“TOILETS!” whaled Geraldine at her startled grand daughter.
“What, Nana?” asked Michelle truly perplexed by this sudden outburst just as they were getting somewhere.
“Toilets!” Geraldine repeated at a lower volume. Michelle was shaking her head trying to join the dots but sadly the context still too hazy.
“… you’re gonna need to give me more detail as I’m not following.”
“Oh you know… toilets! They can’t control their wot names.”
Michelle was getting closer to the essence of what her Nana was saying but still needed to tease out more of the thread.
“Wot names? You mean…”
“Yeah!” exclaimed Geraldine wiggling her index finger in front of her and raising both of her unkempt eyebrows.
“Oh!” Michelle tried to act surprised but her response was more of relief that the latest round of “Guess What Nana Means” was at an end.
“They treat it like a game, ‘chelle. Open their flies and psssss here and pssss there, pssss in the bowl, pssss out of the bowl, psss up the wall, psss on the ceiling.”
Geraldine may have been doddery on her feet but she sat forward in her armchair having lots of fun pretending to pee everywhere with her make shift willy.
“Not sure all men do that.” said Michelle, trying to temper the conversation with some level of reality. Geraldine stared at her grand daughter for a second or two, tutted and then continued.
“Course they do! Filthy buggers spend ages spraying, making so much flipping noise you can hear it in the kitchen downstairs, then they come down looking proud of themselves. You go up and discover a dirty indoor water feature to clean up.”
Geraldine was now miming cleaning up a urine flooded bathroom all whilst remaining fixed to her beloved armchair. Michelle loved to see her Nana so animated but still continued to try and bring it back to the original conversation.
“K! Not sure how…”
“That’s something God didn’t think about enough… the wot name.”
Geraldine waggled her index finger again up close to Michelle’s face. So close in fact she could smell the hand sanitizer her Nana had used this morning. It was so powerful Michelle almost entered a drug-fuelled fug before shaking her head to snap out of it.
“Errrrm why’s that?” Michelle asked inquisitively.
“Well it’s faulty innit! Us women have a discrete shower head whilst blokes have a bloody broken hose pipe on the front. The big fella up there must have had so much fun designing all that stuff.” Geraldine giggled at the thought of God’s design room where he invented the world and everything in it.
“Yeah I guess… if you believe that stuff,” said Michelle who had lost her faith many years ago.
Geraldine stared out of the window in her little room watching the clouds drift across her view. It was hypnotic but it also helped her reminisce on her life. These fluffy white instances drifted through life in a very similar way to how Geraldine drifted through her own existence. One of the clouds caught her eye and looked just like a…
“I mean I’ve not touched or even seen one in decades but cor blimey your Grandad’s was… well it made my eyes water at times.” Geraldine took a breath as the memory hit her with both barrels so to speak.
“Nana I…” said a somewhat flustered Michelle.
“Magnificent it was, like a walking sun dial. I was spoilt I know! They’re not all like that.”
Geraldine nodded to herself with a huge grin on her face remembering this magnificent massive male member she got all to herself for so much of her life.
“You mean the penis?” said Michelle seeking clarification.
“Yer wot?” asked a confused Geraldine which at her age was a frequent occurrence.
“You’re talking about the penis!”
Geraldine’s confused brow deepened, she started to break down the word she’d never heard before in her head.
“Pea-ness?… nope no idea what you’re saying!”
Michelle conceded, she could tell this would take too long to explain and delay what she was really there to do. Before she could engage a course correction on the conversation, Geraldine was off again on her cloud assisted flight of fancy.
“That reminds me about something your Dad used to say whenever I made his favourite meal.”
“O-kay? What did Dad do wrong now?” asked Michelle knowing although her Dad had made lots of mistakes, he didn’t deserve all the digs her Nana had given him through the years. Geraldine waved her frail hands in front of her face to make clear she wasn’t referring to any of his recent offences.
“Oh it was before all that. His favourite meal when he was a boy was fish fingers, chips and peas. He bloody loved it and him and your Grandad always would comment on the “tasty pea-ness” of the peas. They’d always giggle away at that. I never knew why…”
Michelle couldn’t contain herself and let out a humongous fit of laughter.
“What?!” asked a perplexed Geraldine missing the joke in anything she’d just said. Michelle wiped the happy tears away from her eyes, cleared her throat, let out a tiny final giggle and responded.
“Never mind Nana, guess it shows how close they were.”
They smiled at each other acknowledging the love they shared for the two most crucial men in their lives.
“Yeah… probably doing the same up there now… without me,” moaned Geraldine, whose face suddenly crumpled as tears welled in her eyes. Michelle grabbed a tissue from her Nana’s side table dabbing her face before it became a Tsu-Nana-mi.
“Hey, don’t cry Nana. You’re doing okay.” Michelle held her Nana’s hand tightly, sharing the love and warmth between them.
“Spose… it’s nice in ‘ere really. I just miss ‘em ‘chelle.”
