best of everything life has for you in 2015!

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      1. Aww, so sweet. Thanks for the reminder, I guess I’m as much “all or nothing” as the next alcoholic 😉 Will make sure to remember your advice!

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  8. With or without the editor there, you write magic, Kristen. No editor can create that. Your writing is so strong, so charismatic, regardless of the topic. You bring out the little details that define your grandmother so well. That’s not an easy thing to do! But you do it on a regular basis. You’re quite the writer, my friend. Keep at it 🙂

    Blessings and hoping you have a fantastic new year, word of the year or not 😉

    Paul

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  9. I can’t believe I missed the latest in the Grandmother series! So glad to be caught up, so glad to hear the trip went well, and your grandmother is well. Next get-together for us: road trip so I can meet your grandmother 🙂

    Thanks, as always, for sharing your family with us, happy new year!

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  10. thanks for giving us just the right descriptives to “feel it” – and I am not sure what was edited out – but what was left in was nice.

    and whew – I know what you mean with fighting the urge to take pics when out – I am still torn on how photo documenting has pros and cons – like we were out at dinner the other night and I did grab some pics – glad I did – but I really had to make myself do it – and well, it is kinda of a weird area (and I will have to share a poem that was in my inbox recently)
    anyhow, cheers to a healthy grandmother at 88 – what a longevity – and I am sure it is the steak! ha! 🙂

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    1. well it is not exactly the same as taking a photo a pic of a restaurant time warp – – but this came to my mind after reading….

      The Vacation
      BY WENDELL BERRY

      Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
      He went flying down the river in his boat
      with his video camera to his eye, making
      a moving picture of the moving river
      upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
      toward the end of his vacation. He showed
      his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
      preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
      the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
      behind which he stood with his camera
      preserving his vacation even as he was having it
      so that after he had had it he would still
      have it. It would be there. With a flick
      of a switch, there it would be. But he
      would not be in it. He would never be in it.

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      1. This says it perfectly. I always have my phone on hand and try hard not to take incessant pictures of life. When I look at something through my phone, it’s a filter and it does detract from the experience. I’m focusing on how I want to capture it, and not necessarily how it’s playing out. But…I love taking pictures. I love looking at them. I love looking at them with my family. I try to find balance with it.

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  11. Hello All!!! you have an absolutely beautiful website filled with healthy, useful information!! Thank you for all the time you take to make your site so awesome!!! if you have time, please check out my blog about my journey with alcoholism recovery, girlrecovering.com . Thanks again!!! -Jill

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