Thursday, August 5, 2004
She was a spry old goose, even with the new hip, which the doctor said that she should rest for a little while before she got back to her normal routine. But Grandma didn’t concern herself with the advice of the medical community. She didn’t even want the new hip and told us that she was going to work with what the good Lord gave her. It was only after spiking her afternoon tea with a couple of Percodan that we were able to get her under the knife for the hip replacement.
“You’d better take the wheelchair to the door, Ms. Boucher,” the doctor said to her.
“Balderdash,” she said with a scowl at the doctor, and a sly wink to me, as she got up and walked out of the hospital. It was only a mile and a half to get home, so we turned the corner at the stop sign and started to walk that way. The hospital was on the way to the school, so Grandma would just drop me off there before she headed to the auto-body shop to start her work day. There was no one in any of these five counties that could drop a new tranny in your car like Grandma.
She had a way with automobiles but never learned to drive. Grandma always said she liked to walk everywhere. It gave her the exercise she needed but kept her off the road with the “crazy people that she fixed cars for.” She was inherently suspect of most of the people that came into her garage. One time, she beat a man senseless because he had trouble identifying the problem under his hood. She always said that any man who couldn’t figure out the inside of his car wasn’t worth his weight in shit. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that much shit anyway, but saying so to Grandma would mean the strapping of my life.
Despite her tough exterior, Grandma was a sucker for some of the little things in life. She loved to spend afternoons on the terrace with a cool glass of iced tea, just letting the breeze blow by her. She loved tomatoes fresh off the vine and drank one glass of red wine every night of her life.
The one thing that Grandma loved more than anything was tetherball. She could sit and play tetherball, by herself or against someone, for hours on end. She’d just whack the ball hard as she could and watch the damn thing spin around the pole and then unravel. When it settled down, she’d pick it up and whack it again. She had a killer serve, one that dipped on her end and rocketed high above my head. Most times, she’d kill on the first swipe at the ball. It never took her more than two or three shots at the ball to put down an opponent, even the tallest of men. They’d just sit idly as the ball went flying by them or they mis-swiped and took the rope, causing a fault.
Grandma always said that tetherball was like life and I was inclined to believe her, if for no other reason than that she found mastery of the game in the same way she’d found mastery of her life. She’d learned the trick to both of them. For my sake, I hope she wrote at least one of them down.
For what it’s worth, Grandma was everything to me. She took care of me, fed me, made sure that I took care of my chores around the house. She taught me the valuable lesson that life is worth living, no matter what the life is. She also taught me the secret of life: not dying. I realize now she stole that from George Carlin. I told you she was a spunky old gal. Most of all, she taught me tetherball.
The school was in sight now and my walk with Grandma was nearly over. She’d spent most of it complaining that “Breaking in a new hip was like breaking in a pair of shoes. It just took a little time.” She limped visibly and as we approached the schoolyard, I had an idea.
“How about a quick game of tetherball, Grandma?” Because today, I thought I had a chance.