Michelle nodded as she watched Geraldine continue to gaze out the window at the clouds. The faint urine smell coming from beyond her Nana’s room hit her momentarily whilst she comforted an emotional Geraldine.
“I know… we all do… but I visit as much as I can. Maybe we should plan a trip out soon,” Michelle suggestedp and immediately saw a smile emerge across her Nana’s damp face.
“Oh that’d be nice. Yeah, maybe the beach?” said Geraldine who felt many of her happiest memories involved the sea.
“If you like! Have a think…” Michelle hated the beach but did well to hide it, as this was her Nana’s treat. Not hers.
They both sat in silence for a minute or so, one thinking about sand castles and ice creams, whilst the other was figuring out how to get the conversation back towards the original destination. Before Michelle could break the silence something hit Geraldine sooner and harder.
“…. Your Grandad used to really get me goin’ y’know?” Geraldine nodded and winked at her grand daughter.
“Fancy another cuppa?…” asked Michelle, rolling her eyes at her Nana’s latest smutty comment.
“Yes please, love. I mean I’ve not had a sniff since he decided to cark it.”
Geraldine’s voice wavered as a flash of the funeral hit her but she rallied well before her elderly train of thought faltered.
“There’s my lovely Mei in here who makes sure I get cleaned every day, helps me shower, get dressed, wipes my bum and all that. But that’s different.”
“Sugar?” asked Michelle, hoping it might break this cringeworthy conversation.
“What? Oh yes, love. Ta!”
Michelle poured the teas and put an extra sugar in for her Nana who needed the energy more than her. She passed the steaming mug over to Geraldine. They both sipped their teas in tandem and let out the same “Ahhh!” only separated by the number of years and teas one of them had enjoyed compared to the other. One had decades of teas left in front of her whilst the other took every tea like it could be her last.
“Well be thankful you and Grandad had all them years together making each other happy. Not many people get that. I mean… I know I’ve never had that yet.”
Geraldine put down her tea, reached out and grabbed Michelle’s knee as a show of love of support to her grand daughter.
“You’re so young though, love! You’ll find someone, course you will. Look atcha! You’re gorgeous!” Geraldine moved one side of Michelle’s long fringe away to reveal more of her eyes and face. It was her turn to wipe the tears away appreciating that she still had the love of her family to get her through.
“Thanks Nana… I’m just impatient I guess.”
Geraldine nodded, shrugged her shoulders and continued to hold court.
“That’s the youth today, always in a hurry to get somewhere. Find love, get married, have kids, forget to have a life before that. I got married at 20 when I was six months pregnant with your Dad and I was far too young for all that.”
“But you were happy?” asked Michelle, intrigued by where this was going as she didn’t know much about her Nana’s early life. Geraldine thought for a moment spotting a cloud in the shape of a bouquet.
“ I ‘spose! Would’ve been nice to enjoy my twenties with your Grandad longer… before we were chucked into parent mode for the rest of our lives.”
They both giggled as Geraldine mimed a lifetime of parenting in 30 seconds, from nappies to school to university to moving out and weddings.
“I bet things were simpler then.”
Geraldine nodded but then a thought, one from earlier, hit her out of nowhere causing the conversation to fall away.
“You were telling me something earlier, weren’t you?”
Michelle was surprised her Nana had remembered. Was it the right time to go back there? Possibly not.
“Was I? Oh we can talk about it later. It can wait.” Michelle reassured her Nana, Geraldine nodded and found the remnants of the fallen away conversation.
“Maybe I’m selfish love but… even though I spent 60 years with your Grandad it wasn’t enough. We had our ups and downs, course. But I had so much fun… he was my best friend.”
Michelle stared at the glowing smile Geraldine had on her face remembering her soulmate. It was so pure and magical.
“That’s so lovely, Nana. Feel like I should’ve brought one of the photo albums with me.”
Geraldine waved her arms again to show she didn’t need the photos anymore. Her eyes were failing, even with the huge glasses she wore, and could barely make out the clouds out her window these days.
“No need… all up here… and in here. Most of it anyway. Some of it is lost on me these days. Not had any fanny flutters in ages. I mean… Mei is washing me up and down like a flabby washboard and I feel nothing down there.”
“What an image!” smirked Michelle.
“She’s not really my type anyway. Never seen the attraction to you know…” Geraldine screwed up one side of her face. Michelle had very little understanding of what she meant so had an educated guess based on previous conversations.
Geraldine waved her left arm downwards to try and express that her grand daughter talks quieter.
“Shhhh… they listen in the corridors.” Geraldine pointed at the open door leading into the hallway to the rest of the home. Michelle was confused and a little bit annoyed.
“So what? There’s nothing wrong with being gay, Nana,” proclaimed Michelle hoping she can help her Nana move away from this archaic attitude.
“Yeah… I know! But it’s just odd to me, love. I loved my girlfriends throughout my life but not like that,” shrugged Geraldine not realising her views were very outdated. Michelle wasn’t prepared to accept this and continued to probe her Nana on her aged world view.
