Next to my Dad, my paternal grandmother was my earliest hero. Quick, witty, a little (little?) naughty, she taught me to love poetry, the wonders of the world, and to sing little ditties.
When my grandfather died of a sudden stroke, Grandma was 75. She had never driven. Not willing to be dependent on others, she enrolled in driving lessons, got her license, bought a little car, and – gloves on, hands at ten and two – drove herself to the corner store once a week. (Note: Grandma died 10 years later. The car had 10,000 actual miles on it.)
My dad, her youngest son, always fretted over Grandma driving during the winter months. Ohio may not be the worst winter state, but it had, and has, its share of dangerous winter roads.
So when we visited Grandma at the beginning of autumn, Dad began preparing her. “Don’t forget to pump the brakes.” “Turn your wheel in the direction of the spin.” Now, my Dad is the best, but I always wondered why he didn’t see that the woman JUST LEARNED TO DRIVE. She could practically recite the rule book. Yet, he continued to do what he felt driven (pardon the pun) to do: warn her, remind her, keep her safe.
Grandma knew that too. So she was patient, nodding and murmuring sounds of agreement.
Until one year. She was probably 83. Dad sat in the chair next to her, me across the room. Dad recited one of the well-worn rules, Grandma nodded seriously, and then she looked across the room at me…..and crossed her eyes.
I snorted with laughter.Ā  Dad, who couldn’t see what she did, shot me a look for interrupting or – more likely – for encouraging what he must have known she had done.Ā  I straightened up, he listed off the next rule, she nodded, turned to me, crossed her eyes. I snorted again…..
It was a nasty sequence, let me tell you. Torn between my two favorite people in the world. How heart-wrenching! How totally surreal! (I mean, which of you have an 80+ year old grandma who crosses her eyes?)
But then Grandma reached her limit. Dad listed off the next rule and, leaning over, she patted his hand, nodded kindly, and said, “Yes, dear, and I have sand and a shovel in the trunk of my car.”
“Good!” Dad said, relieved. “For traction if you get stuck on the ice!”
And then Grandma uttered the words that have kept her in my heart for always as the kind of woman I want to be one day.
“Oh no dear,” she said, patting his hand again. “That’s to cover the bodies!”

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14 thoughts on “Memoir Monday

  1. I love it – and it reminds me of something my mom and I would do! I love reading what you write…

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