Last night, my mother and I sat my grandmother down and made her give us her jewelry.
Okay, okay. That’s not entirely true. My grandmother had been insisting upon gathering us together and going through her jewelry boxes, hoping to pull the few items she wanted to take to the grave and pawn the rest off onto us. Mother had the forethought to bring booze and I had the forethought to book us at the fanciest restaurant I could find immediately after. That also afforded us an excuse to leave.
The nurses were kind enough to set us up at a table in some sort of dilapidated recreation room and after taking decades to get my grandmother comfortable, we began to dig through the diamonds. The experience was very much like that scene in Titanic when the old lady sees the water-logged bijoux pulled from her stateroom on the ocean floor for the first time in 80 years.
“This is mine! (huge gasp.) And this! This is mine!”
Uh, no shit. YOU’RE the one who insisted upon going through YOUR jewelry. What’d you expect?
Biting tongue, biting tongue…
Part of it was sweet and lovely, watching her get choked up at the watch my grandpa gave her a million years ago or the ring she played with on her mother’s dresser as a child. And parts were really interesting, like the nun-ring my great aunt, Sister Kathleen wore all of her years as a woman of the cloth and the ID bracelet Grandma wore during the war.
But as has always been typical with my grandmother and her penchant for judgment and dementia, parts also sucked. My mini-skirt didn’t really fly, nor did my faux fur vest, although that ensemble is risky with most crowds anyway. I wore it to piss her off more than anything else. Occasional outbursts like, “Wipe that look of pity from your face, Beth.” are less than charming, although my mother and I simply pretend they’ve never happened, and my Grandmother responds by blowing me a kiss. Grabbing onto my huge handbag, she screamed, “What is this? Is this for princesses only?” to which I had no prepared response. And on my way back from the ladies room, she asked me, “Any action?”
“What?” (One is supposed to say ‘pardon me’ to my grandmother, never ‘what.’)
Angrier. “Any action???”
Entirely unsure if she was inquiring as to my pee-ing or something else, I politely responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Well, I’m not asking if you’ve just been raped by four men!”
Okay. Moving on.
Having rather difficult-to-get reservations, it was time for us to go. But, we’d forgotten that one needs to announce one’s departure hours in advance. Appalled by both the roommate who she’d forgotten she’s sharing a room with and a sinister paper napkin which had mysteriously appeared upon her bedspread, she took an eternity to get settled enough for us to leave.
As mom and I ran out into the rain, desperate for some wine and twenty dollar chicken, I thought to myself that time with grandma isn’t like most things one dreads, where the reality is always much better than the anticipated horror. Time with my grandmother is really just as bad as we imagine it will be. Although, at least this time we got some pretty spectacular vintage accessories out of the deal…