I am in love with my grandmother. In awe. Enraptured. I want to exaggerate the pieces of genetics she’s graciously handed down. I relish them, but, sadly, I am no Ada. The world will only ever have one. My grandmother dislikes excess. Her parents, in a psychic show of support, never gave her a middle name. When asked about this, she says, “What do I need with a middle name? We were poor. Poor people didn’t have middle names. Did they?” When I tell her that almost everyone has a middle name, she shrugs and says, “Who needs it? Not me. I got by without one.” Truth: My middle name has never once picked up a check or bailed me out of jail. Grandma, you’re right. As usual.
Ada was always the proud master of her home. Or yours. She will walk into anyone’s kitchen and rearrange it, and, I don’t mean with her stares. She will literally rearrange your kitchen. You’re a professional chef? She’s not impressed. You’re doing it wrong. Make yourself at home in your own home while she spends most of three seasons of any syndicated television series telling you exactly what you’re doing wrong, demonstrating by physically moving your dishwasher to the opposite side of your galley kitchen. Just grab a beer, sit down and relax. Turn the chair somewhat in her direction and maintain moderate to negligent eye contact. In 4 – 5 hours, you will not know where anything in your house is. Let me help you, the batteries are in the butter drawer. Why? “They LAST longer there. Didn’t you KNOW that?” No, Grandma. I didn’t.
She will talk to anyone. Forever. If you have a meeting to get to across town, I will pray that you don’t run into her, while simultaneously hoping that you do run into Ada on the way. The grandma vortex is strong. Fourteen hours later, you’re found holding a suspiciously delicious egg salad sandwich in your newly rearranged kitchen.
She calls every male who touches produce, “Young man!” and, she insists that your local market is
storing the freshest produce in a secret location. Yes. Somewhere in your very own store, there is a separate produce section marked with red carpet entry and a bouncer a la Fruit of the Loom. Telling her this isn’t so yields no passivity. Congratulations, you’ve just thrown fresh chum into shark infested waters. Repress any attempts to tell her that the, “young man!” found unloading oranges is a college student on Spring Break. To her, he is King Tropicana, Ruler of Florida’s prestigious orange groves and her ticket to the VIP produce section. Five minutes later, she’s invited him to date one of her eligible granddaughters. “Orange Groves are a lovely place to get married!”
Ada cuts the excess plastic off of her bread bag. You should try it. You won’t be disappointed OR, maybe you will be. You’ll never know until you try. When I ask her why she does this, she says, “The plastic takes up too much space in my refrigerator. Look at how much room I have now!” * points proudly to shelf with no visible space.* It’s hard to argue with completely fabricated fact. Spoiler alert: *whispers* It doesn’t save space, it just LOOKS better. Don’t tell her I said that as I, long ago, drank the kool-aid and religiously do the same.
When we told her the name of our fourth child, she cried, “WHAT? I was JUST getting over the the last name. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?”
When we told her our trees would have to be removed after Tropical Storm Irene, she sighed the world’s largest weight off shoulders sigh, “Oh GOOD. I’m so happy you thought of it. I was wondering if you would be out there one day and those damn trees would fall right on the children!”
When I told her that her non-Catholic granddaughter was sending her great-grandchildren to Catholic School, she sat silent for a few moments and then said, “Well, those Catholics are crazy, but, they sure have good schools.” Ahem, agreed.
When we told her we were moving across the country, she said, “I love you. You do what you have to do for your family.”
My grandmother is honest. If you are an asshole, she will tell you. You will just have to sit pretty with the knowledge that you are, indeed, an asshole because Ada NEVER lies. Ada’s scepter of truth is always blinking; guiding all of her assholes home.
My childhood was sordid, difficult and tumultuous. Grandma Ada was home in a sea of houses. The home that was safe. The home where good food, warm blankets and love were always offered. Where you were unconditionally loved, despite your selfish tendencies. Where advice was given whether you asked for it or felt you needed it. But, rest assured, when she gives it, you need it.
Ada was the youngest of 10 children. She has told me that she believes her mother was not really meant to be a mother. She has said, so matter of factly, that those were just the times they lived in. You had children in the middle of great poverty or personal depression. She remembers being dirty. She will coolly tell you that her mother didn’t care for her. She tells these stories with the greatest strength. That strength breaks my heart.
Everything she owns, she earned. Everything she says, she means. Every child she watched grow, she loves.
Every good and truly selfless thing I’ve done, I learned by watching her. Here is to Ada No Middle Name, storer of cold batteries, severed bread bags and bearer of the undying love of a thousand mothers despite her failure to find even an ounce of it in the mother she was given. To the woman who tells us when we’re assholes and loves us right through it.
I love you too.
|My Grandmother. “Ada With Strawberries” by artist Susan Brabeau|