My Nan would've been 90 today. She was my paternal grandmother, whom we called "Nanny" growing up. Her version of how she got that name, rather than the more conventional "Grandma," was that as a toddler, I couldn't pronounce "Grandma" and said "Nana" instead. My mother's version was that my grandmother was too vain to approve being called "Grandma," so insisted on a name with fewer age-related associations. There is no end to the stories in which my mother's version differed dramatically from her mother-in-law's version, which is a pretty standard phenomenon, I guess.
In honor of the anniversary of her birth, a re-run of one of my stories of my grandmother:
When I was growing up, spending time with my paternal grandparents, Pap had a habit of sitting in a chair in the corner of the kitchen beside the woodstove, sometimes reading, sometimes just sitting there over his ridiculously strong cup of tea, looking curmudgeonly--he had more hair and fewer teeth but otherwise resembled Nebbercracker from the movie Monster House in some significant ways. I know Nebbercracker was supposed to be a scary bad guy, especially at the beginning, but I found myself a little nostalgic and missing Pap even in the opening scenes of the movie.
Anyway, there he sat, in the chair in the corner of the kitchen and Nan was often puttering around the house or watching TV in the living room. The house was a converted hunting cabin and had only three rooms so when he yelled for her, in his phlegmy, grunty way (emphysema), she wouldn't have any problem hearing him.
"Em," he would yell, and then pause for a response, which wouldn't come, so he'd yell again.
Meanwhile, my grandmother was wherever she was smirking and rolling her eyes, knowing what was coming, and not answering because of it.
This would sometimes go on for three or four rounds before finally, finally Nan would cave and say, "What?!" or sometimes (if this was, say, the third or fourth time that day that Pap had gotten into this mood), "What, you crazy old son-of-a-bitch?!"
And always, always, always, Pap would say, "Kiss my dupa*!" He was a sixty-something-year-old man with a six-year-old's mischievous glint in his eye. Sometimes--even if it was the fourth or fifth time that day he'd pulled his clever little trick--he would laugh so hard a coughing fit would ensue.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately--not merely because it's the kind of funny-in-a-warped way story that is so typical of my grandparents--but because in my own funny-in-a-warped way brain, it's become a metaphor for my entire life.
There are some things about myself and my life that I would really like to change. I would like to be more motivated and energetic and I understand that the main way to get moving is to actually move. I want to spend less energy procrastinating and more energy actually accomplishing. I lecture myself pretty much perpetually. The last ten minutes before I fall asleep, many of my thoughts begin with "First thing tomorrow, I will..." and yet day after day after month after year, not much changes.
So there is the lecturing side of myself--the well-intentioned, you-can-do-more-better-faster self but then there is the other side, sitting in the corner, clamoring for attention. ("Em!" "Em!" "Emma!") And that more-better-faster person tries nobly to resist the pull of the non-productive, unhealthy, but oh-so-deeply-ingrained creature of slothful habits, but finally, finally, always, always she gives in and shouts, "What, you crazy old son-of-a-bitch?!"
A few links (with previews) to other stories featuring my grandmother:
Weirdness: "My Nan was Catholic and a kleptomaniac, among many other things, not that those two things--Catholicism and kleptomania--are directly related, of course."
Don't Judge a Post By Its Title (Or Lack Thereof): "...have me thinking about what other genetic time bombs my grandmother has left behind. Will I soon start eating kidney beans out of the can while watching People's Court and Entertainment Tonight? Will I shave my legs with a dry razor while sitting on a lawn chair in the front yard?"
"Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning...": "I sometimes think parenting is just an elaborate payback for all the grief we caused the adults in our lives when we were kids...Oh, Nan, wherever you are, they're getting back at me now."
*Growing up, I knew "dupa" was "ass" and just assumed it was German, given my grandfather's heritage. But, turns out, if it is German it is regional slang borrowed from one of several Eastern European neighbors