This Christmas-New Year combo holiday was defined by a rare occasion. That of my Grandma deigning to spend time with our side of the family. The last time she spent Christmas or New Years with us was around 5 years ago, she spent the 30th, 31st and 1st with us. She insisted on going home on the 1st of January. I have come to terms with the fact that she prefers the other side of the family. And that my sister and I are the least favorite grand-children. Not that I’m particularly bothered, unlike the rejected children of tv soap operas and dramas, I have never found I needed her approval or love. Which is great as I’m unlikely to receive either. This year she decided to spend Christmas with my aunt and uncle and New Year with us.
Her recent mellowing (she wouldn’t have agreed to spend New Years with us if it weren’t for this mellowing) is due to the fact that last Easter she had a stroke and the week before Christmas she fell and sprained both ankles. Now credit where it is due, my grandmother is 94, and she experienced her stroke at her bridge club, but heaven forbid it should cause a scene. So she finished the game, excused herself and went home, when the pain didn’t desist in the night she went to see the doctor who basically freaked out and told her she was crazy for not calling an ambulance when it happened. Yeah she’s a trooper, then again she was a nurse during WWII so I guess there isn’t much she hasn’t seen or experienced.
So the mellow/injured grandmother was going to come to my folks house after spending time with my aunt and uncle, who wanted to drive up to see one of my cousins and offload the aged one onto us.
My aunt and uncle decided on a motorway gas station and rest-stop to do the changeover. I have honest to god never felt more like I was in a hostage exchange in my life.
We drove up to a car lot next to a dinner and gas stop, and scanned the cars there. Our contacts weren’t there. We parked, left the car with the briefcase in hand and fanned out in different directions, checking the cars for suspicious activity. Checking license plates, makes and models. The tension in the lot was tangible. A car drove up, we froze, checking the driver’s seat we knew it wasn’t them. They drove on and we relaxed. My brother pulled a cigarette from the pack in his trench coat, he held the filter in his teeth and turned away from the wind and rain that lashed against us. He swore under his breath as he tried to light the cigarette sheltering it from the tempest around us. My father scanned the horizon for a sign of the red car we waited for. The three of us were wearing long coats, the collars pulled up against the wind. Distant conversations from people leaving the dinner were snatched by the wind; we could only hear the odd vowel. The rain poured down on us like the Niagara Falls, cold and uncaring in our grey highway rendez-vous. A red car finally pulled up, by I pointed at the model and make, and the lack of crap in the back seat. It wasn’t them. I knew it wasn’t, they don’t travel light, not people like them.
Eventually they showed, the car was laden with swag collected from various locals. The rear windows were obscured with blankets, suitcases, pillows, and a toy dog. I extended the suitcase, they checked the goods, and handed over the target. They drove off without a word.
Kidding. Actually we waited at that rainy gas station for 15 minutes and you’d be surprised how many red cars that look like the one you’re waiting for will appear when you just want one. My method for recognizing my aunt and uncle’s car was right on though. They seem to believe that wherever they’re going lacks soft furnishings. They pack blankets, sheets, clothes, food that can be purchased anywhere, flashlights, glow sticks, gas burner, tinned goods as well as all the other stuff for Christmas. Despite the fact they were staying in my Grandma’s cottage which has all the amenities of home, including two TVs, a fully functioning modern kitchen, a washing machine, satellite dish, central heating, indoor plumbing etc. It’s like they believe the apocalypse is going to happen every time they leave their own house.
My aunt got out and insisted on getting her umbrella out, despite the fact my uncles umbrella was right at the top of the pile of stuff. They got out, hugged us, and kissed us opened the door for grandma. Handed over her luggage, then they got back in their car and drove off. Short visit.
We drove home with my grandma telling us about how she fell and how her social life is taking quite a hit because of her lack of mobility. Now I believe I have said elsewhere on this blog that my grandmother has a ranking system for her grandchildren. I will now give a detailed explanation of what the ranking is and what it is based on. Bear with me.
