Friday, August 06, 2004


Grandma is showing her unfriendly side, says my family. It's very disconcerting to think that she has an unfriendly side, in the sense of being even less friendly than the side that she usually shows to people. But she has just turned 90, she is sick, she is depressed, probably clinically, and she is pissed off, which is sort of the normal state of affairs.

She is complaining about all the diseases that she's been diagnosed with, which are plentiful, and all the diseases that she believes she has but has not been diagnosed with, which is the rest of diseases known to man, Or woman. OK, she probably knows enough biology to figure out she does not have testicular cancer.

If you visit her you have to have all shields up to protect yourself from her. If you have any cracks in your armor, she'll find them and poke you with a hot poker through them. Usually I can manage fairly easily, but in 2001, when I wasn't feeling so well, the woman managed to make me cry every time. Each time she was extremely surprised at my reaction. She also wondered why I did not visit her too often.

Here is how visits usually go (that's the variety that does not make me cry):
Her: Oh, hi! So glad to see you! Your hair is really ugly! Why don't you cut it off?
Me: [rolling my eyes]
Her: You are so awfully fat, too! Want some candy?
Me: No, thanks,
Her: But have some.
Me: [would take some candy if it were of the kind I like, but it usually isn't] No, thanks. Didn't you just say that I was too fat?
Her: A little candy won't hurt.
Me: No, thanks.
Her: You are dressed horribly! [To Benka] Why do you dress her like that?
Benka: [Giving grandma a steely bluish-gray stare that you generally see on some Western hero before he shoots up a saloon full of enemies] She's 32, mom, and I haven't been dressing her for quite a while. But if you want to try, be my guest.
Her: Horrible clothes, horrible. Want some tea?

While we are drinking the tea she discusses my wrongful life and all the things I am doing wrong. I live in a wrong country, work in a wrong field, and in a wrong company, have wrong friends, am dating a wrong guy and generally do everything wrong. Mind you, she doesn't really know what I do at work, has never met any of the friends she disapproves of, and has never met Killeri, either. Although in Killeri's case she probably mostly disapproves of his unability to speak Russian and therefore unability to listen to her lectures.

She has something to say on the subject of boyfriends in general:

Her: You shouldn't have a boyfriend. You should have a husband.
Me: Husbands generally start out as boyfriends, you know.
Her: That's bullshit! None of the women in our family has ever had a boyfriend.

Hrrmm. I don't know of any woman in her branch of the family who got married while still a virgin. Not that I'd checked, of course, but I assume the vast majority of women who have lived together with a guy in a relationship for several years have managed to lose their virginity at some point. And living together was also the normal thing in my parents' and grandparents' generation. A certain relative of my grandmother's age married her boyfriend when they got a granddaughter. My grandma might claim that she'd been a virgin all the while but I don't buy it.

She also has something to say on the subject of friends: they are not necessary. In the same breath she complains about the lack thereof. She does have some friends, in fact, but won't usually call them because she believes that if they wanted to talk to her they'd call her themselves. I tell her that this way nobody would ever call anybody.

When she is done with the bitching for the day, she can be interesing to talk with. I've known her all my life and still her personality somehow does not compute for me, but we do have things to talk about. She talks about the past, speculates about the future, and is one of the very few old people who do not believe that the old days were better.

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