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Jul. 2, 2020 | Thursday
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A visit to Grandma’s at Christmas time
A visit to Grandma’s at Christmas time.

Paul Masson

Writers’ Circle

“We are visiting Grandma tomorrow, Karen, so I want you to do a little preparation to avoid the mishaps that occurred last year. You wore your goth costume, with the black eye shadow and your hair spiked using gel. It was embarrassing when your grandmother didn’t recognize you and had to ask me who you were. It’s Christmas, so wear a proper skirt and blouse. “

“Yes, Mom.” Karen yawned.

“And another thing, try to kiss her on her cheek gently this time. At the last visit, you scrunched up your mouth in disgust and closed your eyes so you missed her face entirely, hitting the side of her shoulder instead. Don’t forget that her bones are fragile, not to mention the trauma resulting from being assaulted while lying in bed. You remember that she started hyperventilating and that the nurse had to give her a sedative to calm her down.”

“It wasn’t my fault! She moved!”

“Also, try to make polite conversation. When she asks you what you are doing in school, the proper answer is not ‘whatever I can get away with.’ Instead, mention a few of the things that were assigned in class. What would be nice to make up for last year would be for you to bring her a small present. Some perfume or note paper would be nice. Or even some fragrant soap, but do not suggest to her that she needs it. Your comments about her body odour were not appreciated.”

“All right Mom, I’ll find something.”

The drive to the nursing home is uneventful, and they pull into the visitors’ parking lot after an hour’s ride. While her father signs them in, Karen looks at the bulletin board of the daily activities, thinking that she would rather die than be locked up in a place like this.

Grandma is dozing in her bed when they enter her room but wakes up as soon as she hears their voices.

“Grandma, I have a present for you! Shall I open it?” The small package was gift-wrapped at the store and has a pink bow.

“That’s very nice, hand soap with lilac scent—my favourite fragrance. Thank you, Karen, that’s very thoughtful of you.”

Her assignment completed, Karen lapses into a near coma, going over in her mind what she will do on the weekend. She is revived by her mother’s sharp tone:

“Karen, your grandmother asked you what you were doing in school.”

“Er, I wrote an essay on the ancient Greeks for history class, and I demonstrated the exothermic oxidation of magnesium in chemistry class.”

Karen’s mother smothers a guffaw. Ignoring her,
Grandma looks impressed.

“That’s very nice, Karen — I didn’t know you even took those subjects” she says with a twinkle in her eye.

The conversation turns to other topics and Karen tunes out. After an hour or so, they get up to go. Her parents don’t force Karen to kiss her grandmother goodbye this time so as to avoid any unpleasantness.

After they have gone, Grandma sits back in bed and muses about Karen. “I was wild too, when I was young. It’s funny how old age catches up with you, though. Life is like a journey up a great river. You start off successfully swimming upstream, but after a while, you get tired of fighting, and finally you just let the current take you. It’s a good thing the young don’t understand this or they might decide not to make the journey. I admire Karen’s pluck. She’ll settle down eventually.”

Later, at home, Karen thinks about the visit to Grandma. “It didn’t go too badly after all; those school projects I made up were awesome! Of course Mom wasn’t fooled, but Gran got a charge out of it.

Hmm, did she guess that it was all a joke? I wonder what she was up to when she was young.

Maybe next time I’ll ask her.

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