Grandma In The Closet Waiting For Fishsticks

Grandma In The Closet Waiting For Fishsticks

When I went to knock they said, “she won’t hear you, I’ll let you in.” And, so, I knocked, she didn’t hear me, and they let me in. I called for her, and no sound. In front of me, the living room quiet with the little kitchenette and a table and a little can of Gingerale sat upon a little folded paper towel as Grannies are apt to do. But Granny, nowhere to be found. Then through the bedroom door, and the bathroom. Where the hell was my Grandma. The closet? I opened the door and there she sat in her beautiful home-made dress. “A tailor,” she once said. “A salaried tailor,” she’d add saying how rare it was to be paid like that as a woman, and how she married at 35 having my dad only at 42 because she was a career woman. But the 1940s were having none of that and the 50s meant women had their roles, the men theirs, and that’s that.

“Grandma?” She sat there in her home-made tailored dress of baby blue or maybe white but something just perfect for fussing around her Calgary home during the day until night. Except this was a perfectly dull and shitty suburban pristine suburb community of Brampton, Ontario where East Indians walked about in turbans and about whom my Dad was racist. Old folks home for the dead and dying and for Grandmas who seem to hide out – in the closet.

“Grandma?” Her little dainty body in her pretty home-made dress tailored to fit a slim body, still fit over her silky little Hudson’s Bay slip with maybe some lace here and there and always feminine, that woman. And her little slippers on her little feet of toes squished together that were soft and neat. “Grandma?” There she was in her perfectly softest white hair sculpted like 1930s in a bob and terrific long bangs pulled back neatly with a stylish barret. Bangs that still held the imprint design of the prongs of her pretty plastic comb with thick teeth that kind used on us as grandkids to detangle knots in fresh-washed hair in big giant clawfoot tubs and soaps that smelt like “Grandma’s House.”

“Grandma?” Grandma sat there alone in all her femininity having had a life long life of gardening and making things, of sewing and mending things, of keeping home and fixing things, or being an entrepreneurial woman with her own favourite grandma, probably the only one who she truly loved and loved her unconditionally. That’s my great-great grandma then my Grandma’s grandma from Armenia we’re told and somewhere far near Russia. “Grandma? Grandma – what the hell are you doing sitting in your closet??”

Dainty Grandma, poised and perfect, sat in her little closet cupboard just waiting to die, I guess. Or until they came to get her for her Captain Highliner fishsticks at noon, served on a bed of lettuce while the nurse man came by with a tray not of appetizers but of little white cups of medicine. When she was done her lunch, she’d return to her room. Dementia? Ha ha! That’s what my step mother and cruel father would have said yes but Grandma knew well to tell us she ripped up our letters and or “hid them” and we knew exactly that she knew exactly what the letters meant and it was best to keep them from the man, my Dad, who paying her rent at the old age home in Brampton.

“Grandma, let’s get you out of there and go for lunch.”

The look upon her face of seeing me, “dear Granddaughter” was full of joy and happiness and gratefulness and a big smile. She’d pet my chest still wondering when even in my 30s I’d get breasts. She’d hand me a belt and say “try it on.” She’d pat my bum and go “Ou ou ou, honey bunches.” Grandma stood there all about 4 feet tall of her, shrunken, when once she towered over me just a baby, then one, then two years old then three. Then four then goodbye at five, parents are getting divorced, we have to leave the mountainous Albertan home and outdoors and gardens for the French Canadian crowd back in Ottawa among whom everyone would grow cancers and love with conditions. Depending on the day they were your friend, but if it was a Tuesday count yourself unlucky again.

And so torn apart from the deep love consistent of a paternal Grandmother and her industriousness, and how can we forget, she taught me to write. And here I am writing about her and will again and again until my end.

So when it came time for her to die, my Dad hid her. Ever since I left him in the style my mom did and boy did she love this drama and watched me tell stories that gave me migraines with aura like it was her on-demand soap opera, ever since I left him at 18, I knew, I said, “he’ll hide Grandma on me.” And he did. And I wonder how she died, did he kill her? No really, did he kill her? And did my step mother smile her turtle-face tight bitch thin lipped smile and utter bad words in support of my father’s anger toward women, which started with her?

I used to have a plaque by my bed that read, “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” I was always stumped by that first line and would ask my mother, “but why should I not wake up.” She never could give me an answer that was good enough. If I did more woodworking I would create a plaque now that may say that if I should end up in the closet like Grandma, hope I choke on a fishstick and never ever come back.

They say we come in on our own and we die on our own, forget the lovers you’ve known and your friends are all gone. With much verve I say for Christ sakes if that be our journey and an awful one at that should we not try to bless one another with care and love? Mom’s mom died surrounded by family, hands, love and comfort. My mother for me now – is nowhere to be found. Expected my father would write my sister and I off, sure, but what kind of life is this and how do we go on when your story of origin is but a stupid fuck drunk and inexperienced versus the desire to be wed and come together and have a family and live together in love until you’re dead.

In the animal kingdom, children neglected die in the wild world without the tools they need to survive. In the human world, they sit in cupboard closets after a rich lifetime of contributing, now waiting for medications and fishsticks and granddaughters who will be kept from them by their very own offspring.

Sylvie Hill

Old Grandma

(Photo is not my Grandma)