Gramma goes to college…

Posted on July 23, 2011

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It’s muddy and slippery standing by the open grave. My tall skinny husband tries sheltering  my grandmother and me under an umbrella with a broken strut so it droops and drips on one side. I can feel the wet seeping through the thin soles of my best shoes …. my heels gradually sinking into the soft earth. The minister’s strands of hair are plastered to his head … he drones “Ashes to ashes….dust to dust…” Gram starts moaning and swaying. I  tighten my grip  on her scrawny arm terrified she might slip or actually  throw herself  into the grave on top of the wet coffin.  I wouldn’t put it past her.

Gram Mourns

She’s 82. Gramps is dead.  Ten years ago, after the proverbial heoric battle with lung cancer , we burried their only child – my mother – followed five year later by my father – same way. Yes, they were heavy smokers raising my bother and me in a fog of second hand smoke. Who knew?   I never took up the filthy habit nevertheless I’ll probably die well before my time. My brother Darcy lives in London, an investment banker,  is off  doing big deals somewhere in the middle east so missed the funeral. Come to think of it he manages to miss most of life’s messy stuff.

What am I going to do with Gramma?

Peter and I  stay over  for the next week trying to persuade her to sell the house and move south  to Arizona  and live with us. She’s tiny, looks sweet but as Gramp used to say “I can’t live with her and can’t live without her. She small but mighty … and wild… specially  when the moon is full!” What?  She’s wild when the moon is full? I don’t even want to think about it! I remember when my daughter Megan and her friend Ellen – they’d be about thirteen – were snickering about something and I asked what was so funny? Megan, wide-eyed said : “You and dad  don’t still do IT do you?” Ellen piped in “My parents never did it … and the Queen never goes to the bathroom.”

Gram  said she’d think about our offer but she’d need a few days to decide  She sat and sat some more …. rocking and knitting sock-dolls for African children. Harvey her fat old Persian cat nestled on her lap. Periodically he rose, stretched and standing on his hind legs and purring rubbed his whiskered snout over Gram’s face and mouth. She pursed  her lips avoiding an intimate smooch. Peter couldn’t watch.  He’s  allergic to cat dander so spent the first day wheezing and sneezing while wading  through one box of kleenex after another. From then on he ‘lived’ on the back porch. I spent the time reading ancient Readers Digests and snooping around in the attic. I came across my old report cards from school, lots of  ‘Lucie is highly intelligent but doesn’t apply herself, daydreams.” My brother did better “Darcy excels in most subjects, has trouble with spelling and distracts other students with his horseplay. The girls go gaga.”

On the third day after the funeral Gramma stopped rocking and asks: ‘What about Harvey?’  Fortunately Peter has agreed that Harvey could come as long as he stays in Gramma’s room. On the fourth day Gram took off on her walker and spent most of the morning at the library. On the fifth day she spent hours in her room on the phone. On the sixth day she told us we could go home. Thanks but no thanks to out invitation. She and Harvey we’re going to university!

Why? … When?… How?

But Gramma, your 82 years old, you’ve worked hard all your life, you deserve to take it easy.

You mean sit on the porch and rock my way to Heaven…  not going to happen! My father was a pig-headed Englishman, a place for everything and everything in its place. And the place for women was bearing children and waiting hand and foot on her husband. Women we’re getting too much education as it was. If truth be known his attitude was raise women like mushrooms: keep em in the dark and feed them  bullpoop. And my mother and me let him get away with it. Nothing too good for my little brother though … I wanted a bike… he got a bike … I got a tricycle. I wanted to go to university and take archaeology. Know what Poppa said? He said ‘dogs dig bones.’ No university for me… but he’d pay for a course in typing  ‘just in case I couldn’t find a husband’. But he sent my brother to university to take engineering … then another degree in economics, told everyone how smart his son was… how well he was doing …. got a big job in Chicago.  Now I don’t want to paint too black a picture … I think Papa liked me, maybe even loved me in his way… as a daughter…  a proper daughter… then a proper wife and mother. But remember….  raise em in the dark and …. dogs dig bones!

So Gram if you do get accepted at University … what subjects will you take?

– Oh I’m already accepted. Allie Griffin the librarian helped me, said she got me registered in a special program for seniors. It’s a proper degree program – not dumbed down – and I’ve got a place in residence… on the ground floor for my walker. They don’t know about Harvey. And guess what?  One of my courses is introductory archeology – Me and Harvey can go dig bones.

Just to make sure  Gramma had it right Peter talked to the town librarian. Yup not only was she registered but she’d paid her fees and a deposit on her ground floor room in residence. The librarian had done it all online. She gave Peter a printout of the documentation. Gramma was due to arrive at the state university in ten days for orientation and a welcome party for freshman. A welcome party for freshman?

We had a bit more than a week to clean out and sell the house, settle her financial affairs – her accounts, the will, credit card, renew her driver’s license, service her ten year old Chev, insurance, medicare … and the attic…. my gawd… the attic. ! What am I going to do with all that stuff, the books, the pictures, the ancient furniture, the basement full of trunks and boxes. A lot of it was my parents stuff stored here after they died.

Grams house

There’s a knock at the door. Hi Charlie… this is Charlie Bremmer. I called him yesterday … he sells real estate. This is Lucie my granddaughter and  that great tall  sneezer’s her husband Peter. They’re going to make sure you get me a good price for the house. They’re not making houses like this anymore, sold oak floors, coal cellar and brand new shingles … a few years ago. Charlie, how much can we get for it… we need to sell it fast. I’m going to the college.

Charlie says I didn’t know you had a cottage?

Not cottage …. college… I’m going to university… I’m taking archeology… going to dig up bones.

Charlie sat down. Looked at me… looked at Peter… turned to Gramma: Idabell you’ve done some strange things over the years but this beats em all.  You staged a sit in at the school cause they wouldnt let girls wear slacks. You ran for Mayor – your platform was that seniors shouldn’t pay municipal taxes cause they’d already paid enough and their kids had finished school. You sued Judge Eglesham for fining you for reckless driving claiming it was defamation of character. And so it goes, but going off to college at your ….

Charlie Bremmer what I do at… what were you going to say… at my age?… ia none of your business. Are you going to sell my house or not. Or should I take my business to the fancy new outfit that just opened up – they’ve got female agents too. So what’s it gonna be?

Fig: Gram mourns: Flickr #5110787643_f2bcfbe9a4_o.jpg

Fig: Gram’s House: flickr.com/photos/61507952@N02/5599025711

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Posted in: Sciencing