How we pass time

My grandmother leaves a brief and mildly worrisome voicemail asking me to call her because she doesn’t feel well and wants some advice. She ends her message with “I don’t want you to get in a panic.” I am sitting at my desk when I listen, trying not to count how many times the young mechanic across the street slips behind a dumpster to vape or the minutes to lunch and now returning this phone call.

By the time I call back, my grandmother is not really sick. Whatever the problem was, it already resolved with prune juice and something stronger if mysterious due to a language barrier I’ve long given up on trying to deconstruct. Now she craves milk and also eggs but is too weak to drive to the store. I tell her to call her saintly next door neighbor, Lois, but my grandmother is, as usual, three steps ahead. She will call when she knows Lois’ granddaughter is down for a nap.

My grandmother says “If I had died from this, no one would have had any idea what killed me.” Maybe this is why she called, not for advice or reassurance but to pass along information that might prove useful post-mortem. This is what it must be like to outlive all your friends, your spouse, your child. My grandmother has become dramatically stoic while still engaged and interested in the day-to-day. She grills the middle-aged man who cuts her lawn on why he still lives with his parents. She has a much younger friend who takes her to buy a rotisserie chicken every Wednesday. She even has a cat on loan from another neighbor.

The cat thing bothered me for awhile because she was borrowing it surreptitiously. One day it showed up on her back porch and she opened the door and let it in. I guess it was like having a good friend over and not having any cake to offer because she went to the store afterwards and has been buying cat food ever since. I worried the cat’s real owner would notice and accuse my grandmother of catnapping, but as usual none of my worries play out and it turns out this cat is one of eight and hogs all the other cats’ food so I guess everyone (and cat) benefits from the arrangement.

My grandmother insists on calling the cat a she even though it is stocky and male. When you go to pet his head, he stands on hind legs to meet your hand faster. My grandmother and I both agree it is dangerous to invite a cat into a house without a litter box and to let it nap on your couch, possibly teeming with fleas, while you watch Fox News through equally droopy eyelids. But a part-time pet brings great pleasure and at regular intervals my grandmother shuffles to open the door and let the cat that is not hers outside.


Recently my grandmother told me she saw a strange creature in her backyard. At first she thought it was a cat, but its tail was striped with bold black and white rings and so long it dragged on the ground like a monkey’s. A week or so later, she saw another creature with a similarly droopy tail, only this one was cream colored and the size of “a very large squirrel”.  She said the striped tail creature looked just like an animal she saw on the news the other day, but she could not remember what it was called. I know what you’re thinking and she knew too because she told me Lois saw the creature lounging on the driveway and snapped a picture with her phone. 

When I visited my grandmother, I asked if she’d seen either creature again and she said no and added “Lois isn’t home right now, but next time I’ll have her show you the picture.” There were three cars in Lois’ driveway and I wondered how my grandmother was so sure about that.

 

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19 thoughts on “How we pass time

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  1. What a spirit, she has. Always willing to take you along for the journey as well. She sounds like a character.

    I know every time I hear my mother say something along those lines, “It’s nothing to panic or be upset about” I immediately go into extreme panic mode. I’m glad you remained calm enough to track this story so eloquently.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Mark. When she said the line about not panicking it made me pleased she thought i would and guilty that I wasn’t. But I could also tell she was not overly worried herself. She is a real character.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s like hearing the friend of a friend has a picture of Bigfoot. If I see the picture, I’ll snap a photo and blog it. I’m picturing a red panda or lemur though she said it wasn’t either of those.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Treasure every moment. My greatest time is with my grandchildren and the talks we have. I thought my oldest who is now 16 would stop visiting once he went to high school and became busy with friends….but I love the days he just stops by to say “hi” and “eats” and talks with us….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is wonderful. It paints such a depiction of the way elderly people become in the wake of losing their loved ones – even reminds me of my own grandmother.
    Very beautiful writing.
    Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. haha – thanks for the smile – you really gave us a feel for the elderly and what their life is like – well not all elderly folks – but really got a vibe for grandmother and her ways.
    also – the cat bonding is so interesting – and how cute that this cate likes your grandmother’s energy and love.
    oh and the vaping dude…
    crazy how much “powder white smoke” that stuff makes – eh?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reminded me of a calmer version of my own grandmother; she has the worst anxiety concerning her health, and literally thinks she’s going to die every time something goes slightly wrong, bless her. And the best part – I think I’ve “inherited” this trait myself. Your grandmother sounds awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So beautifully writen I could imagine the intensity as she described, who knows maybe a raccoon. I have the feeling she loves your company and maybe trying to nap you, as she undoubtedly has the heshe cat. I love the way you describe it raising its self to get a rub. Except for the cat it could be my Mother who forgets the ending of some happening or maybe just alters it for effect. Great descriptive writing that makes me return for more.

    Liked by 1 person

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