Every Saturday, after work, I visit my grandmother at her nursing home. It’s about a half an hour drive to get there, but it’s worth the drive. Grandma G isn’t the normal nursing home type you’d think of: sweet, unsuspecting, a kind of elderly innocence. No, well kind of, while Grandma G is sweet she’s a unique brand of it. The one who insults you because she cares.
“Really, that’s what you wear on a first date?”
“I swear on my god damn life if you go through another one of those phases they’ll publish a book on your life about coping with multiple personality disorder.”
“If that skirt were any smaller you’d make a whole penny standing on the corner.”
Obviously what she said hurt, but in our household – me, her, and my father – that kind of thing was welcome as long as you could take an insult coming right back at you. In fact, by the age of sixteen I could almost keep up with my grandmother in a game of wits; of course I never could and never will be able to win.
When I arrived at Protecting Pines I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had already put up their holiday decorations. It was mid-November. But I guess around here it doesn’t do any harm to bring Christmas out a bit earlier. Grandma G’s room was on the second floor of the main building and her room was the easiest to spot as it was the only one without some cute little handmade Christmas wreath hanging on the door. I knocked, and after a few seconds of shuffling I heard the door knob click open and the door swing open to show me Grandma G in her usual attire. A sweater, loose-fitting dress pants, and pink fuzzy slippers.
Grandma’s glasses sat on the tip of her nose as she looked up at me.
“If you’re going to visit me at least do me the favor of not wearing such an offensive outfit.” She said before turning to go to the kitchen leaving the door open wide for me to walk in.
“Well, you know how I can’t waste your time.” I said back.
“I’d rather kick the bucket early than see my granddaughter wear that color again.”
I didn’t have a response for that so I just sat in the kitchen. We talked for a while about the usual stuff. How’s life? How’s work? Is this a new recipe? Are you and your boyfriend still together? Nothing out of the ordinary, until I asked her one specific question.
“Why don’t you have a wreath on your door Grandma?”
It was silent before Grandma G tried to change the subject.
“It didn’t come in the right color.”
Well I saw multiple color options. None of them were good?
“They were ugly.”
Well, I thought they were quite cute.
After a few more excuses Grandma got exasperated and looked me dead in the eye saying:
“Shut up Caroline and finish your food.”
I did as I was told until I got the courage to ask again.
“Grandma G are you sure you don’t want a wreath?”
While Grandma wasn’t necessarily a festive person, she always went out of her way to make the decorations the best she could to give me, and my father back when he was a kid, something magical.
“Damn it, Caroline how many times do I have to tell you I don’t want the wreath!” She snapped at me.
There was silence for a second before she spoke again. In a much softer tone. “It’s not right to do it just for myself.” She told me. “It used to be, I would always have the motivation to do anything for you and your father, but now . . .”
She trailed off and looked away, but my eyes never went away from her. She continued: “Now there’s no reason to do anything. Your father’s an adult, and now you are to, and I don’t have enough time to decorate for your grandchildren.”
It had been a year since Grandma had moved to assisted living. She had said tending to the house was too lonely with me and dad both gone. We had assumed things had gotten better after the move, but clearly not. She was quick to change the subject again to how my cousin was currently studying literature, a useless major in her opinion.
My grandmother had made sacrifices again and again for me and my father. So, while she went on to tell me other stories and gossip, I couldn’t stop my mind from wondering how I could fix this.
The next day, with the help of my father I came back to my grandmother’s with a large crate and wearing our best out of season Christmas sweaters. Not only were we going to show her we still need her to care for us, but we’d give her a child to care for her own. The second she opened the door we opened the door to the crate and released a small shaking Pomeranian. Immediately it ran to Grandma G weaving between her legs and yipping to get her attention.
“Is that a rat?” Grandma G asked. She tried to have her usual sarcastic bite, but it hardly showed at the sight of the dog’s small, adorable face.
I just smiled. “It’s someone to decorate for.”