Wednesday, August 10, 2005


In my defense, I have to say that I really never stood a chance.

I was five, and my mother called me into the living room, where Grandma was waiting in a recliner. "Hello, Shanny," she said. I screamed--and covered my eyes with my hands. For my grandmother had taken four or five of those chocolate, star-bursty medallions and situated them over her teeth ... so that it looked, from where I stood, as if her mouth were nothing but a yawning cavern of brownness.

My scream elicited an eruption of laughter from her. As I stood on my trembly legs, uncovered my eyes and watched her lick the covering off her teeth, I realized I had a choice: I could be angry, or I could enjoy the moment with her. I didn't dawdle making that choice.

"I'll get you someday, Grandma," I said, grinning.

I did get her. Several times. Over the years, it was my joy and my delight to make my grandmother shriek. "Don't ride that horse bareback. He might buck you off," she'd say. So I'd ride the horse bareback, and yell at her through the window to make sure she saw. When one did buck me off, breaking my arm, I withstood her "I told you so's." In an odd, hard-to-believe way, it had been completely worth it.

The last time I pulled a shriek-inducing scream from my grandmother, I was staying at the house she and Grandpa had shared, trying to help her out from under a stifling fog of grief. When the shock of his too-early, too-sudden death drifted away, we were left together in a clutch of stark sadness. She couldn't believe he had left her; I couldn't believe I'd lost them both. For despite her bodily presence, Grandma's self was frozen in grief. I could get her to answer my questions, but not with any semblance of Mickey there. She wasn't Mickey any more. She wasn't anybody at all--just a woman waiting to die.

Dave understood when I told him I needed to stay with her awhile. He came to the farm every day to see us both, but when night rolled around, he'd kiss me good bye, hug my grandmother, and drive back to our house in the suburbs. Grandma and I would wash our faces, don flannel nightgowns, and retire to her room. Grandpa still lingered there, in a way that brought a new rush of tears whenever my heart caught the echo of one of his songs, or a whiff of his scent would untangle itself from the cedar closet and swirl around me in greeting.

One night, when the somberness pressed the oxygen from the room, I pulled a rubber pig snout from my purse when Grandma wasn't looking, and slipped it over my head. I'd bought it earlier that day--for no reason except that I had to have it. I adjusted the snout over my nose, waited until she had settled in on her side of the bed, and turned slowly.

"Good night, Grandma," I said.

"Good ni ... " she began, before a scream overtook her. In the second her shriek filled the room, I imagine she wrestled with a choice. She could get angry, or she could enjoy the moment with me.

We laughed until we cried, Mickey and me.

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14 Comment:

At 8/10/2005 4:09 PM, Blogger Fran had this to say ...

Oh my Shannon! I was all teary until I pictured you with a pig snout on! Your grandma sounded like an awesome woman.

At 8/10/2005 5:16 PM, Blogger Mama Mouse had this to say ...

What an absolutely beautifully told story of love and life! My name is Mickey and I'm old enough to be a grandmother many times over (though I'm not). It made me cry ... it made me laugh ... and most importantly I FELT both of you!

Thanks for sharing.

At 8/10/2005 5:34 PM, Blogger Nan had this to say ...

You always manage to lure me in with your stories and then...wham - I'm reaching for the Kleenex. It is a lovely story of love all around.

Oh, and I love the new look.

At 8/10/2005 7:25 PM, Blogger Darlene had this to say ...

You are hillarious! Your Granny sounds like quite the kibitzer, I think I would love her. How blessed it is to have such a wonderful bond.

At 8/11/2005 8:17 AM, Blogger whaaaat! had this to say ...

I thought I was going to make it through one of your stories without getting a tear in my eye. I did until the end when you said "We laughed until we cried, Mickey and me. Sometimes, I can hear it still." What a sweet thought of that special moment that you had your grandma back for at least that period of time.

At 8/11/2005 8:58 AM, Blogger Ginger had this to say ...

Ha! I loved it!

It sounds to me like your grandma knew deep down that when you quit laughing, you choose to start dying.

At 8/11/2005 10:04 AM, Blogger Macromoments had this to say ...

Shannon, laughter IS the best medicine, even for a breaking heart. But curious minds want to know: did you sleep with that pig snout on all night? Fess up.

At 8/11/2005 5:08 PM, Blogger Just Wandering had this to say ...

I love stuff like that! Your Grannie sounds like a cool lady.

At 8/11/2005 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous had this to say ...

You made me laugh - I believe Grandma tried wearing that pig nose a few times, too.

I was instantly brought back to her house and could smell and hear everything as though standing right there. I love the feelings her house brought to us - Love and Comfort.

At 8/11/2005 9:09 PM, Blogger prying1 had this to say ...

Shannon - All I can say is, "Blogging was made for stories like this." Thanks for sharing. - GBYAY -

At 8/12/2005 12:54 AM, Blogger Fishkrisser <> had this to say ...

A great story with a happy ending. 5 kudos with smiles and giggles from "The Fish" magazine.

At 8/12/2005 4:22 AM, Anonymous susan had this to say ...

The stories of your grandparents always take me back to my own memories. I used to sleep over, and share grandmas bed when grandad was away. We'd lay there playing I spy.
I keep a box of kleenex by the computer now you now. *sniff*

Did I tell you, I love the new layout!

At 8/12/2005 10:21 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Thanks, all. :)

To those who caught sight of Grandma's personality, yes, she was awesome. In some ways she never grew up, and that trait, thankfully, has been passed down to all us girls.

Bonnie, no, I didn't sleep with the pig snout on. :) But it became somewhat of a standing joke between me and Grandma. I bought her a mug that looked normal until you took a drink, and then the pig snout on the bottom was revealed to whoever you stood in front of (did that make sense?). Pigs kind of became our thing after that--cards, pictures, etc.

Yes, Tarri. Grandma wore that mask MORE than a few times :)

Thank you for that lovely comment, Paul.

Um ... how do I renew my subscription to The Fish?

Glad to have you back, Susan!

At 8/14/2005 5:40 PM, Blogger Fidget had this to say ...

Thank you for reminding me to make the choice instead of jump with the first instinct.. i need to laugh more


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