Posted in Parenting and Random Shit

When I Am Old and Gray

The other day, my mother and I spent the day with my grandmother–my ‘Mammaw’. I’ve always been compared to her, physically and otherwise. We are both petite, at almost 5′ 2″, I am almost an inch taller than her and the rest of the family all tower over us at 5′ 5″ and above. In her younger days, Mammaw was quite the baton twirler, from what I am told.  Since baton twirling was out of vogue by the time I was in school, I shook my ass on the dance team. Close enough.  I began collecting shoes when I got my first job at the age of 15. My mother never understood my affinity for shoes and she said she never understood it, growing up, when it was her own mother that took the same delight in growing a shoe collection.  I suppose that would go hand in hand with the love for shopping that we share but that is a fairly common hobby.  Although, she seemed to share my shopping  mantra of “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission”, a philosophy that, evidently, got her into trouble with my Pappaw in much the same way it did for me with Husband.

She is 87 years old and, as such, there are certain rules pertaining to proper etiquette–not hers, yours.  To my knowledge, these guidelines have not been put in writing until now and this may not be a complete list. Based on my observations over the years, when spending time with a Mammaw:

  • Even if she has just let out the longest, loudest burp that was so disgusting it caused you to throw up in your mouth a little, YOU HEARD NOTHING.
  • If the sound of the gas she is passing woke you up in the next room, even if you are almost completely certain that she just sharted—YOU HEARD NOTHING.

Act  natural. Continue what you were doing. My children have, on more than one occasion, broken this protocol. When everyone else has their heads down, pretending that they didn’t hear her backside trumpeting, and a child announces, “Ewwwww, Mammaw just farted”, do not laugh. Ignore the comment and redirect the child, IMMEDIATELY.

Above all, you can’t get mad. Ever. Even in such scenarios as:

  • You come home to find your kitchen looks like it has been readied for a rave foam party and the bubbles are still pouring out of your dishwasher. Turns out, she put liquid dish detergent in there, instead of dishWASHER detergent. You thank her for doing the dishes and then laugh and tell everyone about it when and where she won’t hear.
  • You realize her method for putting dishes away boils down to just finding a place that the dish fits.
  • On a daily basis, you think you are going crazy because you could SWEAR that you had put your coffee cup down right there but it is gone and you walk room to room, retracing your steps with a confused look on your face. You even talk to yourself: “I know I put that damn cup on that table. What the hell? Did I? Yes, of course I did. I guess I didn’t because it is gone. What the shit did I do with my damn coffee?” You walk into the kitchen and she has just finished rinsing it out. You may repeat the suggestion that if the coffee is hot she should leave it alone but understand that she will forget and this will happen again in about an hour. You must keep it with you or, if you must walk away, assign a babysitter.

You can only laugh with her, not at her. When my mother and I were visiting her last weekend, my mother came out of the restroom and asked my Mammaw where the hand towels were so she could dry her hands. My Mammaw searched around the bathroom, muttering about someone taking her hand towel off her sink and then said, “I guess we’ll have to make do” and reached into a drawer, pulled out an incontinence pad and handed it to my mother. I plan on implementing this hand drying method with my future guests by just sticking a few on the counter, next to the sink and replacing a couple of times a week. Less laundry for me!

She asked me seven times in seven minutes how old Number Four was and, as protocol dictates, I answered her each time like it was the first time she’d asked. I’d add to that all the times she has forgotten my name over the years but, to be fair, she has like 12 or 13 grandchildren and probably 20 great-grandchildren. We are a family of MAY-JAH breeders. I’ve had times when I need to yell at my own kids and I call them every other child’s name and even gone down the list of dog’s names, so I can’t even rib her about that one because, on top of having a hundred names to remember, she has the whole onset of dementia. The fact that she gets my name right at all, much less more than half of the time, earns her a gold star.



I am a stay at home mother with 4 children. I drink a lot of wine and curse like a sailor.

11 thoughts on “When I Am Old and Gray

  1. Oh so true.

    My dad never got my name right when yelling at me. Id hear “Brandon! Fuck..I mean I mean Carolyn…shit Catrina..God dammit..Misty get your ass out here!!” Misty the cat always gave me a weird look when id respond to her name. Lol. His dementia wasn’t diagnosed but we knew something was wrong for a while. Doesn’t mean it didn’t give us some good laughs.


  2. Aww I loved this…my nana passed away in November 2011 and she was my best friend. This blog made me smile because I could swear that my Nana IS/WAS your Mammaw’s sister. She was the exact same before passing.

    Give her a hug for me!!


  3. Imagine your Mammaw as a non-English speaking, Roman Catholic Hispanic, and you have my Abuelita. She died several years ago at 95, in her home country. I couldn’t make it to her funeral, and I sometimes forget she’s not around anymore. Thanks for your post and the memories it brings back!


  4. Oh, memories! My grandma was almost blind and deaf, and she’d sit next to the kitchen window listening to all the basketball games she could find on the tuner. Mom was the youngest of eight, and grandma finally gave in and let “the girls” cook. When we were all done she would feel her way around the kitchen to make sure that the kitchen was clean, the dishes were hand washed and dried, and all kitchen towels were hung up to dry. If she found a flaw, she’d mutter, “Shit,” under her breath, not realizing that we could all hear her. No giggling! We’d just fix it — quietly. Then, we’d leave the room to laugh. Bet she heard us.


  5. Okay, it’s funny enough when it’s family, but my father actively collects people like this.

    Seriously. I’m over at my parents’ house (giving my own children some time in their pool, in the vain hope that just maybe they’ll actually fall asleep at bedtime) and the phone rings. I pick it up, because everyone else is outside. It’s a fellow calling for my father, naturally – only I can’t explain to him that he’s got the wrong family member… because he’s playing Beethoven’s 9th at high volume while he’s on the phone.

    Since I couldn’t understand him over the music – let alone get him to understand me – I thanked him for sharing the concert and hung up.


  6. What a bittersweet post. I too was a lot like my grandma, except for size. She was only about 4′ 10″ and weighed maybe 90 pounds. I mentioned one time how odd it was that I was so much taller than she was. She said, “Oh, you’re just big and fat like your grandpa’s side.” I was 5′ 7″ and weighed about 120. I just laughed. I guess to her I did seem pretty big.

    I plan to give my grandchildren lots of funny stories to tell about me. Thanks for a good read.


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