Today I had lunch with my grandma at the retirement lodge, and now comes my favorite part of blogging, coming up with nicknames for all the characters in my life. Let’s call her my grandma “Depressia” because she is the most incredibly manic depressive Polish Jew on the face of planet Earth. Over the week-end when my mom and I went to see her, she complained about some itch she’s had the past few days as well as her usual horrible constipation, which has been a problem for as long as my mother can remember. Depressia says the medication she’s on makes her constipated, but it’s clearly the lack of roughage. She whined that I never see her, which is, of course, a complete lie, (or should I more lovingly say “exaggeration”?) I’m there for lunch all the time. (Okay, now I’m exaggerating, but I’m there every week.) And she complained about how my sister never calls her, and that she never hears from various other relatives. And so my mom piped up.
“Maybe no one wants to see you because you complain all the time.”
“I never complain!” Depressia’s exact words. Mom and I just burst out laughing. I don’t know what she thinks the word “complain” means. She’s either deeply in denial, a terrible liar, or this is the brain damage from a stroke about five years back talking. I suspect some combination of all three. Really, that day she was so upset, that I thought something must be wrong upstairs. She doesn’t have dementia like my other grandmother. She’s just stubborn, manic and completely incorrigible.
So today at lunch, she asked me the same questions she asks me every time I see her. She asks what the friends of mine she can actually bother to remember are doing. The same friends, every time.
“What was the name of that friend of yours? The taller one.”
“They’re all taller than me.”
She was asking about a friend of mine whose name is the same as a university. Then I tell her he’s in university, but not the one he’s named after. She finds it very confusing, and I find it rather tedious.
Then she asked me about Spike. I got sick of telling her he was taking radio broadcasting, so this time I made up a lie. I figured if I made it more colorful, she’d remember and she could ask me something else next time around. Of course, part of memory is proper hearing, which she doesn’t have.
This is verbatim, our conversation. Three old ladies at the next table were all laughing at us, repeating each word to one another, as if I couldn’t hear them.
“What is you he doing these days?”
“He’s going to clown school. He’s wants to join the circus.”
“He’s going to be a lawyer?”
“Yes, grandma, he’s going to be a clown attorney.”
“Like your mother. You know, your mother used to be a crown attorney.”
“Yes, I know, grandma. I was there.”
We went back to her room, and I ran some errands for her, reading her incoming e-mails, writing replies back on her behalf, (which beats the heck out of watching her do it), and fiddling with her knitting machine, an ancient, broken down piece of Dutch technology from the sixties. Before I left, she told me to promise her something. And this is where I brace myself because I know she’s about to ask me to make a promise I either won’t or can’t keep.
“Will you go and see a psychiatrist?” For awhile now, she’s been obsessing that I need to see a shrink, basically because I don’t have a job. To not have a job for this long means you must be crazy, or unhappy, or something. I’m not sure she’s even ever seen a psychiatrist herself, so what the hell does she know?
“No, I won’t.”
“Because I don’t want to.”
“Please, it’s important to me!”
“What’s important to you is totally irrelevant. It’s not important to me, and that’s all that matters. Psychiatry is designed to help people who want it. I don’t. Maybe you should see one. You’re the one that’s depressed all the time.”
“When you were little, your mother didn’t nurture you. She was too tired, and you father was working too hard. I had to nurture you myself whenever I could. I went crying to (auntie Twiggy) and she said that later on, life would get better for you. You may not remember it, but you were always afraid of your father, and it’s still affecting you.”
“Right. Goodbye, grandma.” She’s given me this strange explanation before, and she’ll probably do it again. The great thing about being me is, when I’m ready to leave, I just leave.