Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hanukkah, G'ma Style

All of a sudden, I'm nearly done with my holiday shopping.  Not only that, I am nearly done with G'ma's holiday shopping as well.  One of the perks of having her close is that I get to shop with her for cards and gifts and then we get to sign them and stamp them and put the address labels on them and then we get to decorate the envelopes with stickers.  My goal is to have an empty stationary drawer in her desk before she sheds this mortal coil.

"Do you think I should?" she asked when I directed her towards the sticker pile and suggested that she adorn the envelopes with shiny expressions of love and affection.  I brushed away the wisp of Can't she even make this decision for herself? which was quickly followed by Oh, dear God, don't let her become an anxious old lady and refocused the question back to her ability to decide for herself.   

"If you want to.  If you feel like it.  I know the kids like to look at them when they're riding up in the elevator from their mailboxes to their apartments." And that was, obviously, the deciding factor because if the kids like it then she was going to do it. Even if her arthritic twisted fingers struggled with separating the picture from the backing.  Even if she found pressing them down on the vellum to be worthy of a grunt or two.  Even if she wondered mid-stick why she was doing what she was doing.  

She interspersed the activity with complaints about the pens she was using.  Barnes and Noble Gift Cards come with slippery To/From paper backing and neither Bic nor Roller Ball nor Sharpie was quite right.  Over the years, she's been measuring her decline by her ability to recreate the fluid signature that was all her own, a dramatic first initial, almost calligraphy in its elegance and style, followed by the swooping looping n's that looked like u's and finished with the flourish underneath.  Between the unsuitable pens and the game table which refused to stop rocking as she wrote, her grumbling just kept getting louder.  It kept her from moving her dentures around in her mouth, though, so it was almost a good thing.

I'm going to have to remember to tell the recipients that it was the pen and the table and not her physical prowess which made the signatures look like they were written on the back of a Harley going 80 down I-95.

We used to write checks to the grandchildren when celebrations came around.  After months of nagging and pleading and threatening to withhold further gifts until the previous ones were deposited or cashed, it occurred to me that we were sending 20th century presents to 21st century kids.  They have never lived in a world without an ATM on every corner, a world where a credit card was something you were honored to receive, where cash was useful for something other than vending machines, where no one had heard of direct deposit.  G'ma was demanding that they make a trip to the bank to deal with her gift; this was asking a lot for people who take care of their financial transactions electronically.  When Princess Myrtle was in Cairo, a birthday check drawn on an American bank would have been little more than a hostile gesture.  G'ma and I discussed a variety of plastic options and she settled on B&N.  She didn't like the notion of forcing them into an on-line experience, so Amazon was out of contention.   "What if they want to look at the books?" was enough to convince me that we'd made the right choice.  If only she could write on the packaging.

She's enjoying the Thanksgiving decorations I've put around her apartment.  They are new to her every time she sees them and I revel in her Isn't he adorable?  and Look at her sitting there! and silently compliment myself on the progress I've made.  I'm no longer sad that she can't remember that these decorations have been up since November 1st.  I'm smiling at the joy they bring her.  And we're both laughing at her when she wonders how many times she has admired them.  What else can we do?

She can keep the grandkids straight, assigning each to the proper parental units.  She recognizes me and asks about TBG every time I walk through the door.  She's dressing herself and feeding herself and working on her word puzzles and reading and rereading Brother's real estate newsletter and she can laugh at the 62 pound pumpkin he grew and wonder about the fertilizer and the provenance of the seeds.  And I tell her.  Over and over again.  And again.  And then ten minutes later.  

And I smile, because she's here to ask me things, over and over, every ten minutes.  She's mine and I'm keeping her and that's all there is to it.

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