1)Redhead cousin (second son of Uncle)
Special loved-by-Grandma skills: has the ability to appear on tv as a pundit, has written two books, publishes many articles, has a job, even if not always steady. Married. Looks like my Grandmother’s dead brother.
Downside: Atheist. Married a Japanese girl: Grandma is covertly racist, despite preaching that God is love she abhors the idea of whites mixing with non-whites…
2) Big bro
Special loved-by-Grandma skills: Spitting image of young-Grandpa (Grandma’s long-dead husband). Drinks Whiskey like Grandma. Has a relationship with God (played up around the old lady). Played golf when in school. Has a good job. Goes into a state of zen –like tranquility letting Grandma’s rants wash over him but never touching him. This means he can sit and nod to her crazy talk far longer than anyone else.
Downside: Doesn’t have girlfriend. Lives far away. Needs a shave.
3)Blond cousin (first son of Uncle)
Special loved-by-Grandma skills: has the ability to fix any electrical thing with ease. Built his own computer when he was 10. Has a steady girlfriend. Has had a steady job as head of IT and Electrics at a university for 10 or so years- SUPER steady job. Notoriously mean with money. Saves everything and avoids spending when he can.
Downside: Not overtly religious. Not married or engaged to long term girlfriend. Acts like an old lady. Takes showers that last an hour. Doesn’t look like any dead person.
Special loved-by-Grandma skill: Can cook. Received scholarship for Masters. Finally has a job. Avoids seeing Grandma for several years on end.
Downside: Too educated. Talks back. Irreligious demonspawn. Doesn’t believe in ghosts. Laughs at Grandma’s stories of ghosts. Inherently foreign due to moving about too much. Too sarcastic. Works for Foreign firm. Un-marriable. Too young. Skin sizzles when entering a place of worship. Doesn’t look like dead person.
5) Lil’ sis
Special loved-by-Grandma skill: Avoids seeing Grandma when she knows she’ll be disappointing. Pretty. Goes to church on Easter and Christmas.
Downside: Too pretty. Dresses like a floozy. Men don’t buy the cow when they get the milk for free. Has nose piercing. Dyed her hair blonde. Too skinny. Likes animals and wants to do a Masters in Animal Behavior instead of being a vet. Works in a bar. Doesn’t look like a dead person that Grandma liked (probably looks like some chick who got a lot of dudes back in 1940).
So now you know.
Despite that she was in pretty decent spirits. She was plied with Whiskey and food, and basically she didn’t seem to mind that my sister wasn’t there due to work. She got to nag my sister without my sister looking sad. So I guess they both won. My grandmother reminded me again of how sarcasm isn’t really an attractive quality and then followed it up by stating that I was unlikely to marry anyway because of my plentiful and deep character flaws. I smiled and made tea. She then regaled my father and I with stories of a psychic she met. I explained what the psychic had done was called a cold-reading and that she had been duped by a false sense of hope, a belief in the intangible, and the talents of a clever swindler and her response was “You don’t know, you’re too young!”. Sure thing, I don’t know conmen, and she does, by virtue of purely being old. Age naturally brings wisdom, which is why those over the age of 70 never fall for telemarketing scams, or Ponzi schemes, or any gimmick.
The dear old gal also has a tendency to refute any argument by just saying “Nope”, then closing her eyes and solemnly shaking her head with her eyes closed. I have tried to point out that you need a counter-argument, or at least refutation of the opponent’s argument but the answer was no, followed by head waggling.
Anyway the idea of her own mortality after her stroke has made her a far nicer person. I guess her impending demise has made her realize she has been quite the douche over the years, and she should at least make amends with the kids in her family whom she marginalizes, taunts, overlooks and endlessly criticizes. Hats off to her for being the bigger person. I think I’ll stay petty but polite, I’m not changing my opinion of the tyrant just because she had an epiphany.
Anyone else have odd relatives, or a game-changer over the holidays.