Conversations With Grandma
My 90-year-old grandmother is a trip, and I often recount snippets of our conversations on Facebook. By popular demand, I’m collecting them all here in one place. Enjoy.
My 89-year-old grandmother turns 90 today! I called her this morning to wish her happy birthday and remind her i’ll be there to take her dinner tonight.
Me: See? I told you you’re going to live forever!
Gma: I guess that old devil really is going to live up to that deal I made with him.
Me: Did you trade your soul for immortality?
Gma: Of course not. I’m not that stupid. I traded yours.
This one is long, but worth it.
I called up my 89-year-old grandmother yesterday to get her take on the whole #MeToo conversation — no easy task for a woman who opted out of technological evolution in 1985 and has no desire to understand what a hashtag is. But I managed to convey the general sentiment and significance, and asked her what she thought and if she had any experiences to share. (I actually took notes during this conversation like I do during an interview. Maybe it’ll go in a book someday.)
Gma: Are you kidding me? I was born in 1927. My entire life has been a long string of misery caused by men having power over women. After my father died [when I was two], my mother used to trade his clothes to a Negro (the term didn’t start to be taboo until the mid-to-late 60s, so give her a little grace for using it. She doesn’t mean anything disparaging.) man to do odd jobs because she couldn’t get a job. I married at 25 because the social pressure of being an old spinster got to be too much to handle, which is how I ended up with my good for nothing husband…
Me: Focus, Grandma. We’re talking about the oppression of women, not your terrible marriage.
Gma: [with irritation] Don’t tell me what to say, Kristy, it’s all one and the same. I stayed in that terrible marriage because what else was I supposed to do? Women were pariahs if they got divorced. When we finally did divorce, I couldn’t even get a credit card since I had no idiot man to co-sign. Things got better when women started burning their bras, but that was well after I was young enough to really benefit.
Me: So what do you think of this new movement? Where women are talking about not just equal rights under the law, but equal rights as a person? They’re sharing really intimate details about sexual harassment and assault. Would you ever share those kinds of experiences? Did you have them?
Gma: That’s none of your business.
Me: Fair enough. But a lot of people are talking about really horrible things that have happened to them.
Gma: Good for them. I won’t pretend to understand your generation. You live downtown in a war zone and don’t go to an office and trot off to Mexico for months at a time and I don’t even understand what you do for a living. You live a life that was never, NEVER was something I could even imagine. You’re 30 and still a spinster —
Me: I’m 38.
Gma: 30 is bad enough. Can’t you just stop there?
But really, you have no idea how alien your life is to me. I know I tease you about your lack of a husband and child, but you literally awe me. Your life — even today it can’t be easy being as ancient as you are and still unmarried, but you appear to enjoy it, and bravo to you for avoiding that trap.
Me: So…you’re in favor of Me Too?
Gma: Of what?
Me: [Once again tries to explain the hashtag and associated conversation]
Gma: Down with men. Women should be in charge of the world.
Showed my 89-year-old grandma a photo of the long-haired guy I’m dating.
Gma: He looks like a smooth-talking hippie. Like a handsome and charming writer or painter who will sweep you off your feet, convince you to move to the Mexican Riviera, then take all your money and leave you broke in a hut on a beach somewhere with nothing but tequila and memories to keep you warm.
Me: So in other words, your kind of guy.
Gma: Can you give him my number?
Just told my 89-year-old grandmother about the motorcycle training class I took last weekend.
Gma: That seems unnecessarily difficult.
Me: It’s just like learning anything else. Remember when you first learned to drive a car? How overwhelming and complicated it all was?
Gma: Yes, I do. I was five years old, and my grandfather took all of us grandkids out in one car in one day to learn. He sat in the backseat with a bottle of whiskey while one of us steered and another smashed on the pedals because none of us were big enough to do both at once. He used to tell us it was a weeding out process, because it was the Depression and he could only afford to support the strongest of us. Fifteen of us went out that day. Only nine came back, and we were no longer children, but battle-hardened veterans who could make our own way in life.
Me: Yeah…it was like that.
Gma: Good. It’s about time you showed us your mettle.
Had lunch with my 89-year-old grandma on Saturday.
Me: I’m going to try to not say or think anything negative about myself for a week. Give myself grace for not being perfect.
Gma: You mean like the fact you’re 37, unmarried, and childless? I try to forgive you for that all the time, too. It ain’t easy. Good luck.
Me: Um, actually I’m okay with all that. I mean stuff like failing to check off my whole to-do list.
Gma: God, I’m glad I’m old. Every day since I turned 70, I look in the mirror and think, “Betty, old girl, today your only goal is to cheat death.” And every night I throw a little party for myself for completing my to do list.
