Saturday, April 9, 2011

9/30: grand folks jelly

In this world we live in today with the whole damn
internet I visit my friend's profile page and see
an entire folder of photos labeled "Gramma Jean!"
just like that, exclamation mark and all. In one
she wears a pirate hat, grinning, in another,
silly sunglasses and a genuine laugh. One picture
is of her at the base of a giant statue of Superman,
one hand planted firmly on his tall red boots,
the other flung out to the side. My favorite,
which is to say, the one that makes me hate
my friend the most, is the one in which Gramma Jean
has climbed behind a plywood cutout of
Supergirl's body. We're talking six feet tall
and fine as hell, a patriotic hourglass, and the smile
on her face is priceless, y'all, and the caption
is a quote from Gramma Jean! herself, it says, "this
is how I really look, not like a little old lady,"
as if she had to tell us. My father's father

died before I was born.

I once dated a boy
with three whole sets of grandparents. He was
thirty years old. One set had divorced early on
and happily remarried and he legitimately had
three entire pairs of grandparents. He called them
all the time on the phone. My mother's father died

when I was two years old. There is a photograph
in which he is holding me; in this picture his lap
reminds me of the statue of Abraham Lincoln: vast
and steady as stone. I have, of course, no memory
of him at all.

Another friend not only has both sets of grandparents
but for most of his young life had his great grandparents,
too. My mother's mother died when I was nine and I
did not handle it well. My father's mother physically died
my junior year of high school, but her mind went
years before that. I see photos of a longtime friend
on her profile page with her arms thrown around the neck
of her grandfather. My friend is nearly forty.
The old man may be wearing wrinkles and age spots
but his smile is young, and wild, and wide. I cry.


Nance said...

You and me both, sister!

jennifer said...

One day I will introduce you to Gramma Jean. She's a pretty awesome 95 year old spitfire of a lady, truth be told. You will love her. Unless, of course, you're sensitive about things like having an old lady tell you she doesn't like your hair. Or maybe your shirt. Once, when I took her to lunch, she asked the hostess for a dark corner booth... so no one would see what I was wearing. What can you do, but laugh. She had a cocktail or two that day. I can still see her bright red nail polish as she flitted her hands around telling story after story. She has a better memory than I do.
Gramma Jean outlived her first husband, my mother's father, and her second husband, my mother's step-father; both of whom died before I could meet them. Her first, my mother's father, because he was a sick, sick alcoholic and my mother wouldn't let him around her kids if he had been drinking. I still remember the smell of his tiny little tan suitcase that held the last of his worldly possessions when he died. Her second, my mother's step-father, died before I was born.
I grew up with both of my step-father's parents. They were good people. But, I was their step-granddaughter. And, that makes things different.
I don't know my bio-father. So, I don't know my bio-father's parents either. I wonder what they are like.
I'm glad I had my Gramma Jean. She made up for all the missing pieces. She once told me that she didn't understand why none of her granddaughters were married. I told her it was because she set such an amazing example to us, that we all grew up knowing that we could do it on our own, without a man. She said, "Well, I sure messed that one up, didn't I?"
No, gramma. You didn't.
Ginna, don't hate me because I have a Gramma Jean. Come meet her and make her your Gramma Jean, too. She has room. Always. But, do it soon. She told me, just tonight, that she feels like she's outlived her usefulness. I told her she could live to be 150 (and we all hope she does) and never outlive her usefulness. She said, "Well, all I have left to give is advice, and no one seems to want to take it, even though it's really good advice, because I have experience."
Oh, Gramma Jean... you have no idea... silly not old lady. Please test my theory and live to be 150.
Love to you Gramma Jean.
And, love to you, Ginna.