The Last Thing I Loved: Watching Netflix with Grandma

Karley Kemble highlights her favorite moments of living with her grandma after graduating from college.

I moved back to my hometown and in with my grandma around four months after I graduated from college. My family had recently downsized from our childhood home, so when I decided I was moving back, my options were either:

  1. Move in with my parents and share a room with my 17-year-old sister.

2. Find a place of my own and endure the stress of paying rent while being unemployed.

3. Move in with my grandma and have my own private space upstairs.

My grandma extended a seemingly backhanded invitation when my family and she visited a couple months prior to my Big Move Back. I was finishing up the lease on the house I was renting in my college town and was still trying to Figure Out What I Was Going to Do After College. (I’ve never been much of a planner.)

I thought she was just offering to be polite, so I said, “Okay, maybe!” I figured nothing would come from it. But when nothing else panned out a month later, I called and asked if the offer still stood. She said of course, but I still wasn’t convinced it was genuine. It seemed like nothing more than a pity invitation. There were no conditions set in place, which made it seem like there was an unspoken agreement: the setup was temporary with a to-be-determined deadline.

Over time, the doubts in my head ceased, but I was careful to refer to home as Grandma’s house. It wasn’t mine. It was hers.

My grandma and I have been roommates for a little over a year now, and one of the most interesting parts about a millennial living with an almost 91-year-old has to be our generational differences. She reads the newspaper every morning with coffee; I scroll through Twitter and Facebook, skimming the current updates to her day-old news. She flips through the thin, yellow phonebook pages to find a business’ number; I do a Google search. She answers almost every call on her landline, even if her caller ID reads “Telemarketer”; I hardly answer my phone unless I have the contact saved.

It’s probably clear my grandma isn’t the biggest fan of modern technology; it generally overwhelms her. She’s fine with her routines, keeps life simple, and stays within her comfort zone. My dad and his siblings gifted her a huge smart TV for her 90th birthday. She was wary to make the change at first but soon realized it wasn’t too different; she could still hook up her early-2000s Dish setup to the TV. Everything looked the same — just on a bigger screen. (Really, as long as she’s able to watch her favorite shows — Dancing with the Stars, Last Man Standing, This Is Us, and Grey’s Anatomy — she’s happy.)

I have been successfully able to incorporate one element of millennial culture into her life: Netflix (or, according to her, “Net Flecks”) binges. I’ll admit I introduced her to Netflix with selfish intentions. It was probably a weekend, and there was nothing that sounded interesting on TV. At the time, I was balancing two part-time jobs and a remote internship (a direct product of Trying to Figure It Out) and wanted to find something I could half-watch from behind my laptop. I wanted to spend time with her and didn’t want her to feel neglected. I didn’t expect for it to mean much at all; it was merely a way to keep each other occupied.

Our nighttime binges, however, have become sacred time together, and we both look forward to them. She’s always pushing me to put myself out there and probably gets a little too excited when I tell her I have plans with friends. If I’m being honest, most of the time I’d rather stay in and watch something with her. If a few days pass without at least a small binge, her eyes light up when I ask if she wants to watch something on “Net Flecks.” Most times, she’s the one eager to watch another episode, and I’m the one fighting to stay awake on the couch.

Occasionally, I’ll still have my laptop out, but more times than not, I catch myself paying attention to the show rather than to the work in front of me. Whether we’re following the antics of Grace and Frankie, crying over an emotional, Braverman-character moment on Parenthood, or cracking up at a witty comeback from one of the characters on Gilmore Girls, the time we’ve spent watching shows on Netflix together is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. A few months in, I started keeping a small, brown journal by my spot (hers: a red, remote-controlled recliner; mine: a pink-cushioned loveseat) to write down the funny things she says while we watch TV, so that I’ll have some record of our time together.

Somewhat recently, I finally realized my grandma didn’t extend a pity invitation when she said I could move in with her. We were leaving my parents’ house after dinner, and as I put my car into drive, she turned to me and said, “Maybe when we get back to our house, we can watch ‘Net Flecks.’”

KARLEY KEMBLE is a writer who earned her B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She currently resides in Fresno, California, and is the Publications Coordinator for a local animal shelter.