Hopefully my grandmother is not moved to a heart attack at reading this article. This is purely an account of what I love about her. And today is her birthday, so even the slightest discomfort is out of the question.
My grandmother is 50 years older than I am, which I always found handy for figuring her age. People call her a spit-fire. But, she makes-up in quick wit what she lacks in height.
My grandmother taught me to dance the polka. She would put Whoopee John Wilfahrt on the record player and dance me across the danceable rectangle of her living room, careful not to knock me into the coffee table or her pair of upholstered chairs. I noticed how our footprints would make their way around the carpet as we did, over and over and I just knew, she would probably need to vacuum when my visit was through.
My grandmother used to make pies on the weekends, for the parties she would have. Dental students and neighbors were her main muse but I liked to think that I was her favorite.
My grandmother could make soup from a bone; seeing now that that is how anyone makes stock from scratch, I have moved from the pity camp into being in cahoots with her.
My grandmother has had a lot to do with bones, in and out of the kitchen. She worked in radiology at the big dental school in Oregon for over 30 years but in the beginning, her stories led me to believe, she could have been anywhere, like in the forensics department.
Once she was actually sent to forensics to x-ray a skull (because it had some teeth?) and arrived in time to watch it, and the entire human body it was attached to, being cranked out of a vat of oil. From this I learned that being prepared for anything can save you from getting sick in the presence of a cadaver.
My grandmother can cut things so so fine. She takes the tiniest knife and cuts toward her thumb. Any formal cooking instruction will direct you to do the opposite but she says this is the way she has always done it. On the one hand, she does things in her own unique way and on the other, she is open to taking an x-ray of a cadaver skull. Some people call this being flexible, I call it magic.
Spending the night at my grandmother's house has been the best experience I have ever had away from home. For starters, I could fit into any of her shoes—topping 40 pairs. High heels, kitty heals, slipper heals, espadrilles, flats, sandals, cowboy boots, riding boots, she probably didn't own sneakers then. Which brings me to pajama sets. She would always set an ensemble of hers aside for me, complete with a pair of open-toed slippers and a silk robe. It still amazes me that she could outfit me at night as well as she outfitted herself. It felt as if I was supposed to be there.
Just before bed, she and I would stand in the dark kitchen, each in our pajama ensembles. She would slice-up all kinds of fruit for a sundae and I would drizzle Hershey's Syrup from a can. She would make my sundae and I would take-off with it to the living room, and wait for her to join me, in front of the TV.
I liked to unfold the TV tray and catch a whiff of the plastic and metal as it snapped into place. If I missed it the first time, I would smell it upon opening a second tray. Snap. Our staple shows were 20/20, Inside Edition, and Jeopardy. She would leave the remote to me and I turned to what I thought she would like best, because even then, I was certain she knew better than anyone.
While I preferred to sleep with her, she let me choose by setting-up the small sofa in her bedroom into a mini-bed of sorts, with layers of blankets both under and above the sheets. Princess and the Pea comes to mind, and I figured then that the author might have had a similar experience to my own, to be so motivated to write about the layers in bedding, with only a princess feeling that something is not right. Surely the most comfortable place for a sleeping princess is in bed with her grandmother!
A couple memories of sleeping at my grandmother's house stand out. Once, she had neighbors that shared a ceiling/floor. She was not a fan of the general arrangement, which is the sentiment that I suspect launched her from our bed in the middle of the night, reaching for the broom so she could stab it into the ceiling repeatedly until the noise stopped. From this, I learned cause and effect.
Another time, my grandmother was roused in her sleep by someone who apparently farted. She declared it so and then hustled down the hallway to open all the windows. We had a good laugh about it in the morning because she didn't remember any of it. I was glad she believed me. From this I learned two things: 1) sleep walking is real and 2) always take responsibility for something that someone is willing to laugh about.
My grandmother has broken both of her arms and one of her legs and has let me be her "nurse". She never took the pieces of Bubble Yum I prescribed but to her credit she used the bell I gave her to ring for me. I have never been more delighted to run at the sound of a bell. She would put-on her most sickly voice and call me Nurse! It was one of the first times in my life I felt needed and it felt great.
My grandmother has had open heart surgery and even watched the post-op video of how it was done. She has had breast cancer and coincidentally, so had her brother. She has been in a car accident and continues to ride in cars, even with the person that was driving then. She has all of her own teeth and encourages me to take the gold fillings that she has when she dies. She speaks Norwegian. She goes to a gym 4 days a week because, she says, her doctor won't let her go 5 days. She believes going with the flow is the best policy (although, by default, not going with the flow is the second best policy).
My grandmother has single-handedly outfitted me in underwear and dish towels. As simple as it is, having fresh underwear and dish towels, I have learned, is one of the secrets to life. I am so lucky to have my grandmother to share some of what she knows with me. And today I thank her for all of the delightful experiences we have shared. Grandma, I love you as much as Whoopee John's name is silly.