Somewhere in Aunty Christ’s dank, fetid brain lies the remainder of that story she began in earnest last week—the one about when she got fired from her job in Nameless, CO, which no doubt has its modern-day counterpoint in lessons that would be useful for her to remember these days, as a once-again-unemployed youngish woman thinking about re-entering the workforce. But phooey. We will return to that subject later. Aunty Christ is sick of thinking about employment and her lack thereof. Aunty Christ wants to think about, well, da Bears, for one thing. Being in the Chicagoland area for a brief time has instilled in her all sorts of that regional pride best achieved by sitting in front of a television and watching one group of bulky men play a game with another group of bulky men, each group clothed in a signature color. Go, da Bears.
Other things I’ve been up to include: (1) sleeping in the daytime, since Mother Christ has decided to thumb her nose at collective human knowledge, keeping the house warmed to around 90˚ at night and lowering the temperature during the day to the point where it is unwise to remain indoors and not be encased in a thick, down comforter and several hats. In fact, I’ve only just now woken from a nightmare-bedeviled nap, at 3 p.m. These nightmares concerned Rich Bachelor, I think (though don’t ask me what he was up to; it became unclear upon waking)—which is a better-quality nightmare than the ones I thought up yesterday, which had me gluing false eyelashes on what initially was supposed to be a young boy, and later became a woman, who then was revealed to be (gasp!) myself. The flipside of course is that I have been (2) not sleeping at night, which somewhat explains the loopy opaqueness of my dreams, and instead have been sweating a great deal and reading about the end of poorly planned societies (Collapse) and processed foodstuff (Fast Food Nation). I have also been (3) seeing people, and that is what I wish to talk about today, in this blog post that I will subtitle Two Random Things About People I’ve Seen Recently.
1. My grandma is 87 and in fine health, despite breaking her hip last month. Her main concerns these days fall under the general categories of What Will Happen to All This When I’m Gone? and Change Sucks. I’m with her on that second part, incidentally. I hate change—especially the kind that’s beyond one’s own control. Moving to Saskatoon is fine, generally speaking (actually, maybe it’s not, but that’s something we haven’t made up our mind on yet), but moving from one’s home because one’s relatives are hounding one about it must suck. For all Daddy Christ’s complaints about not wanting Grandma to wait until she needs daily assistance before she signs up for a spot in an assisted-living facility, and all my own worries that Grandma will break her other hip one of these days, only this time with no one around to take her to the hospital, in this debate I land firmly on the side promoting elderly independence. “If I ever get that bad”—meaning that stubborn, I think, or that unwise, that stupidly, stubbornly independent—“just shoot me,” my mom and dad have both told me. Truly, maybe that’s the best solution. I myself would rather be shot in the head than live out my years being bossed around by orderlies, nurses, and my own children. All of which is to say: Poor Grandma. What one really longs for at a time like this is a way to turn the clock back to 1946 or 1956 or 1926 and keep it there.
As for What Will Happen To All This When I’m Gone?, it is not simply a question of acquisitions, though there is the constant worry about the warships that Grandma’s father made, and whether Cousin Nancy inherited them from Grandma’s sister, or whether they’re in the attic with the rest of the crap no one wants. Really, though, over the past few years, each visit to Grandma’s house has become a highly structured ritual, topped by a series of two or three stories from Grandma’s childhood, each designed to impart a Life Lesson or perhaps just tell How Life Is. Story #1 begins with Grandma as a little girl in school. Her class was doing a performance of some sort, and in conjunction with that the teacher asked if anyone had a red wagon with yellow wheels that they could bring the following day. My grandma didn’t, but she said she did. At dinner she was worried, quiet, not hungry. Her parents asked why she was acting strangely, and finally she came out with the truth: She was afraid she’d be found out as a liar—and a wagonless one at that. Her father scolded her a very little bit, and she realized that lying was wrong. The next day, when she got up to go to school, there on the porch was a red wagon with yellow wheels that her father had stayed up all night making for her. Now, I must admit I have always been confused by this story. Is the moral “Lying is wrong, but not so wrong we want our daughter to be castigated for it by her schoolmates”? Or is it that “Lying is okay, but only when we know that our father will go out of his way to fix it so our lies are never found out”? Whichever, it seems that the primary lesson that this story demonstrates is “Our family sticks together, and we are better than those other families, which do not have red wagons and have no means by which to get them.”
This is borne out by Story #2, in which Grandma and her sister jokingly poison the neighbors’ dog with Ex Lax, and their mother covers their evil tracks. In Story #3, the sisters drop said dog into a latrine, and, working together, learn to solve the problem they’ve created by lifting the shit-covered dog out of the latrine and letting it run away, probably back to the neighbors’ house—which is why, in modern-day America, dogs and little girls are no longer allowed to run around loose, and outdoor latrines have been all but done away with.*
Point is, telling these stories is, I guess, Grandma’s way of keeping time stuck in 1926, for at least a while. I have only a vague idea what the most recent 80 years of her life were like, and certainly she’s told me no stories about anything specific that happened, say, when her kids were young or when she met her husband. I can only assume that means that her life hit its peak when she was seven years old, and it’s been downhill ever since.
2. My best friend when I was seven is back home as well. We’re still close, or close-ish, anyway. We haven’t seen each other in four years (she’s been living in Japan since graduating college), but when we saw each other for the first time on Thursday and decided to see if we could get a peek inside our remodeled high school building (we couldn’t, for safety reasons), it was as though time had collapsed and half our lives melted away—walking from the parking lot to the high school with my best friend, giggling over something really retarded.
At some point, sometime when I have enough time, I’ll have to write about her. I haven’t mentioned her much in my blogs, I guess because I’m afraid I won’t do her, or those times, justice. It’ll come off as an all-female version of The Notebook, or an unscary It, or a younger, less-morbid Tuesdays with Morrie. I know—now—that our friendship was special—to me, anyway. But it’s maybe not so special in the context of friendships everywhere, throughout humankind. Probably—hopefully—everyone’s had one of those friends who lets you be stupid sometimes, and who tells you how smart you are sometimes, and who brings you into her family as an escape from your own sometimes-intolerable one. Yeah, I intend to write about all that someday, but not now. Not when I’m already feeling overly emotional about her.
I guess all I wanted to say about her now is that, when I’m 87 years old (and I hope I never am), the stories I tell the people around me, the stories I’m trying not to forget—unless life gets pretty damn wonderful sometime soon, I think my friend will star in all of them.
*I realize that all my Grandma’s stories seem slightly familiar, like something from a school primer or a Hallmark movie-of-the-week. I do not know whether this is because she’s stolen them from a school primer or a Hallmark movie-of-the-week, or if they seem familiar to me in particular because I’ve heard them a million and a half times, or if they are the kind of thing that happened to every girl in the mid 1920s. In my family, they are revered as legends.