an American holiday / remembering Lola Jean

Last night I had a dream whereby I discovered the reason I have been feeling low energy and gaining weight was that I was once again pregnant. Of course, in real life this is a medical impossibility since my sole sexual partner has defunct sperm. In this dream, the miraculous and somewhat dubious event of my conception crossed my mind and, frankly, I worried about getting my ass beat by my husband when I told him (as it turns out, he did not in fact doubt my fidelity but rather the skills of the urologist who performed his vasectomy; anyway, soon after this he morphed into a quasi-husband rather than the Ralph I am married to – you know, in that way dreams do). From there my visions spiraled downward into shoplifting, a scene of mutilation, and a mildly incestuous theme that included shotgun-justice. Jesus, whose brain comes up with this stuff, anyway?

Today is the fourth anniversary of my grandmother’s death. This event is tied to “Invention & Technology” magazine in a very specific way, which I coincidentally discussed with Cyn regarding metal scrapping today. Now, I’m going to write five things about my grandmother:

1. She was a real bitch in a lot of ways. I think a big part of this was her struggle to raise five kids on her own while my Grandpa was off working or serving in wars. I don’t think she liked the actual kid-raising part of it very much. I didn’t know her then of course, and in later years I knew a woman who was compromised by a few significant health problems and just plain old age crotchety-ness. I’m not sure who she really would have been had I known her fully and without the Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? alcoholism (which also flows in my veins) and the constant backpain that made her so prone to vicious grouchiness. I did know her, though. The She that she Was did shine through like a bitter wrinkled coffee bean or a faithful mongrel dog and I loved her for it.

2. She had very un-Grandma-like platinum blonde hair that hung down to her ass – but she always, always wore it up (in a chingon supported by spritzes of Mink hairspray, which along with Emeraude perfume will remain indelibly fused to my early childhood memories of her). One summer when I was sixteen I saw her with her hair down as she brushed it out and I remarked on it’s baby-fine beauty and asked her to leave it down. “I’d look like the world’s oldest hippie!” she chuckled, amused (this did not seem like a bad thing to me; it seemed like a silly thing to her). She only wore it down at bedtime, with her bangs in tight little pincurls for the next day (and she did not give a shit who saw her in “bedtime hair” or even scrubbing her face and armpits wearing nothing but Granny panties when I walked in on her in the bathroom one day).

3. My grandfather doted on her, in a way that was not at all smarmy and also rather complicated to explain (since I also remember him shaking his empty highball glass at her and saying, “Jean! Jean!”). He has a blue Army tattoo of her name on his arm – must be at least 55 years old.

4. She found joy and happiness in the smallest of details. She talked with her crab-claw hands gesturing in a space eighteen inches from her sternum, describing the petits fours from the night before’s dinner or reaching for a cigarette from the ashtray on the kitchen table.

5. She met my first child – her first great-grandchild – as she lay dying in a hospital bed. She was severely disabled from stroke but she recognized us and instantly knew who Sophie was. Her hand (always manicured but talon-like) reached out and gripped my daughter’s leg and the eye we could see gleamed. She connected with my daughter and we visited with her off and on as she slipped further away. Days later she passed on. I was fortunate to be there in her last days (although my shit boss gave me shit for it). She lives on for me and I often wish she was still here, a tinny voice on the phone asking me if I breastfeed my children and saying, “Oh good!” in her smoky laugh.

Happy 4th!

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