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Monday, January 18, 2010

A Grandmother's Praise

Grandma T is 96. She remembers being pulled to school on a sled drawn by horses when the snow was too deep to walk through. She is the youngest of 8 children of a Scottish immigrant, and the wife of a dairy farmer for 71 years. Turns out she was also a brat, something I didn't know until this last year.

Grandma T lives in a nursing home now. She has crippling arthritis that confines her to a chair or a bed. She is in constant pain, but I have rarely heard her mention it. I hope, should I live to be 111, I do it with the grace I have seen in her. She remains sharp as a tack, and I would trust her recollection of events more than my own in most cases.

Grandma T reads voraciously, mostly romances borrowed from the library. I very much wanted her to read Star of Justice, but I couldn't think of a way to make it happen. Her arthritis means she cannot support much weight, certainly not the 4" 3-ring binder that holds my manuscripts.

My solution? Stapling each chapter together, turning up the corners to make it easy to turn the pages, and two boxes - one for unread pages and one for finished pages. I was quite pleased with myself.
I delivered the book during one of my weekly visits and left it with her. Then I waited.

Naturally, plans never work quite as expected. Grandma read the book piecemeal, waiting for my uncle to give her new chapters during his visits instead of asking the interns. Oh, well. When she assured me she had read the book, I asked her what she thought.

"I thought you said it was a religious book?"

"It is, Grandma."

"Well, it's not like any religious book I ever read."

I do not doubt her. Figuring she would never be able to recall names, I asked if she had a favorite part.

"Well, I liked it when the man went back to help that girl. People just don't go out of their way to do that anymore, and they should."

She could have been referring to any number of places in the book (this "helping" happens a lot), but I was now assured she had read it.

Yesterday, during my visit, the subject of books came up again.

"Have you ever heard of a borgor?" she asked me.

"I don't think so," I said.

"I was reading about one. It sounds like it's some kind of skunk, but I've never heard of such a thing. I asked your uncle to look it up for me."

"Well, there are all kinds of Australian animals I don't know. Maybe it's one of those."

"Yeah, I was reading this book, and this man got sprayed and all the other men wanted him to walk at the back because he smelled."

HOLY COW! THAT'S A SCENE FROM MY BOOK! (She mispronounced the animal's name, but since I'd made it up recently, I wouldn't have remembered it anyway. That's why I keep creature files on all my stories. I can't remember what I call the things.)

"Grandma, that was from my book!"

"No, it was one of these." She tapped her stack of paperbacks.

"Grandma, it was my book. The guy gets sprayed by this creature and everybody wants him to stay downwind because he stinks."

"Well, maybe it was. I should tell Bob not to bother looking it up, then."

So, even though it's not her kind of book, and it's not religious like she expected, apparently, it's memorable. Or somewhat memorable.

High praise indeed from Grandma T.

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