Tuesday, September 05, 2006

If It Weren't My Life I Wouldn't Believe It, Either

This past weekend David and Alex went to see David’s mother and grandmother, who live together in the house where D. grew up. David’s mother, Martha, has never met a retail establishment she didn’t like. On the other hand, Sissie, who's David's grandmother, abhors anything remotely related to shopping, but she does hold a special place in her heart for grandchildren and chocolate, both of which she adores. Martha is 75, Sissie is 96, and together they're 171 years-o-fun.

Sissie likes to tell us that she can't see. However, based on the fact that Sissie, sans glasses, loudly announced in Steinmart one afternoon that Martha shouldn't buy a certain sweater because "it says right here on the label that it's DRY CLEAN ONLY," we know better.

She also likes to answer the telephone and say, "WHO IS THIS? WHAT, SUGAR? OH! YOU KNOW I CAN'T HEAR!" David and I contend that maybe one reason she can't hear very well on the telephone is because she holds the mouthpiece to her ear and as a result buries the earpiece halfway around her head in the center of her freshly-coiffed white hair, which for whatever reason tends to make the speaker's voice a bit, you know, muffled.

And this seems like as good a time as any to point out that the ability to whisper completely eludes Martha and Sissie. They think they can - but I know better since I have gotten up from the dinner table on more than one occasion and heard Sissie say, in her whisper-that-is-a-scream, "Martha, did she HAVE to give me so many potatoes?" or, even better, "Has she gained some weight?" Inevitably when Sissie "whispers," Martha replies, in her own unique whisper-scream, "Mother, Sugar, this is NOT THE TIME to talk about that. We'll talk about it LATER, sugar. Darlin'. Mother. Sugar. Darlin'."

They're quite the pair.

By now you're no doubt wondering where this long-winded tale is heading. That makes two of us. I think what I planned to tell you was this: last weekend David called Martha and Sissie to remind them that he and Alex were going to be in town, and he asked, as he often does, how things were going with them.

Sissie replied that her tooth hurt and she couldn't remember anything (side note: Sissie remembers what she spent to tile her bathroom in 1956 as well as what the most recent kilowatt reading was on her power meter). She went on to say that Martha's toe hurt and might need surgery and Martha couldn't remember anything, either (side note: Martha could tell you the current prices – regular AND sale - of each piece of the Harve’ Benard collection at Steinmart, as well as seventeen different pound cake recipes that she has memorized just for kicks).

Anyway, David asked Sissie if anything else was going on, and she said, “Well, we’re both just miserable." And then: "Don't you and Alex want to come to lunch when you’re here?”

David replied that, given the all the upbeat news he’d just received from Sissie, he couldn’t think of anything that would possibly be more fun unless it was a root canal without the aid of anesthesia. Oh I'm kidding. He said they'd be delighted. Because seriously, it's perfectly fine with us if Sissie says she can't hear or see or remember, even if she can do all three. I mean, when you're 96 you pretty much get to complain about whatever you want whenever you want. It's one of the perks of being four years shy of a century.

So David and Alex went to lunch, and it was mighty entertaining in the way that trips to Martha and Sissie’s always are. Martha wanted to show off the latest fun, cropped jacket that she found at “Steinmarts,” and Sissie wanted to talk about how they “TRIED to get the house cold” before David and Alex got there because, under normal circumstances, they keep the thermostat on a refreshing 84 degrees and still wear a sleeve. David picked up some fried chicken from KFC, and Martha and Sissie ate their usual: one chicken tender, half a biscuit, two tablespoons of cole slaw and a quarter cup of sweet tea.

For the record, Alex ate more than that when he was 16 months old.

While they were visiting, David took lots of pictures, all the while listening to Sissie say, "You're going to run out of film! Don't waste the film! OH, you're using too much film! Do you have enough film to take all these pictures? Isn't this going to be expensive?" She was not at all consoled by David's explanation that the camera was digital and he could take somehwere around 300 pictures. She just looked annoyed and said, "Well, I wouldn't know anything about that."

Some of the pictures were your standard child-with-grandmother-and great-grandmother fare, like this one:

Or even this one:

But this next picture. OH, this next picture.

When I saw it I squealed with glee, because it captures the very essence of an afternoon with Martha and Sis. If I were a fiction writer, I could look at this picture for five minutes and develop a rough plot outline for an entire series of novels set in the South.

I think it's my favorite picture ever, so I happily share it with you.

Welcome to my world.

I'm not leaving it and you can't make me.


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