my grandma was* the type of grandma who would exclaim how beautiful you were upon walking into the room. didn’t matter how you actually looked.
when i see other people with their grandparents or elderly relatives i have a repetitive cycle of emotions. i’ve had it for as long as i can remember. the, ‘aww, how sweet’ endearment is immediate, but short lived. it’s a coarse thought that i’m not so proud of, but my next immediate thought is sympathetic and sardonic and goes something like this; “that’s sweet. too bad your grandparents aren’t my grandparents because there’s no way those people can love you as much as my grandparents love me. still, it’s nice that you try.”
it sounds incredibly childish, but i feel it solidly. it’s like believing in god. you can’t prove it god exists, but for someone who believes in god, it’s absolutely true for them.
likewise, there is no way that i can prove to you that my grandparents are/were better than yours. but i can tell you it’s absolutely true.
i feel bad for people who don’t/ didn’t have my grandparents. i only had/ have one set of grandparents. my mom’s parents passed before i was born. i think i would’ve liked my mom’s mom a great deal -not so sure about her dad- but i feel that i was blessed with the greatest grandparents alive- and the other grandparents would’ve been a cheaper, knock-off set by comparison. (sorry mom, but when you’re dealing with the ‘superman’ of grandparents, the rules change.)
there were times when my family would get together with aunts, uncles and cousins. sometimes my cousins’ other grandparents would be there. even as a youngster i would size them up. i’d look over at my younger cousins and think, “man, it’s got to be weird having to pretend that you like those people as much as your ‘real’ grandma and grandpa.” other grandparents were stern and cold. my grandparents laughed a lot and dosed out compliments and hugs. my cousins, brother and i were the most talented, intelligent, athletic, and beautiful children.
i sometimes forget that because i’m about ten years older than my cousins, they didn’t get to see grandma the same way i did. i got to see her before she was ill. she was always up early and making a frenzy of work in the kitchen. i wasn’t much of a breakfast person, but upon setting a toe on the floor at the bottom of the stairs she wanted to know what i wanted for breakfast; eggs, pancakes, bacon, cereal, toast. i opted for toast a lot- but that didn’t make decisions easier. “white, wheat, rye, pumpernickel, or cinnamon-raisin?”
you often hear about ‘grandma’s’ recipes from people. ‘oh, my grandmother had the best cobbler.’ blah, blah, blah. . yadda, yadda. (remember always- your grandmother is human, mine is superman.) my grandmother was a good cook. one iconic thing she had was lasagna. i’ve had lasagna here and there. some of it was good, and i’m always thankful for anyone who goes to the trouble of making it. . . . but it. isn’t. my. grandma’s. lasagna. sorry. my grandma’s lasagna had two secret ingredients. one of them was love, and the other i might teach you if i ever make her lasagna for you. even then, it can’t be as good, because she didn’t make it.
she was deathly allergic to shellfish and due to diabetes, there were many foods that she could no longer have. she often said, ‘take a bite for grandma’ when she knew you’d have something she couldn’t have. when i was younger i asked her what she meant. she explained she couldn’t eat it anymore and that if i thought of her when i took a bite then she could taste it again.
my grandmother died a little over nine years ago. i was in grad school, in ohio. my parents called during the week to give me a warning that they expected her to pass soon. i stood outside our main theatre school building shifting from side to side (very much realizing at that moment that shifting from side to side seemed to be something i did a lot, especially under stress). my friends joined me outside and tried to calm me down. i chatted with them through my tears. the week went on. there was a show on. sunday morning my parents called to let me know she passed. we made plans for the week then i got up and went to strike the show. my advisor called me over, wondering if i had heard any news. we were nearly done with the strike. without looking up from the floor i told her that my grandma had passed earlier that morning, and that i would most likely be missing a few days of school that week. then i went to finish the work.
one of the last things i got to tell grandma was that i had gotten an apprenticeship for the summer. toward the end she wasn’t always coherent, but she had some good days. that day was good. i told her i was going to work with an opera company. her eyes lit up wide and bright and watered a little. she loved opera.
she wouldn’t get to know how much that job meant to me. how it spun my world for better or worse. it filled my life with some of the hardest and best earned fulfillment i’ve had. she never got to taste it the way i did.
every so often there was a particularly beautiful aria that would stop me in my tracks. i sat in a quiet corner backstage closed my eyes and said, ‘this one’s for grandma.’ i would envision my ears funneling the sound through me and turning my body into a vibrating loudspeaker to my grandma.
i don’t know if my cousin acted as literally as i did as she watched lion king and thought of grandma. i like the thought though- my cousins, my brother and myself as a combined group feeding my grandma information (through the death curtain- like spies through the cold war curtain) snippets and bites as we continue on through our lives.
i don’t believe in life after death. but i would love to be proven wrong someday if my grandma would meet me on the other side and thank me for the beautiful music.
(of course then i’d have to do some apologizing and backtracking to my other grandparents about this blog.)
-i realize this was grandma centric even though i speak of both my grandparents as being supermen among ordinary humans. . . and sorry for the tense slashing. i still have one grandparent, my grandpa- just as my grandma is better than your grandma. . . so my grandpa is better than your grandpa. did your grandpa hand build a gorgeous cradle for you with hearts cut outs before you were born. .. that’s right. he didn’t. . . mine did.
*i just typed ‘is’ and had to go back to correct it.
while home i put my mom's new sewing machine to use. i trimmed up some of my clothes and then set out to make a going away gift for my friend camille. we both own animal suits that we've gotten here in korea. i used one of my animal suits as the template for her favorite character, max from where the wild things are. (here my brother graciously models my creation.)
and sister, you say you have your period too. i’m there with you. in fact, i usually get diarrhea as a side symptom of my period. so you have those amazing cramps that send you scurrying to the toilet in a cold sweat expecting to explode the instant your cheeks hit the seat. . . only to discover that it was a menstrual cramp. . . and not the trots. and now, you’re just sitting there, waiting, wishing something would bring relief.
i get it.
but wait. . . you say you’ve got bronchitis. well, well, well. that adds another dimension. now you have uncontrollable coughing spasms. and each time you convulse into coughs you have to hope all other orifices lock down. you cross your legs and squeeze your butt cheeks with every cough that bears down on your stomach muscles.
that lands you clearly in the land of suck.
but wait, it’s friday and it’s chuseok (korean harvest festival) game day at school. so, first you will make sungpyeon (a tasty little rice cake treat) with your class. then you’ll move to another room to set up a game and every ten to fifteen minutes a group of 15 to 20 students bounce into your room where you, the carney, run a fun game for them. you’ll get to lunch about 20 minutes late because your games ran late and then your students need to change out of their traditional chuseok clothes before they eat. . . sometime, you’ll get the break you need to get to a doc to get the antibiotics you need for that nasty cough, and then it’s only another three hours of classes before you can go home.
that lands you clearly in the land of erika.
if the past two weeks had been different, it’s possibly i wouldn’t be feeling quite as craptastic. many nights out for dinner, and several late ones all in celebration of friends leaving. burned the candle from too many ends i suppose.
so, i have four days off. might have been nice to have planned some trip or occasion. . . but i need tending to, and my apartment needs tending to. last weekend i spent recovering from a late friday night and hoping i wouldn’t get this sick. but here i am. . . sick and resting. it would be nice to use a sick day every so often to aid in my health (instead of chewing through all my weekend time.) but for now, can’t complain of being bored. there’s plenty of cleaning, organizing, posting, reading, and tv watching to cover more than four days.
i am on lock down, for my own good.