i went to visit my gram on saturday because i had plans on sunday and didn't want to miss another weekend with her. my week had been long and hectic and after dragging myself to my class at the gym saturday morning (which, of course, was more torturous than usual—David seems to have an innate sense of when i need my ass kicked especially hard) i was feeling spent. in fact, i fell asleep on the bus and part of me wished i could have kept sleeping.
but as always, my time with gram was precious. i count my blessings constantly that she's still around for me to talk to and laugh with. and this particular visit i laughed a lot.
gram is better off in the assisted living facility than her old condo, for sure. but as with any communal living situation—a college dorm, an apartment building, a nursing home—it has its annoyances and inconveniences. every time i see her she has stories for me, about the antics of this caregiver or that nurse or so-and-so down the hall. most of them are hilarious.
for example, a while back there were a few consecutive nights when gram woke up in the wee hours to find an old lady sitting in the chair across from her bed. the lady just sat in the dark and stared at gram, obviously lost and unaware. gram would page the caregivers to help the lady back to her own room. gram seemed to take the midnight visits in stride, though i found them insanely creepy.
another time, Margot (the caregiver with whom gram has a love-hate relationship—think Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar) was helping her get ready for a doctor's appointment in town. after gram brushed her hair, Margot went to finish up with a little hairspray but instead grabbed gram's aerosol deodorant. chaos ensured.
on saturday, gram filled me in on the latest incident: a day or two earlier, another resident—"a tiny, little thing," gram said—came into her room with the assistance of a walker. gram was relaxing on her bed, watching a movie on TCM, when the old lady came around the corner, into her line of vision, and stood there.
"you're lost," gram told her, as kindly as possible. "you're in the wrong room. head over to the door now."
the lady blinked a few times, turned herself around and headed toward the exit. in the process, she spied the bag of Vienna Fingers on the counter of gram's kitchenette. she took it upon herself to open the bag, take a cookie and reclose the bag before leaving gram's room. the whole time, she never said a word.
i couldn't stop laughing as gram told me the story.
as if that weren't enough, about a half hour before i had to leave, gram asked me to help her with the new computers installed in the lobby not far from her room. she'd had help getting an account set up and writing an initial few e-mails, but wanted my guidance while checking her mail.
i rolled her out into the hallway and just as we were getting to the computer desks, a woman (Kristy, the facility's activities director, i found out later) bellowed from down the hall, "Clara! hey Clara! want to take a picture with the Easter Bunny?"
there were so many things wrong with those words that it took my brain a while to compute. first of all, my gram's name is Claire, not Clara. second of all, a large, dingy rabbit was headed our way trailed by a photographer. the scene was frightening to me, a thirty-three year old with most of her faculties in check—can you imagine being eight-five or ninety and in a generally confused state and witnessing the same thing? what are these people thinking?
anyway, gram was a good sport and let the photographer take a photo of her with the "Easter Bunny"—and of course i couldn't resist; i grabbed my iPhone and captured the scene as well. things went from bad to worse as the bunny removed its head shortly after the photograph—inside the costume was Kristy's sister—and so now in the hallway was a large, dingy headless rabbit.
all the hoopla piqued the curiosity of gram's across-the-hall neighbor Dr. Albert. he's a friendly fellow with the slightest resemblance to Abe Vigoda. i'd never formally met him before but had the pleasure of making his acquaintance after the rabbit took off to terrify other elderly residents. i shook his hand after gram introduced me and he told her that her granddaughter was beautiful. (aw shucks.)
"you know who else was beautiful?" Dr. Albert said. "my wife. i have a picture..." as i helped gram log onto the computer, he rolled back into his room to retrieve a folder. a few minutes later he was back, showing me an image he'd printed from the computer. it looked to be from the '40s and showed a woman in a swimsuit, laying on a towel.
"was she a knockout or what?" he said to me. i asked her name—Muriel—and told him that she had indeed been stunning. he also showed me a photo of himself at age fifty and a poem he'd written for his son's funeral. he quickly came back to the photo of his wife and said, "you know how pretty she was? i'll tell you. when we went to her high school reunion..."
he went on to tell me that at this reunion, a former classmate of Muriel's approached Dr. Albert and asked if he could dance with his wife. Dr. Albert said it wasn't up to him, it was up to Muriel. Muriel accepted this man's invitation to dance, but after one song returned hastily to her husband, sitting at their table.
"well, i won't be dancing with him anymore," she huffed. Dr. Albert asked why. "while we were dancing, he must have gotten excited... i could feel his manhood."
at the word "manhood" i somehow managed not to swallow my tongue and sputtered, "well, it was really nice meeting you, Dr. Albert!" and scooted back over next to gram tout de suite.
(he was a sweet old guy; i just didn't want the conversation to veer any further into questionable territory.)
a little while later—after helping gram write a couple e-mails and giving her a quick glimpse of Facebook—i was back on the bus, feeling happily content. as i'd kissed her goodbye she'd thanked me (per her usual) for spending twelve bucks on the bus to come see her. "megs," she said, "you are just the best person."
"oh, gram," i replied. "that's not true. you are."
and that's the truth.