Monday, September 23, 2013

Hungry?

My grandmother used to hang out with the rest of us. When she was home, she usually sat with my mother, talking, drinking and smoking. She worked as a front desk clerk at my dad’s motel. Sometimes she brought home kids' magazines or books from the lobby. She let me make her drinks, holding a finger up to the glass to show me how much vodka and how much orange juice to add.

After my dad died, the hotel was sold. She never got another job and started spending more time in her room. She liked watching All in the Family and Benny Hill, or reading biographies (she didn’t care for fiction).

Eventually, she stopped joining us for meals. She drank more. She started calling a cab to take her to the liquor store when my mother wasn’t home (my grandmother did not drive). Then she’d disappear back into her room. Eventually she started paying the cab drivers to go to the liquor store for her. She stopped bothering with the orange juice.

She became very angry at us. She spent more and more time in her room until the only time we saw her was when she crept quietly down the hall to the hallway door. She would stand there in the doorway and stare at whoever had the misfortune to be in the living room at the time until she'd been noticed. Then she’d sneer, raise her chin as though rising above some great injustice, and walk back to her room. She would mumble something followed by “you,” as she made her exit. Once in a while, you could make out the word “rotter” (she was British). One time, she even hissed. 

The worst was when you were sitting with your back to the hallway door. Then, when you did eventually notice her, you would have no way of knowing how long she’d been there.

The last time I remember her trying to be part of the family, she had made me and my brothers breakfast. It was unnerving. We hardly ever saw her anymore, and when we did she sneered at us. But she was being friendly so we politely took the scrambled eggs she’d made and sat down to eat them. When I was finished, I walked past the stove to put my plate in the sink and saw the pan and utensil she had used to cook the eggs. It was the scoop from the cat’s litter box.

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