February 27, 2014 by Katia
You may want to read the entire post or proceed straight to the part below my grandma’s photo. Definitely check out that part. It’s awesome. The post itself is not a happy one. Please proceed at own discretion.
I look at the painting on my computer screen. An oval shaped object, a giant egg with a rectangular opening – a door – at its bottom. I try to come up with the perfect comment. One that would both capture the way I feel about it and make him appreciate me for hitting the nail on the head.
“I’m sending you five pictures. They’re metaphysical,” said my dad. “I want you to look at them today and email me back. Even if it’s just a few words.”
I look at his drawings and think of the words that I want to put in that email. The words that I should. They have to be just the right ones, but so often when I try to penetrate the landscape of his mind it feels like I’m shooting in the dark. And then the name Bradbury floats through my mind. Ray Bradbury. And a warm blanket of childhood feel wraps itself around me. Hand in hand with that name emerges my grandma. “It has a distinct Bradbury atmosphere to it.” I want to tell him and then realize that I’ve never even read anything by this author. It was her who recapped Bradbury for me, mixing in the ingredients of her own perception. She’d captured and eternalized for me that atmosphere that we stay with long after we forget the content of a particular book. And just like that the name of an author I’ve never read becomes a term too emotional to ponder.
When my parents separated at childhood the task of raising me became equally divided by three women. My mom, who was the divinity I worshipped, and the two patron saints of child Katia, Babooshka and Ninulya, grandma and her sister whose devotion knew no limits. Once when I broke my leg in junior high, Ninulya who taught drama in our country’s leading school of performing arts, held the rehearsals in our apartment, so she could watch me while still contributing to our nation’s cultural progress. In her book there was nothing grave enough to stand in the way of art, not even the gulf war and its rain of Scud rockets that hit the city where she was teaching. The knowledge of the artistic compromise she was making by holding the rehearsal at home instead of on stage is something I treasure. Babooshka believed that there was nothing grave enough to stand in the way of my well being and therefore she once reread Stendhal’s The Red and the Black and wrote my essay for me in high school. That’s right. Guilty as charged, but not as guilty as I become whenever I think about moving away from them.
Saints work miracles. To my absolute mortification my Babooshka would magically appear at my exact hangout spot at the mall, years before the cell phone age, with my forgotten set of keys, or at school with a notebook. When I was even younger, she would work her miracles on me guiding my imagination into pine-scented water to soak my body in until it felt all heavy and tired and ready to submit to sleep. Babooshka could control her own body and make herself stop bleeding by looking at her wound, a skill she frequently got to practice what with the abundance of family cats and the special interest they took in the palms of her hands. I don’t know if she would just plain stare or whether she’d actually talked her blood into stopping, the same way she did that time when she convinced her body as a seventy five year old tourist, lying on an icy Moscow sidewalk for a couple of hours as the result of a slip and fall, that it was fierce and almighty and capable of withstanding any blow. Now she doesn’t control her body anymore and probably doesn’t remember ever speaking to it.
Like any Saint babooshka, too, had her attributes. A lit up cigarette, a book and those endless scribbled pages she would fill up with her writing. Now she holds neither one. She can no longer remember that she’s an avid smoker and an obsessive reader. I doubt she remembers writing a book. I wonder what she makes of her surroundings, the rows and rows of bookshelves in my mom’s apartment.
Last summer I’ve traveled with my son to see her. I left a country where she wasn’t to go to another one where despite being able to watch her she wasn’t either. I sat and watched her take instructions from the caregiver telling her to open her mouth wide and show her eighty eight year old sister, who was also there with her own caregiver, how big girls eat, because baby sister, Ninulya, has gone on a strike. The two caregivers made a big production of it, injecting enthusiasm into their raised voices, cajoling, scolding, rushing. I struggled with the shame of witnessing this just as much as I struggled with the shame of not witnessing it often enough. I can still play this part in my head. Babooshka opens her mouth to the caregivers’ cheers, wraps her lips around the spoon then lifts her eyes questioningly, as if to say “well, how did I do?” and I notice a glimmer of triumph over being up to the task in the eyes of the woman once celebrated for her wit.
Dementia makes her forget most things. She has a hard time telling the rooms in the little apartment apart, or realizing that she is not there all by herself but with her daughter, my mom. She can’t remember the conversations with those who call to check up on her or the fact that they did. Nor can she remember meeting her older great grandson. Twice. Not too long ago, she was hospitalized and wandered out of her hospital room. The other day she fell on the floor in her room – my old room – again. My mom rushed in to pick her up as soon as she heard her call out Katinka, my childhood name.
The most unexpected part of being a grownup is that the people who raised you turned old.
I’ve got some very cool news. But I won’t be sharing them right away. Instead let me ask you a question.
ARE YOU LIKE ME AND GO ON REGULAR NETFLIX BINGES?
If you could ask Jenny McCabe, one of Netflix’s leading bigwig’s, influencers (OK – Director of Media Relations, if you’re formally-inclined) any Netflix-related question, what would it be? I’ll be letting you know mine next week, but please chime in.
This post was an FTSF post on the topic “The most unexpected part of being a grownup…”. Please visit our hosts:
Stephanie at Mommy, For Real
Kristi at Finding Ninee
Janine at Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic