28 December 2008

we need to talk about grandparents for a moment.

a few years ago- just before christmas, on my grandfather's birthday- my grandmother fell and broke her hip and early on in the long year of the doctors putting her back together, she and i shared this nightmarish night alone together in a hospital in tupelo, mississippi. everyone else was exhausted and they all went home. so it was me and her alone at such a late hour our manners prevented us from summoning everyone back for help.

so we sat in her room just looking at each other, waiting.

it was the only time i've heard my grandmother say the word "porno."

we were both of us convinced she was going to die.

she didn't.

there are moments, random tiny fleeting glances during the hour or two we have together every three or four months now, when she catches my eye with a look that i can only feebly describe as quiet pride and unmitigated grit. i don't know what it means. only that it has something to do with the night she didn't die. something to do with me having been there.

she's a tough one. friday night, my grandfather sat in bed- tears shining in his eyes, spilling down his cheeks, falling onto his bandaged hand that was holding mine- his voice cracking as he talked about how proud he was of her.

their victories are precious. coming off calcium shots. good blood pressure readings. no fluid in the lungs.

it's funny how the world contracts when you get older. how everything is suddenly pared down to the essentials, the fundamental level of individual failing body parts.

i worry about what i'm going to do with my life. how i'm going to get to the same place as the boy i love. how i'm going to convince him to let me have four dogs.

right now, my grandparents whole world- where they're going to be in three months, what they're going to be doing tomorrow- hinges upon a heart.

they've been married for eleven hundred years and it's impossible to believe there was ever a time they weren't together, because you don't think about joe without burvil. gran without pawpaw.

she's a tough cookie, he said, but the women in my family aren't always as tough as they look.

in the wee hours of friday morning, when he was hospitalized for the side-effects of a heart attack he didn't know he had suffered three weeks before, my grandmother pulled herself up to her full 4 feet, 9 inches and pulled everything together. she grabbed his toothbrush, his wallet, the phone charger, the roller-board of medicines and the neatly typed list of all their names. she rode in the ambulance. she filled out all the forms. she made it look very easy.

only later did she admit she'd forgotten to put on any underwear.