Storytime: Self-help.

November 25th, 2015

My grandma’s not so healthy these days. Nothing big, but lots of little things, if you get my meanings. Nothing quite holds together like it used to and that can get you down which means you should distract yourself with lots of hobbies and errands and so on.
Like gardening.
“Read this package,” she told me.
“That’s tomato seeds,” I told her.
“Read this package,” she told me.
“That’s canned tomatoes,” I told her.
“Read THIS package,” she said.
“That’s tomato ketchup,” I told her.
Grandma frowned. “I know I bought some other seeds in here somewhere. Or at least something that isn’t tomatoes. Or garlic.”
“Garlic’s good for you.”
“It makes me queasier than a bow-legged dog on a boat in the Baltic. You’d better not have let me get any or I’ll blow my top I swear. What’s this?”
“Tomato paste.”
She pulled out the last can in the grocery bag. “And this?”
“Kidney beans.”
“Hah, I knew I bought something that wasn’t tomatoes. I didn’t know they sold kidneys at the store, though.”
“Not kidneys. Kidney beans. You know, in a can.”
“You can use beans as kidneys? Well no-one told me that. What do we have a doctor for if he isn’t telling me that?”
“You can’t use beans as kidneys.”
“How do you know? You’re not even a doctor, so you’re not even fully wrong. Why don’t you put these on that shelf and get out of my way for a moment.”
I made my usual mistake and did what I was told and before I’d turned around again what had she done but opened herself up with her sharpest kitchen knife, clean as a whistle.
“Oh hush up and help me fit this bean in here. And go get my sewing kit, would you, dear?”
I ran to dial 911 instead, spent five minutes huffing and puffing around the house failing to find the phone, and ran back into the kitchen to ask grandma to find her finishing the stitches.
“Not a wink of help from you,” she said sourly. “Some grandchild. Some good you do me some days. First you’re not a doctor, then you don’t tell me doctors don’t know about kidney beans, then you go and leave me to fetch my own sewing kit. Don’t go asking for anything nice for your birthday this year, don’t you dare! Now give me a kiss and go home.”

Now I probably should’ve phoned the hospital after that. That’s what you should do, right? But grandma’s stitches were tight as a drum and she didn’t seem bothered and above all else I was a really phenomenal coward, so I didn’t do diddly. I did mention it to mom, though.
“Ah, well, you know your grandmother,” she said with a shrug. And that was that.

My grandma’s doing a bit better these days. A few sniffs and coughs and rattles like anyone else, but nothing that a few chores couldn’t keep your mind off.
Like going to the park.
“These are real good kidneys, you know. Better than the real deal. I haven’t had so much fun peeing since summer camp.”
“Kidney beans aren’t kidneys,” I told her.
“So you say, but what do you know? I bet I could out-piss any of these dogs.”
“Maybe that one,” I said. The animal I was pointing at was collapsed in the sun, squinting at the daylight and hiccoughing occasionally.
“Oh that’s a nice comparison to make. Real nice. I bet your mother told you to say that. She’d say you should say that sort of thing to me. Real nice. Look at that poor thing, it’s flat as a sack.”
The dog yalloped in a listless sort of way, then fell over further.
“Heartworms, I bet,” I said.
“Heartworms. You know, worms in-”
“Its heart is made of worms?”
“No, there’s worms in-”
“Its chest? My, didn’t know worms came so sturdy. They always seemed too squishy for work like that. All I’ve got is a murmur, I should try worms instead. So they just wrap around it and squeeze, right? Like an octopus?”
“They don’t-” but it was too late because my grandma had been walking while she was talking – marching, really – and she was up to the dog and had her arm up to its elbow in the poor thing’s throat. It wurfed indignantly around her shoulder, but she scratched its ear with her free hand and it seemed to settle down and wag a little.
“Good girl, good girl,” she said. “Aha! Gotcha!” And out came her arm, a little damp, a little sticky, and clutching the most surprised-looking wad of heartworms I’d ever seen in my life at that point. “Now, pass me my purse, will you?”
I did as I was told, from a position of moral weakness. “Won’t there be a mess?” I inquired, timidly.
“Nonsense,” she said, rummaging around inside it. “I brought Kleenex. And my sewing kit, of course. Ah, THERE’S the knife!”

The operation didn’t seem to be a problem for her – she didn’t even use a park bench. But the stitching got a little tricky near the end, when the dogs kept trying to stick their noses inside the incision. I was too busy shoving them away and throwing sticks to protest, and also of course I was much too meek to anyways. Instead I made my way to my mom, who I informed of current events.
“Oh well, that’s just how your grandmother can be,” she said lugubriously. And that was that.

