Continued from previous post -
I would take Grandma to Carvel or Baskin Robbins to get ice cream, where she showed me the exquisite culinary combination of strawberry and butter pecan ice creams put together. We bonded greatly over our shared sweet tooths. I learned her favorites: banana splits with one scoop of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla each; sometimes she wanted extra nuts, sometimes she wanted extra cherries. We would run errands at nearby Rite Aid to get bio-freeze for her achey joints, toiletries, and little gifts for the grandkids and friends. My parents fondly reminisce about that one time I took her to get some plants, and she had me climb on a tall table, scrambling over thorny rose planters to get the *perfect* hyacinth. Imagine: a curmudgeonly teenager standing atop the display platform during a busy Saturday in Home Depot’s garden section, hoisting different plants overhead to vie for Grandma’s approval.
We would talk about what activities were going on at the senior home (she made me a bracelet with my then-name spelled out in beads, and I still have it), her previous traveling adventures with her late husbands (Hawaii was her favorite spot, but she loved it all), and about the boys I was dating. When I told her about my first boyfriend at sixteen years old, we were out eating ice cream. I was nervous to talk with her about him, because he was a different race than us. Her late husband had a history of saying racist things, and this was a new situation for me to be in with her. She could see I was anxious, so she put her hand on mine and told me that I shouldn’t be worried about that. She even went on to say that Grandpa would be fine with my boyfriend too (which I don’t know would be true, but I appreciated her efforts). I asked her what she was like when she was a teenager, meeting boys. She said that she was shy and self-conscious of her acne. She shared a story about how her then-future husband saw her at a social event and asked her to dance. She said that she was wearing short heels and a velvet dress, and that she blushed greatly when they walked to the dance floor (I inherited the “blush greatly” trait, famously turning near-purple when embarrassed enough).
When I went away to college, I had a hard time figuring out how often I could go back to my parents’ house, and how often to go see Grandma. This is one of those reflections where I wish I had been able to do something different. In my attempts to be independent from my parents, I wish I had continued visiting Grandma more regularly. I didn’t see as clearly then as I do now that we were good supports for each other. I knew we were kindred spirits. But I see now that we were in similar-but-opposite positions in relation to my parents: where I was young and trying to establish some amount of independence from them, and where she was old and having to increasingly rely on them. We were both dealing with shifting dynamics, and knew there was a consistent warmth and camaraderie between the two of us. There’s more to this story about a grandkid and a grandma, but I’ll stop here for now.