Brunching with Lucy

Fun fact: My grandmother reads this blog. And by that I don’t mean that she visits this site periodically or subscribes via email, but rather that my brother prints each week’s post and then mails it to her house.

“I’m so glad he sends them,” she said. “Without him, I wouldn’t know the time of day.”

That’s not exactly true. My grandmother might be 95 years old, but she’s still pretty with it. She lives independently in the house she and my grandfather bought 75 years ago and, for the most part, has kept everything – including three years’ worth of blog posts and their corresponding envelopes – in perfect order.

“Look how nice your brother writes my address,” she commanded, holding up an envelope. “Every week he does this, you know that? He writes so nice.”

“I can see that,” I agreed, turning to my brother. “You write so nice, Tom.”

He stifled a laugh. “My writing is excellent,” he said. “Look at the back. I also do the return address.”

“Beautiful,” I agreed. “I’ll have to work on my writing.”

My grandmother threw her hands up. “Nova! I told you before that you write well!” she shouted. “How many times do I have to say it?!”

I don’t know. Numbers and modesty have never been my thing. But let me put it this way: Whatever you think is an appropriate amount, double it – and then make it more than that.

 

My grandmother periodically refers to herself as “a shut in,” but that’s also fairly inaccurate. She’s not so much homebound as she is without a chauffeur – a point she proved later that day when she refused to be dropped off at the front door of the local Cracker Barrel “like some old bag” and instead insisted on walking the entire length of their pockmarked parking lot. Drunk on freedom and fresh air, she then did exactly what every woman does at brunch: she ordered a cup of coffee and proceeded to complain about a man no one else had ever met.

“He was one of those people,” she said of her one-time neighbor, as she sawed through a chicken BLT. “I heard him say, ‘There’s two types of people: the Irish and the people who wish they were Irish.’ And I thought, Oh you wish, buddy. He was just a produce guy at the A&P. He thought he was so great.”

“Did he?” I asked.

“ALL THE IRISH DO!” she replied. “They think they’re something special. Like anyone wishes to be Irish!”

Let the record show that if there’s ever an appropriate time and place to have a latently racist outburst, it’s the Wilkes Barre Cracker Barrel on a Saturday afternoon. None of the other patrons batted an eyelash, probably because they were hard of hearing, or maybe because they were also Italian Americans who don’t want their annual tomato festival to turn into a multicultural affair. Either way, no one said a thing.

“Well that’s enough about the Irish,” my grandmother said. “Tell me something. Where are you going next?”

Ireland,” I answered.

I’m not even joking, either. Ice Bath and I have a date there in a few weeks. And I have a little Magellan helping me find the way.

 

One of my favorite things about my grandmother’s house is her closet, which is filled with the most fantastic collection of vintage dresses you could ever imagine. Many of them have made their way into my possession by now, which is pretty generous of my grandmother considering that the only thing I ever gave her in return was a down coat which, in her words, makes her look “like a refugee.”

“I saw that ring you bought,” she said. “It looks more like a weapon, if you ask me.”

“I didn’t ask you,” I pointed out.

She shrugged then held her hands out across the table to display the engagement ring on one finger and a mother’s ring on the other. “I have rings,” she said.

“I know,” I said. “I like your jewelry.”

“Do you know how I got this ring?” she asked, pointing to her diamond. Then, before I could answer, she launched into a story about a coal stove that her mother insisted on moving 300 miles across the state Pennsylvania in the 1930s.

“My mother said, ‘I’m not moving unless my stove comes with me!” she explained. “She was very stubborn.”

“Well that explains a lot,” I mumbled. “What does this have to do with the ring?”

“WELL LISTEN!” my grandmother yelled. “Anyway. Pop Pop and all these other people got together and moved the stove because that was the only way she’d go. Then, when they got there, the stove didn’t fit the chimney and they had to hook up an extra burner. It never worked right after that. It was a huge mess.”

“And?” I prompted.

“Well when Pop Pop proposed to me with this ring, I said, ‘You’re sure that you want to marry me?’ And he said, ‘Oh yes! I feel about you the way your mother feels about her coal stove.’”

I laughed.

“It’s not funny, Nova!” she insisted. “I said to him, ‘Are you callin’ me an oven?’ That’s no way to start,” She shook her head. “And they shouldn’t have moved that stove either.”

I agree on all counts.

 

A trip down Memory Lane is not without its bumps. When my grandmother and I finished our lunch, she sighed. “I’d like to go more places,” she said. “But I’m too old now.”

“Well you did go lots of places,” I pointed out. “And you had three children. And ran a business. And were married for 75 years.”

“Yes,” she said. “But I would have liked to see the world. I can’t do that anymore.”

“Well you’re 95,” I answered. “Count your blessings: You’re still living in your own house. You’re out to lunch. You’re healthy. You can calculate an 18 percent tip on a $21 bill with frightening speed and accuracy.”

“Well yes,” she agreed. “But… I should have learned to drive.”

“Well it’s too late for that,” I confirmed.

“And…” she continued. “Well… I’m not happy with my hair.”

I put both hands on the table and leaned halfway across.

Join the club,” I said.

 

On our way out of Cracker Barrel that day, a middle aged woman stopped to hold the door for us. My grandmother responded by boasting about the size of the lunch she just ate, her age, and how far away our parking spot was – in that order.

“You’re 95?” the woman asked. “Well you’re the best looking 95 year old I ever saw.”

I haven’t seen too many people pushing 100, but I’d have to agree with her. My grandmother looks pretty great so long as she’s not wearing the refugee coat.

“This is my granddaughter,” my grandmother continued. “She’s traveled the whole world.”

“I haven’t,” I corrected, waving my hand at the stranger.

“You have,” she insisted.

The woman looked us both over. “You two look alike,” she said, turning to me. “When you’re her age, you’ll look just like that.”

“I can believe that,” I smiled.

“You’ll be just like that,” the woman added.

I can believe that too. In 60 years, I’ll still be loud as a siren and stubborn as a coal stove. Hopefully with the same great wardrobe.

 

Want more Lucy? Read another here.

 

 

6 Comments
  1. Gotta tell ya. When I was doing my externship I saw lots of people near 100…and older. She looks fabulous :)

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