Monday, February 15, 2010

Grandma Tales

I'm this close to turning this blog into an emotional trading post.

Got to tell this story:

Yesterday, in the midst of a birthday celebration, with wrapping paper flying around the room, my brother Bob called from Montana to talk to Grandma.

"Hello, Bensons."
"Hey bro, what's up?"
"Nothing much. We're celebrating."

Same verbose chit-chat typical of the Benson species.

"So what is The Mom up to?"

When Robert asks this question, always the same, I answer with an outrageous lie. Different lie every time.

"Last time I checked we had her cleaning toilets. Let me go see if she's done."

Grandma B. is 91. She hasn't cleaned a toilet in a decade.

So I hand Grandma the phone. At exactly the same time, she says, "My ear went out."

Her "ears" are hearing aids, since her God-given ones just don't cut it anymore. The new ears take batteries. The batteries last about ten days, then they're out. So grandma takes out one of her ears and hands it to me at the same time I'm handing her the phone. She puts the phone to her ear--the real ear--but the one now sans an aid.

(We've had this struggle before. A while ago one of Grandma's "ears" went belly-up, and she had to go with one hearing aid for weeks. But she could not break the habit of holding the receiver of her phone to the wrong ear. Many people hung up on her because they thought she was being rude. She probably was, but she had a good excuse - she couldn't hear a lick).

"Bob?" she said into the phone, but she heard no response.

I took the phone and put it to the other ear--the good one. Immediately, by force of habit, or magnetism, or stubborn will, she put the phone to the opposite, hearing-disabled ear. And she held the phone upside down, meaning the part-you-talk-in was on her bad ear, and the part-you-hear-from was on her mouth.

I took the phone again, turned it around, and put it to her good ear. "Bob?" she said.

And then like a flash, she put the phone back to the bad ear. "Bob?" She continued to call, turning the phone every which way. "Bob?"

As she fiddled with it, and the rest of the family tried to help her, I scrambled to replace the battery--an itsy bitsy little steel pod that would be hard for anyone to put into place, much less a geriatric. I finally got it into the hearing aid, and gave it back to Grandma. She handed me the phone, having yet to make contact with Bob.

He wasn't on the line. In all the phone handling, we had hung up on him.

So we got the battery changed, the ear (manufactured) back into the ear (flesh), and started to resume family activities as we waited for Bob to call again. Grandma continued to fiddle with her ears (all of them).

She had her hand up to the ear that had been re-powered, and out of the blue she called out, "Bob?  Bob, are you there?" She did not have the phone. She was calling into her hand. "Bob?"

One of the side effects of being hard of hearing and a little dazed and confused because of old age is that you don't always get what people are laughing about. Grandma's family was rolling on the floor laughing. She just smiled, lowered her phone -- hand -- to her side, and waited for it to ring.