Husband remembers a story about his childhood best friend’s Jewish grandmother; late one night, she called 911 herself, and let the paramedics in– herself– mid-heart attack “because she didn’t want to wake anyone.” My mom once found my Granny wrapped in a blanket shivering in the kitchen in the middle of the night. She refused to let my mom turn on the light, not to mention turn up the heat… “I’m not cold!” Mom turned up the heat and went back to bed. Mom herself took a rather nasty fall the evening before our planned family road-trip. She fell on her face–literally on her face– but before the bleeding fully-ceased, we were careening caravan-style down the interstate. She refused any delay to our plans, save to stop for a bite to eat to go with the high-powered antibiotic BECAUSE SHE HAD A GAPING WOUND IN THE MIDDLE OF HER FACE. I now know the Jewish Grandmother’s Creed: Be it full cardiac arrest, cold toes, or a nearly broken nose, Savta shall care for herself, no you may not intervene on her behalf, and family homeostasis shall remain at all costs.
Mom didn’t want to dwell on her injury except to beat herself mercilessly for wearing sandals on a walk instead of sensible shoes. Not flip flops, not stilettos, but sandals–the nerve. Surely a woman seen zip-lining through a rain forest in Costa Rica 6 months ago should know better than to stroll be-Birkenstocked! Instead of worrying me unnecessarily about her fall, Mom preferred to comfort me about the security of her burial plot. Everyone, breathe a sigh of relief–we do not have to evict whomever just moved in to the burial plot cozied up to my mom’s late husband. Apparently Mom noticed a fresh internment where her future corpse is supposed to take its rightful place, and she went to the cemetery office to inquire about the squatter. Lo and behold, she came to find out that her burial plot resides on the street side of her beloved, not the floozie side. I already know what goes on her tomb stone, what song she wants sung at her funeral, and her latest suggestion for readings, so we moved quickly from End Of Life Requests (item A of our typical conversational agenda) to planning our food for the next meal (item B-Z)–with only a brush-up on her power-of-attorney wishes before planning the week’s menu. My children, head-phoned to electronics in the back seat missed out entirely, as they should. We need to preserve their young minds…entirely for my own postmortem festivities.
Even after 9 hours in the car, a week on Lake Superior, and another 9 hours home, conversation never stagnated. Which might explain my step-dad’s long bike rides and sudden interest in repairing the deck. Mom introduced me to martinis with vermouth-soaked miniature onions, and my boys to Words With Friends. We hiked, played games, and ate our faces off. Well, mom ate hers back on, actually. It healed nearly completely by the time we left.
On the way home, sometimes mom wanted the windows open, or less air conditioning on her feet. The air coming in the car made noise, yet the car felt stuffy. “I’m fine” I told her. “I’m not hot!” I wanted her comfortable. I wouldn’t have it any other way.