My grandma’s doing okay most of the time. She has her off days, but they’re rarer than not, and she can get herself over the humps with a bit of exercise.
Like going shopping. Or, well, trying to.
“This is a fine mess, this is,” she grumped as we waited outside the grocery store. “Such a lot of fuss over a whatever this is.”
“Contamination alert,” I told her.
“Oh, it can’t be that bad. I shop here all the time.”
“The fish was full of parasites.”
“Ah, who cares? I don’t even eat fish. Fish is for people with bad hearts, and mine is fit as a fiddle thanks to all those worms.”
“Heartworms don’t help your heart.”
“Easy for you to say, you’ve never tried it. I feel better than I have in years, and you seem awful sluggish and soft. Maybe some heartworms’d do you good. We should get you fish, at least. Oh, there it is.”
The fish was being wheeled out of the building by men in severely white clothing. There were gloves involved and everyone’s eyebrows were at half-mast.
“Well, let’s get a bit.”
“It’s infested, grandma. Full of flukes.”
“Full of what? The flu? You’ve had your shots, who cares.”
“Flukes. Not flu.”
“Fluke whats?”
“Liver flukes,” I said, and I realized my mistake before she even said “oh GOODY!” and scurried over to accost the nearest cart.
“I’m really sorry,” I said to the man with the gloves, who was trying and failing to talk. “We’ll just be going now don’t mind-”
“I DON’T NEED the fish,” she said, using volume as rhetoric. “I JUST NEED the liver flukes. Got it? He doesn’t get it. Here dear, can you-”
I snatched her purse out of her hands.
“My, that’s quick, no need to be so hasty. But thank you,” she said, pulling the knife out of her coat pocket. “I’ll really need both hands to get at my liver.”

It was hard to say if that time went so smoothly because she’d had more practice, or if it was thanks to the frantic and angry hand lent by the man with gloves, who was a dab hand at threading a needle even through latex layers.
“Such lovely cross-stitching too,” my grandma told him. “Who taught you?” He hadn’t told us.
I stood nearby and made helpful noises and eventually slunk home under the glare of a half-dozen health and safety officers, sure that I was being written into some lists somewhere that would impede any career I cared to name. The most I could do to console myself was to drop by my mom on the way home.
“Eh, there’s no helping it,” she told me calmly. “You know how your grandmother acts.” And that was that.

My grandma’s in good health these days, always sunny-side up and walking faster than me most places. And she goes to a lot of places now, always on the move to see something new, or visit something old that’d slipped out of her mind.
Like the zoo.
“They’re asleep,” she said dejectedly. “Look at them, they’re asleep. How can they be so tired? It’s barely noon!”
“They’re crocodiles,” I said. “Ectotherms. They soak up heat in the morning.”
“Ectoplasmic? They’re congested? Oh, I can sympathize, I really can. But how did they get that way if they weren’t smoking?”
“They weren’t smoking, grandma.”
“I hope not. I wouldn’t ever come here again if the keepers let the animals smoke. Maybe they are and you just don’t know it; here, look at this one, he’s all out of breath too.”
I squinted at the tiny, not-quite-brass plaque. “That’s a lungfish, grandma. It’s meant to be like that.”
“A well now!”
“No, a lungfisohforgoodness’ssakeputthatDOWN”
The crash of the rock and the tinkle of glass slid away under the howling wail of the security alarm, and all the will to shout scream protest or even sigh slid away from me as she reached into the tank with one hand and her purse with the other.
“Needle!” she commanded.

I’m still not sure how we got home that day without being arrested. We walked right past the security officers like they were furniture – grandma was still wiping off the lungfish slime from her hands, and didn’t look up, and I was too frightened to look anyone in the eye – and the police pulled into the parking lot as we left. I went home with the shakes six times over and in the morning I phoned in sick and phoned out mom.
“Not much to be done, with your grandmother,” she advised me. And that was that.

My grandma’s fit as a fiddle and exactly seventeen times as noisy and energetic. She’s been everywhere in the city at least twice and at most thrice. Now and then she stops by my house and berates me until I go out with her.
“You’re much too frail these days,” she told me severely, as she towed me into the grocery store. “Week arms, noodly legs, swimming head, lidded eyes, and I expect you still have a weak heart because we never got you that fish.”
I mumbled protest.
“Speak up and shut up,” she said, stalking down the aisles with a predatory eye. “Now we’re going to get you something to eat, something to wake up with.” Produce started to hurl itself at me, my fingers fumbled and grasped and bent as I strove to catch it.
“A good soup or stew or something,” grandma muttered. “Tomatoes and beans and potatoes and onions and celery and carrots and garlic and-”
She stopped. Then she turned around very slowly, and held up a small bulb next to my face.
“What’s this?” she asked.
I squinted at it, eyes wobbling and watery.
“Garlic?” I ventured.
“Oh,” she said. “I thought you said that.”
She blinked, then hiccupped. Then hiccupped again, louder and faster.

My grandma’s recovering with surprising speed, and the hospital’s really quite impressed. They’ve got enough material for five or six research papers. Grandma’s happy enough too, seeing as they’re already trying to sign her in as a surgeon.
And I guess I’m doing okay, too. The stew turned out alright, and I had enough extras for the family – minus grandma. I dropped off mom’s last night, along with some news from the hospital. She was happy to hear it, and seemed no more worried than she’d been when I’d stepped out of the grocery store last week to find her waiting there next to an already-summoned ambulance.
“Nothing to worry about,” she’d told me tranquilly. “You know your grandmother. Just not quite as well as I do.”

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.