Me and Pat Sajak have had some wild times on those nights, lemme tell you.
Called my 89-year-old grandma to catch up today.
Me: How are you? It’s been awhile since we talked. [6 days, to be exact. For the record.]
Gma: I guess I’m fine. Still alive.
Me: Well, that’s somethi —
Gma: Just slowly wasting away, fading into the ether, ignored by my granddaughter, who’s far too busy and important to call her little old grandma.
Me: Well, duh. I’m a VIP.
Gma: Surviving on old cat food and a glass of stale water Freddie leaves by my chair. I have to ration it so it lasts me several days, walking that fine line between dying of dehydration and making it to Thursday.
Me: Well, we wouldn’t want to spoil you.
Gma: Calling feebly for help when the mailman comes, but he never hears me. My voice is too weak.
Me:…are you do — .
Gma: Reading over old, tattered birthday cards, remembering the days when I was loved…
I just finished a long conversation with my 89-year-old grandmother, catching her up on my recent adventures and what the next few months hold for me, if all goes according to plan.
Gma: It’s just incredible to me, this life you’ve built.
Me: I wish Mom were here to see this.
Gma: I know, honey. She’d be so proud of you. But always remember that this life you lead is only for you. It’s icing on the cake that we’re proud of you and support you, but the only thing you really need to focus on is being happy. If I’d learned that earlier in my life, things would have turned out a lot different for me.
Me: But then you wouldn’t have gotten married and had Mom and wound up with this awesome granddaughter.
Gma: Yeah. [beat] I think I could live with that trade.
I had a very confusing night with my 89-year-old grandmother, whom I took out for a Christmas Eve dinner tonight.
After the waiter called me “beautiful baby” like Vince Vaughn in Swingers for the 3rd time:
Me: Thank you for the compliment, but we can stop that now. It makes me uncomfortable.
Gma: Oh, Kristy, he’s just being nice. Don’t be so sensitive.
Me: [thinking] Thanks for taking our sex back 30 years.
20 minutes later…
Gma: So, what’s new with your love life?
Me: Absolutely nothing. Still happy and single.
Gma: I keep expecting one day you’ll say, “Guess what, Grandma? I’m getting married!”
Grandma: And I keep expecting to reply, “Have you learned nothing? Run away! It’s a trap!”
My grandmother gave me mixed messages for Christmas.
I called my 89-year-old grandmother today and got her answering machine. I left a message telling her that I was just passing by her house and wanting to see if I could pop in and say hi. When she returned my call…
Gma: Oh, I’m glad you missed me. I didn’t want to hang out with you anyway.
Me: Then why do you always tell me that you miss me and to come see you more whenever we talk?
Gma: Because I’m old. I forget that I don’t want to hang out with you.
Just called my 89-year-old grandmother. Her birthday was last week, and I just realized that today.
Me: Grandma, I’m so sorry I’m just now calling to wish you a happy birthday. I’m a terrible granddaughter. I totally forgot.
Gma: Honey, I’m 89. At this point, it’s like the election. I’d just rather stop talking about it.
Me: Wait. I thought you just became a nonagenarian. Haven’t you been 89 all year?
Gma: Well, I don’t think so. But I’m very mature for my age.
I took my 89-year-old grandmother to lunch and shopping today. We took her car because she refuses to get in Evangeline, and the gas light was on when we got in. I didn’t stop because she fussed at me not to worry about it, but by the time we hit up the jewelry store, drove to the restaurant, and then headed back to her place from across town, I made an executive decision.
Me: We’re stopping for gas. Get over it.
Gma: Kristy, stop being such a worrywart. I told you we’d be fine.
Me: I don’t understand this. What’s the point of risking it?
Gma: You aren’t the only adrenaline addict in the family. I’m too old to jump out of planes, but you’d be surprised what a good game of chicken with the gaslight can do for your energy levels.
Just called my 89-year-old grandmother from the roof of the Spur Hotel in Archer City, where I’m watching the Texas sunset with 15 fellow writers.
Me: Everyone say hi to my grandma.
Writers [in unison]: HI, GRANDMA!
Grandma: This is the most popular I’ve felt since my divorce.
I called my 89-year-old grandmother a few days ago from the beach. I figured she’d get a kick out of talking to her granddaughter as she’s exploring the world. I reminded her where I was and what I was doing, and then began to tell her some of the things I’d experienced.
Me: It was so spiritual, as though I were reconnecting with something fundamental…
Gma: I’m sorry — are you in a swimming pool?
Me: [beat] Grandma, I’m at the ocean. In Mexico.
