Monday, September 18, 2006


You know how on the cartoons the bad guy has bags full of gold coins, and bars of silver stowed in a secret brick crawl space in the basement? I went to visit my grandmother this weekend. Though I didn't actually see the bags and bars, everyone has told me that my grandmother's boyfriend has them. Ben acquired his silver bars mysteriously, and I do not know what kind of a man he was before he was ninety and barely mobile, but I'm guessing he was talented at manipulation and bullshit.

My grandma loves money and conspiracy. Her boyfriend has money and he loves to speculate about who's trying to get it from him. They are, then, a match made in heaven. They met at the cemetary. They were visiting their respective dead spouses when their eyes met across the rolling green cemetary grass. They dated. They moved in together. And, at eighty-nine and ninety years old, each of them broke a hip.

They are both at the Gateway center for seniors in Ohio now. Ben is in the "Family House," for those that can walk with walkers, and my grandma is in the "Healthcare Center." The occupants in HC come in variations. Some of them stiffly lie back in their wheelchairs, mouths open. You think they are dead until one of them blinks. Some are missing limbs. Others are here temporarily, for rehab. They tell my grandma she is one of these.

My dad and I went out to visit her this weekend because she is ninety and I'm worried about her.

The highlights of the trip were this: I got a twenty minute blow-by-blow (no pun intended) account of an enema courtesy of my grandmother, AND Ben muttered that my dad was a "dirty, rotten bastard" utterly unprovoked. I was worried about my grandma when I came to visit, but I think she will be okay. After her miraculous enema, she was able to eat and function. Her color came back. She allowed Ben to visit her. "Oh honey," he said to her over and over, kissing her hands. The pressed their faces together and cuddled and settled into a cozy conversation about who stole four sacks of his gold. I hear that Ben once had a garage sale during which he couldn't sell many of the items. So instead of giving them away, he smashed armoires and dressers to pieces, tore at clothing with razor blades. If he coulnd't have it, no one could. Now his relatives skulk around him hoping for a silver bar when he finally dies.

I didn't cry over my grandma because when I left her she seemed okay. Instead, I cried over a man I'd never met, my dad's first father-in-law, a man whom my dad was close to for many years. I've heard so many stories about how kind and gentle this man was, how much he loved his wife, but I'd never met him before. We found him volunteering at the hospice center where his wife had died a couple of years before. He stood up and hugged my dad, he talked to him about the old days, he showed me pictures of his wife and family, he shook my hand and told me he'd heard a lot about me, and finally, as an afterthought, he told us "The doctor says I have two years to live. Bone cancer." My dad, stumbling, said, "You've lived a full life." Jack said, "Yes, I have." They hugged each other for what will probably be the last time, and we walked out of the hospice center. I cried. I told my dad it was because I was pregnant, but I don't think that is the case.

I don't know what I will do when I get that old. Probably shoot myself. That sounds like the least horrible option, anyway.

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