For those that haven’t been reading, my grandma is crazy.
I’ll back it up a little.
My maternal grandmother and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. I mean, how could we not? This is the woman who’d move the hors d’oeuvres away from her highly insecure 12 year old granddaughter. That being said, this is also the woman who wore fur stoles and white gloves to the city, snapping her fingers at the help and sipping gin at lunch.
So, you know, she’s kinda fabulous too.
My grandmother’s life has been about art and travel and family and status and eating as little as possible. My grandmother is rarely warm but surprisingly funny, raised with the notion that women are supposed to pretend to be stupid and appearance is absolutely everything. The woman can hold a grudge longer than even I and she can tell the difference between Waterford crystal and cheap cut glass from 20 feet away.
My grandmother’s most frequent greeting to me has most likely been, “Hello dear. What a flattering necklace.”
This description of my grandmother might seem like a caricature, and probably is, but its how I’ve always, always seen her. It would be absolutely fair to say that I am in awe of my grandmother. And at most times, also scared to death of her.
And over the past year, my grandmother has fallen further and further into dementia. It began rather terrifyingly, with anger and frustration and lots of late-night calls to 911. Then she decided she was living in an oriental whore house and big black men were hiding in her bathroom. Slowly it progressed into a far less sinister world, decidedly more confusing than frightening. At Thanksgiving she was somewhat with-it, well aware of who we were and why we were there. I even got a “Hello dear. And don’t you look thin!”
Clearly, she’s still losing it.
We went to see her yesterday bringing with us my Uncle Bill, in town from Savannah.
And this Christmas, my grandmother was completely and truly gone. It took an eternity for my mother to rouse her from her trance, my arrival prompting a huge and surprised smile but not a word. In fact, the entire 45 minutes of our visit, she didn’t complete a sentence.
And suddenly, I was overcome by some previously untapped affection for her. I held her hand and stroked her hair, 2 acts which I’d never done before. I would’ve given anything for some cold judgment, some stumblings in French, some reference to my highly ethnic father.
I’d even have been happy to see her sip that cheap-ass champagne.
But I got nothing.
Because she’s gone.
Suddenly, like a gust of wind, the room was filled with energy.
Who is Jean, you ask?
Oh, just the transgendered woman who basically runs the place.
“Hey Queenie!” She screamed, fake eye-lashes fluttering and huge boobs swinging from within her holiday sweater. She grabbed my grandmother’s head and ruffled her hair. “Yer whole goddamn family is here!”
My family touched my grandmother as if she was about to crumble. But the glorious Jean grabbed onto her and shook her awake, diving into champagne and telling my mother to take a “freakin’ Zanax.”
Jean was like a Christmas miracle, distracting us from something horrible and shitty and sad and breathing light and air and 21st century gender reassignment into the room. Jean made it okay to relax and laugh and exhale. And Jean made it okay to look at each other silently think, “Jesus Christ. A fucking tranny is taking care of Grandma.”
There are a million kinds of glamour. And I will always love every kind. Be it my Grandma in her Chanel or Jean in her eye-shadow.
And there are a million memories I will always have of my grandmother. But if you’re so inclined, and remembering that she is still a little bit alive, feel free to join me in a little gin, a little Monet and a little Erik Satie's 3 Gymnopedies…