Each year, my extended family on my mother’s side gets together for what is unaffectionately known as “Cousin’s Christmas.” While my brother and I have no first cousins, we apparently have tons of second cousins, the only ones we see being my grandmother’s niece (Linda) and nephew (Ray) and their families.
Cousin’s Christmas was postponed till February this year, because my cousin Jessica was busy having a baby during the holidays. I don’t know what you guys did this Saturday, but I was at Cousin’s Christmas flipping out.
I assume my grandmother no longer leaves her retirement home, or as she calls it, the “whore house.” If you’ve been reading, you know that my once fabulously artsy and judgmental grandmother has become my fabulously insane and judgmental grandmother, and she lives at a fabulous retirement home on the special floor for the crazy people. So, when I walked up the front steps of Cousin Ray’s house and saw my grandmother through the window, I pretty much shit myself.
For reasons I can’t explain, my grandmother’s unpredictability totally freaks me out. To tell you the truth, it terrifies me. And every time I see her, I have to prepare myself somehow and practice what I’ll do if she starts in about the naked men in her bathroom or the Chinese orphanage she’s apparently been running.
I didn’t know Grandma was coming to Cousin’s Christmas and had, in no way, prepared myself. Worse, I become even more freaked out by my grandmother when lots of people are around, primarily because I’m so desperate to cling to this notion that no one knows my Grandma has completely lost her mind.
She wrote “HELP ME” on the tops of her slippers. I think the cat’s out of the bag.
Anyway, I walked in and made the rounds, saying hello to a collection of kin I see once a year and cornered my mother.
“You didn’t tell me Grandma was coming.”
“Well, we didn’t decide until today.”
“Ugh, so she’s good?”
“Well, I’ve just decided that we’re going to find everything funny.”
I grabbed a glass of wine and made my way to my grandmother, who sat perfectly lucid by the fireplace holding Jessica’s new baby, Blake.
“Hey Grandma. You look fabulous.”
“Oh, thank you dear.” She looked down at Blake. “Isn’t he wonderful? Isn’t he just marvelous?”
“I know. He’s a perfect mini-human.”
She looked back up at me. “Who’s that man over there?”
“That’s Michael, Linda’s son.”
She appeared confused, although not knowing her sister’s grand-nephew is no big deal for my Grandma. Calling the cops is part of her morning routine. It’s impossible she’d remember Michael. Still, it freaked me out.
“Mom, she doesn’t know who Michael is.”
My mother and I handle these things very differently. Having seen literally everything, my mom no longer freaks out when bringing Grandma in public. She’s given up, tossed her hands in the air and goes with the flow, insisting that it’s worth it to get Grandma out and about. I mean, my mom actually took my grandmother to the bank to withdraw $60. Taking my grandmother to a bank takes a solid 3 hours of physical and emotional upheaval, not to mention occasional verbal abuse. I, on the other hand, cower in fear every time she opens her mouth, convinced that others will react just as badly to the well-dressed 92 year old discussing prostitutes or screaming about imaginary pain from her walker/pulpit. I’d have handed her 3 twenty’s and saved us all the horror.
Not my saintly mother. My saintly mother takes her to the bank. And to Cousin’s Christmas.
I mingled with the family and occasionally glanced over at Grandma, perfectly happy on her throne as the last old person. Everyone else seemed to handle her fine, and if she was talking about her orphans and whores, I didn’t hear about it.
We sat down to dinner and, ever the class act, my mom said grace. Raising her glass, she made a toast. “I think this might be the first time we’ve had four generations of us all here together.”
Gasp. I hadn’t realized. That’s kind of a big deal.
I decided to chill out, enjoy my tablemates and learn my lines for the post-dessert Woody Allen reading.
Whenever I spend time with my grandmother, it’s generally not as bad as I imagine it will be. None the less, I’m still a wreck around her. What can I say? When your grandmother grabs your arm and asks if three masked man tried to rape you in the bathroom, it kind of leaves an impression…