“Why not? If that makes someone feel like they belong in this world and gives them a happy life, where’s the harm?”
Geraldine nodded in agreement to that sentiment thinking maybe she was just too old to understand the modern world. So she thought she should change the subject.
“And don’t get me started on them wot names!”
Michelle rolled her eyes.
“Here we go again! Nana, try and narrow it down for me as wot names could mean anything.”
Geraldine wound her arm around and around trying to remember what they were called. This technique had worked in the past even if it caused a constant cracking in the bones of her wrist. The sound reminded her of the football rattles of her youth.
“Those men who wanna be women and all that. The cheek!”
Michelle’s face dropped.
“… some bloke called Clarence wakes up at 45 thinks he’s a woman, puts on a wig and a dress and he’s female now? Fuck off! Come back when you’ve got your period!” said Geraldine angrily.
“Well, that’s not really how…”
“… or menopause for that matter. We didn’t burn our bras for Terry to come along and steal our identity because he loves how a pair of tights feel.”
Geraldine was definitely on her soap box ready to rant. Michelle was also becoming a ball of rage for very different reasons.
“That’s enough, Nana. The decision to…”
“Sally across the hall told me they chop it off and make a fake fanny for them as well. No amount of chopping and hormones will make them a real woman!” Geraldine frustratedly waggled her finger before joining her hands to create a make shift vagina.
“Come on you’ve…”
“No love it’s silly, you can’t run away from who you were born as. Too much diagnosis these days rather than getting them to snap out of it.”
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” shouted Michelle who immediately broke down in tears. Geraldine stared at her grand daughter wide eyed and shocked that her words had caused this kind of reaction.
“… ‘chelle? Don’t cry. I’m not sure why… my memory isn’t as good as it was but…”
Michelle lifted her tear stained face, looked in her Nana’s concerned eyes to emotionally answer her question for the second time today.
“I’m trans! That’s why I’m here today. Before you went off on one of your rants about toilets I was telling you I was about to start my journey to becoming the man I’ve always known I am. What you’re saying is completely opposed to my entire life choices.”
Geraldine didn’t know where to look, she was stunned. Even the clouds that comforted her so often had nothing to cater for this specific scenario.
“Oh!? Since when? Does Liz know?”
Michelle looked worryingly at her Nana’s confused and interrogative face.
“Mum? Oh Nana, your memory has got worse. She’s been dead five years now.”
Geraldine’s eyes widened when this news she’d heard many times but forgotten each and every time hit her as if it was brand new information.
“Yep, her dying really hit me hard and all those thoughts and feelings I’ve buried for most of my life finally surfaced,” nodded Michelle with tears still pouring down her cheeks.
Geraldine stared at her grand daughter trying to understand and although it wasn’t something she could immediately accept, the love remained.
“So… you’re gonna be a fella?”
“Eventually… yeah,” smiled Michelle as she wiped her big snotty nose.
“Blimey!” giggled Geraldine thinking that even at her grand old age life could still surprise her.
“I tried to tell you but…” Michelle began to explain but was interrupted by her Nana.
“PENIS!” blurted Geraldine snapping her out of her stunned existence.
“Where?” Michelle said pretending to look around for this ghostly male appendage. Geraldine giggled and tutted at her grand daughter’s silly joke.
“No, that’s why your Dad and Grandad always talked about the peas like that innit? Haha! Cheeky beggars! Haha!”
Both of them burst out laughing and gave each other a long comforting hug followed by a warm kiss on the cheek. Gathering up her things and putting on her coat Michelle looked in the mirror to clean up the tears before saying her goodbyes.
“Anyway, on that bombshell… I’ve gotta head off as I’m late.”
“Alright, love… you chosen a fella’s name yet?” asked Geraldine mostly as a joke.
“Do you know… the name you’ll use once you’ve moved into wearing your man trousers?”
Michelle uncrumpled her face now that she understood what her Nana was going on about now.
“Not yet but when I do I’ll…
“MIKE! That’s a good one. From Michelle to Mike. Yeah, you could probably update most of your paperwork and details with some Tip-Ex.” Geraldine was waving her index finger again to labour her valid but extremely daft point. Michelle shrugged it off for now as she needed to get moving.
“Erm, yes Nana. I suppose I could but that doesn’t mean that’s the name I’ll choose.”
“Well, it’ll take me a bit to get used to it… and I still think it’s weird because… y’know it is a bit but I do want you to be happy… and whatever happens… you’ll always be my gorgeous girl.”
Michelle smiled and gave her Nana a hug and another kiss on the cheek.
“See you soon. Bye!”
Geraldine waved to Michelle as she dashed out of her room. Her focus moved back to the clouds once more, trying to comprehend all that she’d learned and discussed with her beloved grand daughter. Within a few minutes the words, emotions, revelations were blurred at the edges until they were a blancmange inside her cracked and fragile mind. Suddenly a cloud looked familiar and it jump started a recent memory but it was not enough to clear the brain fog. Quietly and softly to herself Geraldine uttered a single solitary word.