Gma: Well, can you tell it to quieten down? It’s awfully distracting.
Me: I can’t command the seas, Grandma. Sorry.
Gma: Just don’t drown while we’re on the phone. I wouldn’t have the first clue what to do, and it would be very depressing. Wait until we’ve hung up.
My 89-year-old grandmother recently fell, twisting her knee and giving herself a black eye. I just called to check on her.
Gma: It takes so damn long to heal when you’re older than God. I finally just decided my black eye would be a badge of honor and went to the grocery store. The cashier kept looking at me funny. I finally said, “You think this is bad, you should see the other guy. Even grannies can wield a shotgun.”
Me: [died laughing, then pulled myself together enough to ask:] How’s your knee? Still on the walker? Did they give you anything for the pain?
Gma: Honey, I grew up in the Depression. They offered me oxy-heroin or whatever. I said just give me a couple of sticks, a strip off a petticoat, and a leather strap to bite down on, and I’d fix it myself.
Me: Yeah, those years struggling along in University Park really toughened you up.
Gma: Quit ruining my Depression stories. When you pass 80, you earn the right to write your own narrative.
Just called my 89-year-old grandmother. What follows captures our dynamic perfectly.
Gma: Well, I finally did it. I fell and injured myself.
Gma: I have a gorgeous black eye and a chic walker for my knee. The whole way down I was thinking, “Not the hip. That’s so cliché.”
Me: Why did no one call me? I demand to be notified when stuff like this happens!
Gma: Oh, don’t be so dramatic. It’s not like they had to amputate. Besides, this is the way it ends, honey. Not with a whimper, not with a bang. With a thud.
Me: It isn’t ending at all. You’re going to live forever. And you tell Uncle Freddie from here on out he’s to call me when you’re hurt or I swear I’ll hunt him down and –
Gma: Wheel of Fortune is back on and my TV dinner is ready. We’ll have to do your vows for justice later.
I just called my 89-year-old grandmother. When she answered the phone, I was laughing.
Gma: What are you chortling about?
Me: Sorry, Murray just hopped out of the litter box so excited about his urinary accomplishment that he ran to his scratching post and furiously clawed it up, then shot from one end of the apartment to the other singing his own praises so loudly that he drowned out the interview I was transcribing. Now he’s strutting around the terrace like the town crier, telling all of downtown about his triumph.
Gma: Like mother, like son.
I called my 89-year-old grandmother today. It normally takes her a year to answer the phone, but today she picked up in the middle of the first ring.
Me: Wow! That was quick!
Gma: Freddie (my uncle) moved the phone so it’s two inches from my hand.
Me: Oh. I thought you were just really eager for my call.
Gma: [beat] I know you’re single, but don’t be desperate, dear.
Latest convo with my 89-year-old grandmother, trying to nail down my family medical history:
Gma: All the bad stuff like cancer and heart disease comes from my ex-husband’s family.
Me: What runs in your family?
Gma: Insanity and sarcasm.
Me: This explains so much.
Trying to explain my new job to my 89-year-old grandmother:
Me: I’ll be writing and editing for an online magazine about the technology industry.
Gma: It’s like you’re speaking a different language.
Me: Well, here’s the important part. I get to work from anywhere, so that means I can come have lunch with you during the week.
Gma: Isn’t that something. When I was working, I had to get up at 6:00am every morning and trek to and from downtown, which in those days was a war zone. I had to dodge gunfire to get in the office. I couldn’t afford shoes, so in the winter I’d leave little pink tracks in the snow from where my bloodied feet would take me from work back to my children, where I slaved away for them so they’d someday have it better than I did. But I didn’t mind, because it was my privilege to provide for my family. But good for you, having it so easy.
Telling my 89-year-old grandmother about my recent trip to San Francisco:
Gma: Well, who did you go with?
Me: I met some friends down there, but basically I went by myself.
Gma: That’s dangerous, Kristy. You shouldn’t travel alone at your age.
Me: [beat] Grandma, how old do you think I am?
Gma: Well, I’m 60, so that makes you about 6. You really should have a chaperone.
Had to share my latest convo with my 89-year-old grandmother:
Me: I never want you to doubt how much you’re adored. Do you have any idea how much I love you? How much Mom loved you?
Gma: these days, my friends count themselves lucky if their children or grandchildren can be bothered to wipe their chins. I’m so lucky. I had a daughter and have a granddaughter who love to shop and be sarcastic with me. That’s what makes us kindred spirits.
[This Thanksgiving], I’m thankful my 89-year-old grandmother is still around to wish me a happy Thanksgiving, and warn me to keep my guard up against all of those “Latin lovers” when I’m in Spain next week.