Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thoughts of a Grandchild

Visiting my grandparents I wonder if I’m too serious. Like my grandpa. What I really mean is I’d like to make my grandma laugh. She laughs when I’m there but mostly at her own jokes and stories. Like the one where she comes back from Germany with her parents, 10 years old, speaking German, and fat from eating cake instead of the dark German bread.

It occurs to me later that I made my grandpa laugh by eating a big bite of apple pie. “That would take me at least three bites,” he says while I try to mentally divide my piece into three while thinking I could accommodate a lot more. This is apple pie. The bite was slightly ungainly, but quite doable even with my sticky jaw joints that don’t like opening all the way. Did they?

I don’t remember if my jaw did or not. I do remember clearing away plates and cleaning and putting away the card table they used for a visit from my grandpa’s sister and her husband. I remember talking with my grandparents. I remember feeling as I left that I wanted to make my grandma laugh. Not the way she nervously laughs when I carry her up and down the stairs at my parent’s, but by being playful and precocious as she nears 92.

And now I’m thinking about what I can give my grandma. The woman who started teaching me how to read. The woman who attached buttons to knotted string in ketchup bottles to make toys, who fired the best omelets over a blue gas flame, who embarrasses and delights me by telling jokes to strangers. I can adjust her mattress when it slips, shovel her driveway, take out the trash, trim the weeds growing up in the sidewalk cracks, and other chores. And maybe after a hard lifetime of chores, that’s what she needs.

I’d also love to get my mother a maid to end her lifetime of chores, but I know she’d prefer travel. She’d prefer exploring Thailand or Vietnam with me to not having to cook and clean in an increasingly vacant home. She’d also prefer to provide wants to needs. I remember finding her after one of my dad’s “let’s show Mom how much we love her” programs. Mom was down. Everyone had mentioned how much she did for them which left her feeling, ‘is that all?’

Needs and wants. The first seems boring, the latter exciting as evidenced by the maid versus world travel scenario or mattress adjusting versus jokemeister-G. Am I bothered by being a boring need fulfiller rather than a want provider? A source of comfort instead of excitement?

Or am I a perpetual discontent? When I was young, I was smart and good, but I wanted to be fun and popular. Then I was fun, but I missed being thoughtful. So I contemplated more but wanted surety. I’m helpful in ways to my grandma. I want to be good to her, but why is the role I seem to fulfill at the moment one that is not good for what it is, but lacking for what it isn’t? Her favorite granddaughter brings her dinners and plays skipbo with her. A relief because she hates cooking—hates—and a delight because she loves games.

So I worry about giving people what they need but not what they want even though it’s not true. For one, I’m not even that good at providing needs. I help only rarely my mother or my grandma. Plus, I’ve told grandma some zingers. When taking her to visit my grandpa in the hospital, she asked why the orange went to the doctor. I guessed, “He had a naval infection?” The alternate punch line stopped her. She cooed, ‘ooh, that’s good,’ before going on to say, “He wasn’t peeling well,” with a naughty smile. Every nurse, receptionist and visitor we passed heard the joke with both punch lines, my grandma graciously crediting me with the one I had come up with.

So embarrassing.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Bookless

This last week I didn’t read anything. Nothing big anyway. No books, no blogs, no comics, no articles. Nothing. I did read labels and emails—as long as they didn’t seem too constructed. If they seemed conversational, I categorized them with texts and IMing and read on. I also wrote and in revising my work read my own words, that was legal. The idea is that with less input of words, I’ll free the passages and increase my output of words.

To clarify: I am not one of those Nimrods who never reads and is proud of the fact. This is just one week.

First thing I learned is that reading is my drug, and my room is my heroin den. Books are everywhere. Two piles of seventeen volumes sit on my bedside table alone. Splayed out in front of the table on the floor are nine more not counting three family histories lying there. They’re technically folders. And then there are two full bookcases and another two shelves. All full of books. All off limits.

A sample of some nightly thoughts:

Monday, Jan 26, 2009

Night is when it’s worst. I can’t sleep. TV’s not helping. Catching up on Battlestar Galactica, 30 Rock and SNL aren’t helping. Books are everywhere, glaring at me. I glare back. I write an opening scene to a screenplay I’ve been thinking about a lot. Like it. Still can’t sleep. Write notes for a Sci-fi novel I’m working on. Like that. Still not sleeping. Work on some dirty haikus. Still awake. Write in my journal (the absolute last straw), and I am still awake. Finally about 4 or 5 I drift off. Hell.

Tuesday, Jan 27, 2009

Coming home from an evening in SLC, I’m drowsy. Good sign. Really good sign. But, another bookless night means another sleepless night. A nightly read is as necessary to me, apparently as a morning cup of coffee is to some people. Ah, what a creature of habit. Interesting experiment, but I’d love to get some sleep. TV again?

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2009

Travelling all night. No sleep expected. Do a crossword instead of reading on the flight. I start getting a bit of help from the empty seat’s copy of the in-flight magazine for difficult words, but soon am using it as a reference, hoping the people across the isle aren’t watching me.

Thursday, Jan 29, 2009

Read a bit of an online comic over a friend’s shoulder. Feel kind of silly for not reading.

That kind of thing. When the readinglessness ends, I keep it up for a couple of days then finish “Stumbling on Happiness” which is a fascinating book about how the brain works to predict and ensure future happiness from past experiences. It cites many fascinating studies, and I’m glad to be reading again. I also get caught up on news stories and comics and some articles on how spam works. Interesting stuff.

Did not reading increase output? Somewhat, by not sleeping I was left with no choice but to write. It did quiet the voices inside a bit too and, surprising side effect, I’m going without the radio and singing in the car more.