“ Sarah, your phone is ringing.”
My husband shook me lightly, waking me up from the blissful sleep.
How many hours more to go until I resume my daily circus? Dear Universe, please let me sleep…
“Go away.” I said groggily, pushing his hands away at the same time.
“It’s your Grandma. Can I answer?”
Suddenly I am awake. I sat up on the bed quickly and took the phone from my husband.
“Sarah, sorry if I woke you up.”
“No. It’s fine Nana.”
I said, stifling a yawn. She has this infamous habit of calling at ungodly hours and always starting with an ‘ I am sorry’, but not really meaning it.
“Sarah, I need help. I can’t find my blue scarf!”
Next to me, my husband rolled his eyes.
“What do you mean by again?” Her tone was accusatory.
“Remember I helped you find it a few weeks back? You said you checked everywhere and then I found it in the laundry basket?”
“No. Not that one.” She cut in quickly. “That was the ocean blue one. I am talking about the navy blue scarf. The one your grandpa gifted me for our 15th anniversary. And before you ask, the laundry basket was the first place I checked.”
“Why do you need the scarf now Nana? We are in the middle of summer and it’s boiling hot outside.”
“ I am not planning to wear it Sarah. I was just going through my old clothes and books and I found out that this scarf was missing.”
That got my attention.
“Wait a sec. Please don’t tell me you went anywhere near the old suitcases!”
Last time she did it, she had an asthma attack and an ambulance had to be called in. Thanks to her neighbor who decided to drop by for a visit. We would have lost her otherwise.
“What am I supposed to do sitting here? I need to move my body or I will be gulping down cholesterol tablets very soon.”
“Where did Shirley go? Didn’t she come today?”
Shirley is the caregiver we appointed for her after the asthma incident. She comes everyday, spends a few hours with Nana helping out with her chores. Nana’s independent streak hated it in the beginning, having someone else cook and clean for her. But she didn’t have any other choice. We threatened her that if she doesn’t let Shirley help her; we would ask our Aunt to go and stay with her. If there is something my grandma hates more than being dependent, it will be my Aunt, her second daughter in law. The unspoken rivalry between them is much more than a typical mother in law- daughter in law ego clash.
I would love to be a fly on that wall when they finally have it all out….
“Hello Sarah...can you hear me?’’
“Oh...sorry Nana. I was just thinking about Shirley. “
“Now... Don’t be hard on her. She sent me a message saying that her daughter is unwell and she can’t make it. I sent her a bouquet emoji.”
Ever since we taught her how to use a smartphone, she has been exploring it by herself. We even added her to our family chat just to see her emojis and she never disappoints us…
Back to old suitcases, asthma and ambulances…
“I know I have told you this so many times. Why don’t you give those old clothes away? You know it’s not good for your allergy. I can come and help you sort them out…”
“Those are not just old clothes for me Sarah. They are the only memory I have of your grandfather. I would never let them go.” Her voice was thick with emotion.
When will I ever learn to think before I speak!
“I am so sorry Nana. I wouldn’t have said it. But I was just worried about you.”
“That’s no problem dear. I know you mean well. You always did.”
“I will come and look for the scarf after work. Is that ok?”
“That’s fine my dear. I will wait for you.” And she disconnected the phone.
Out of all her six grandkids, I am her all-time favorite; something my cousins tease me about. When I was a child, we visited her a lot on our weekends and holidays. My dad lost his parents way earlier and he doesn’t have any siblings. So the only relatives we have are all from my mom’s side.
Our real connection didn’t form until my teenage years. When I was in high school, my dad got a job in Dubai and my mom decided to go with him. I was given a choice. Go with them or stay with Nana. I chose the latter. Having been widowed for less than a year, she accepted my presence like a breath of fresh air. I was under the belief that she loved her grandkids, but from a distance. I was glad I got to live with her because it showed me another side of her- the cool and badass version. She had been my listening ear throughout my awkward teenage years. Whenever I complained to her about the mean girls in my class, she threatened to chop off their snotty noses. Whenever I had trouble getting over the stupid crushes, she wrapped me up in love and spoke to me in kind and encouraging words.
She was very sad when I got a job and left her house. I still do visit her, but not often as before.
After work, I stopped by her house as promised. She was sitting on her sofa watching her favorite TV show. Her eyes lit up in joy when she saw me coming in. I sat with her and chatted for a while, over a plate of her famous peanut butter cookies. Most of her conversation was about her husband- how they met, fell in love etc. Theirs was a controversial marriage. She was engaged to my Grandpa’s brother first, but fell in love with my Grandpa later. For their generation, it was quite a scandal. She was a badass indeed. They had a good marriage even though it caused a permanent rift between Grandpa and his brother. I listened to her enthusiastically, putting the necessary ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ in between, despite the fact that I have heard it a million times before. Ok, a million would be exaggerated. But more than fifty for sure.
I cooked dinner for her before I left, with plenty leftovers to freeze up for later. On the way back, it suddenly came to me that we haven’t mentioned the blue scarf at all. That was the purpose of my visit right? Interesting…
She called me again a few days later.
“Sweetie, do you know where I kept my diamond ring?”
“But Nana, you don’t have a diamond ring!”
“Do you think I have been living under the rocks? Of course I have one. Or I had, until yesterday. It’s missing.”
After promising to stop by and help her to find the ‘ring’, I finished the call.
Then I turned to face my annoyed looking husband.
“Why do you put up with this?” He asked.
“Putting up with what?” I asked back, the irritation in my voice matching his.
“No offence. I love your Grandma. But this is getting ridiculous. She calls you all the time, sometimes even in the middle of the night demanding that you go and find something for her. Scarves, teapots, rings. I know the age is catching up to her and she may be forgetful. But c’mon! You have a life too. I think it’s time you and her have a chat.”
“Yes. I think it’s time we have this chat. You and me.”
“What?” He looked baffled, not expecting the conversation to turn that way.
“And I am glad this conversation is happening. I have been wanting to talk to you about it too. Do you think I don’t know that she is making up excuses about losing things so I run to her and help her out? Once I am there, we never talk about the ‘items’ she apparently lost. Shirley knows it, but we just play along. We let her think that she is getting away with her sneakiness.
Initially I was slightly annoyed with those late night calls too. After some thinking I realized something. She isn’t the one losing here. In fact we are! We are losing our Grandma. She turned eighty-five last month. As we watch, she is just slipping off our fingers. Soon she will go to a place where we will never be able to touch her. Soon she will stop bothering us in the middle of the night. Soon she will stop demanding to see great grand-babies.
About losing my sleep now? I wouldn’t mind at all! That’s the least I can do for someone who baked a ‘welcome to womanhood’ cake for me to cheer me up when I got my first periods.
So while you worry your little brain over what I just told you, let me go and pretend to help my Grandma find the ring or whatever she lost this time…”