Well, she has to be someone's grandmother...

Let’s go on a slight diversion and take a peek at what Lorna wrote in her attempt to cope with her dizzy world…

I’m sharing the first creative story I wrote in 2001. This serves two purposes.

  1. Writing about being dizzy actually makes my dizziness worse, so I need just a bit of a break from my life story to recover.
  2. I haven’t told you anything about my grandparents, and, for whatever reason, I’ve felt a pull to do that.

Here’s the first part…

Of all the talents a kid would want her grandmother to have, cursing her with The Evil Eye isn’t one of them. My grandmother (my mom’s mother), Mémé, trudged through life like a character in a Dostoevsky novel and didn’t believe in optimism. She was Catholic and Finnish—a discouraging combination when hoping for a grandmotherly type along the lines of Grandma Walton, Aunt Bee Taylor, or even an inanimate Grandma Doll.

Golly, Aunt Bee was swell in every way. She cooked and sang for Opie. My grandmother cooked for and cursed me. But it was for my own good.

Mémé told her life story as a series of calamities rather than adventures. To little-girl me, her life sounded exciting; to her, it sounded like she’d ridden the Tragedy Train to Dead-Endsville. Her only goal in life, it seemed, was to prepare her grandchildren for the inevitable wretchedness most people call “life.” I think she wanted to toughen us up for our own good—either that or she was just miserable and she was looking for company.

My sisters and I knew Mémé’s Evil Eye well. It was a multi-faceted gift technique involving stock-still, narrow-eyed glaring and an impeccably timed head-then-shoulder pivot resulting in reducing us to quivering masses of invisible guilt. After a vague amount of time passed, she expected a sincere apology. I prayed for clairvoyance to know when to approach her and what to sincerely apologize for. If I didn’t finesse this part, I was in for more scowling and cold-shouldering.

We didn’t have to do anything wrong to be cursed with the Evil Eye. Sometimes just being a kid was enough. I was never sure what would provoke my grandmother’s disapproval. She seemed to enjoy the element of surprise a lot more than I did. In her mind, the list of kid-crimes was extensive and varied depending on her mood, and her mood was as unpredictable as a cat high on catnip. A tardy “good morning” or failing to put some potentially dangerous item like a salt-shaker back in its proper place were Evil Eye Actionable Offenses. Often having too much fun pushed her over the brink.

Those girls...they're at it again, playing and laughing and, Dear God, moving things! I must put an end to this insanity.

Life with Mémé wasn’t always precarious.  I know she loved us. We were family.  Mom was her only child and we were her only grandchildren.  She made a delicious Sunday dinner every week, always eaten together at her table.  I learned my lifelong love of sewing from her.  It’s just that Mémé had to have things her way, or else.  It boiled down to feeling in charge over one part of her life, a life in which I think she felt almost everything went wrong.

Because we eventually became adept at avoiding Evil Eye Actionable Offenses, she found another way to control us. Pity was her fall back position. Mémé was one sick woman. When I wasn’t afraid of her, I was feeling sorry for her because she looked and sounded like a wounded wildebeest on Wild Kingdom after a frantic hyena attack. “Oh. My head. It breaking,” she lamented weekly (and weakly) in her broken English.  As a change of pace I would sometimes hear, “I having heart attack,” as she clutched she ample bosoms.  The whole family was convinced she was going to wake up dead any day. She lived to 93.

Forget Clark Gable or Cary Grant, my grandmother had this poster on her bedroom wall.

She was a migraine sufferer, so maybe she always felt like death was looming.  There was no telling what would bring on a migraine, but stiffness in her neck was a common cause.  Nearly everything made her neck stiff, but air currents were the most often cited culprits–drafts, wafts, breezes, gusts—moving air of any kind were her foes.  Her home, unfortunately, was improperly insulated and was situated in an open field.  She was a sitting duck for any prowling breeze.  As a result, she spent a lot of time lying down with her hot water bottle, which is not nearly as pleasurable as it might sound.

While she laid in repose with her trusty hot water bottle, my sisters and I were limited to the fun and frivolity permitted in a Buddhist monastery.  Had I been handier around the house, I could have put my summer vacations to better use by insulating her house and replacing her drafty windows.  Unfortunately, my forte was reading not operating power tools.  Thus, survival became a matter of defense, not offense.  We all catered to Mémé when she was sick; we obeyed her rules the best we could to avoid the Evil Eye.

Nothing good would come of this. I once tried to pry open a stuck dresser drawer and smashed my nose so hard that I still have the bump on my nose as a reminder to avoid all home improvement projects.

There were times, however, when unanticipated dynamics converged to shatter the rules, thus creating mayhem.

Part 2 is coming to a computer screen near you tomorrow…