My grandma has been in a nursing home for the past few weeks. They say it’s temporary, that she’ll get to come home once she gains back use of her legs (I attribute her muscle deterioration to my aunt Sharon, who kept her holed up at home like a prisoner and would often forbid me from visiting). I hope these things are true, and that if she does get to return home, Sharon will clean up the mess that she and her dog have made, so I hear from a little birdie. (I’m talking mounds of dog shit left to amalgamate with white shag carpet, THAT kind of awesome mess. Oh, Grey Gardens indeed.)
I visited my grandma in the home on two occasions, but she seemed tight-lipped, paranoid, anxious for me to leave. But yesterday, I met my brother Corey there and was relieved to see that Sharon wasn’t around to monitor things.
Corey and I walked down hallways which smelt like we had stumbled inside a walk-in medicine cabinet. Every so often, I caught a whiff of Desperation and Lost Memory, too. It scared me.
Reaching my grandma’s room, we found her asleep. Not wanting to wake her, I turned to a nurse who was across the hall, watching us curiously (Corey and I are kind like Durrr and Duhhh when we’re together, donning deer-in-headlight visages and stumbling with suspicion) and said, “That’s our grandma in there. She’s sleeping. What do we do?”
The nurse exclaimed, “Jeannie? That’s my GIRL! She so FUNNY. You know she funny right?” I agreed and when she turned her back, shot Corey a “wtf, grandma’s FUNNY??” look. He just shrugged.
The nurse woke up our grandma, and I braced myself, I clenched my asshole, I waited for it. But she seemed pleasantly surprised to us. And then she spent the next hour regaling us with the goings-on of the nursing home residents. She seemed coherent, happy, genuinely pleasant. I can’t remember the last time I saw her like that, smiling and being so chatty. Especially following my grandfather’s death, she has a tendency to be quite snippy and anxious to throw jabs. She loves to remind me that I’m a disappointment of colossal proportions.
But on this day, she seemed entertained by my life updates. She asked about Chooch and her eyes held real honest-to-God pride when she looked at pictures of him on my phone.
There was one hairy moment when she brought up my mother and our current stand-off. “She gets tears in her eyes when she talks about you,” my grandma lectured. Oh I bet. Tears from having one less person to borrow money from.
The subject was quickly changed to Anna, the resident Sophia Perillo. “Oh, you have to meet her, she’s so funny! We all sit around waiting to see what she’ll do next,” my grandma said, laughing at the thought.
I recalled some wheelchair-bound lady parked at the nurse’s station when Corey and I had arrived. I got the sense she was a real spit-fire, so I said to Corey, “Maybe that was Anna asking for juice when we walked by.” Then to my grandma, I asked, “Does she have white hair?”
My grandma looked at me dumbly and Corey mumbled, “I think they ALL have white hair, Erin. It’s kind of the trend.”
Then her ninety-something roommate started coughing up something so tragic-sounding, I can only guess it was her ghost. And that was our cue to leave.