October 4, 2004


My parents headed out to California, not only to play in the see-ment pond and sit a spell but to visit my grandmother, my mom’s mother. I’m not sure I’ve talked much about her here but she’s having a few health issues so I figured it might be high time.

My grandmother’s an odd woman. There’s no way around that simple fact. I give you the following examples:

-Her name is Ruth. She’s never liked that name. Eons ago, she asked everyone to begin calling her Carol for no apparent reason. How did she decide on Carol? None of us have a clue.

-Not satisfied to wallow in her later years, she went to school and got her bachelor’s degree when she was sixty. Not only did she ace her classes but she was also the captain of her sorority’s bowling team. Yes, you read that correctly.

-In her old age (she’s 92) she only eats dessert.

-She’s been a vegetarian for as long as my mom can remember. In other words, before it was a thing.

-Despite the fact that she’s been sober for forty years, she’s an alcoholic. So much so that, when her father died in 1964, three of her four brothers took her to court to block her from receiving any settlement.

-She’s never spoken to those brothers again. Only one is still alive.

-Holidays and other special occasions on which gifts are traditionally given prove interesting. One year, I received a commemorative coin (legal tender in Liberia!) and she sent my wife a double-back of Turbee Twists. It became clear she was shopping from the back pages of Parade magazine. Last year my parents received a “Tiffany-style” lamp from her. She’s escalated to the home shopping channels.

-Despite her checkered gift-giving past, she’s given me two of the most special things ever. One was a pen belonging to a member of my family who died under “suspicious circumstances” – I’ve written about it here before. The other is somewhat less intuitive – a wind-up musical ceramic Christmas tree. That in and of itself is not special. It’s the fact that she originally thought it cost $70 but when she got to the register she was told it was actually $700. For some reason she sent it anyway, despite the fact that she lives on a very fixed income.

-After my grandfather died (I wasn’t even close to being alive yet), she shacked up with a younger man. They’re married now and argue like you wouldn’t believe. But they seem to love each other.

-Not one for collecting things, we were a little surprised when we visited last year to discover a very large collection of stuffed animals. When we inevitably asked what they were for, fearing the onset of senility or some other stuffed animal-collecting geriatric compulsion, she said “They’re for your children. I just bought one at first but then I kept seeing cute ones.”

-Gravity can be a mixed blessing. Sadly, gravity and my grandmother are mortal enemies, locked in a battle of epic proportions that’s been waged over the last 92 years. She has, and always has had, a terrible time staying upright. For that reason, she never learned to ride a bike. She never even drove a car at all. She’s fallen down flights of stairs in all the best places. When I talk to her and ask how she’s doing, I usually get something like “well, I was walking down on the bay and I fell into a palm tree. Its not that bad though. I only cracked a couple of ribs.” Most of these 92 years, gravity’s been winning the battles but it certainly hasn’t won the war.

You get the picture – an odd, old, charming woman. Now, she’s in a lot of pain but if I had to guess, I’d say she’s probably got a few more good years in her. But it saddens me to face the potential of a world without a crazy, gift and gravity-challenged old lady named Ruth, called Carol, who may be single-handedly responsible for keeping the commemorative coin industry in business.

Posted by Chris at October 4, 2004 5:53 PM

I just love Carol (Ruth). My grandmother was just plain mean.

oh, my name is Carol - I wonder why anyone would choose that name on purpose.

Posted by: cassie-b at October 4, 2004 6:15 PM

I don't have my grandparents anymore but I love hearing stories about others'. She sounds like a hoot. Hope she's feeling better soon.

Posted by: bmh at October 4, 2004 6:32 PM

I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother. It sounds like she's lived quite a life. And I hope she feels better soon.

Posted by: charm at October 4, 2004 7:18 PM

Dang it, Chris! I'm struggling with the loss of my grandparents and in fact just finished crying over the death of my grandma (she passed away in May) and here you go bringing up the tears again.

I'm sorry that Grandma is experiencing this right now. Hope Ruth/Carol/Grandma feels better soon.

Posted by: doulazanie at October 4, 2004 7:33 PM

We must be related...Ruth-Carol must be my mother's sister. My mother seems to spend a lot of time getting up off the floor, just this morning I was helping her up and it has always been that way. My grandmother changed her name when she was in her 60's because she did not like her name. I think I know why I like you it is the genes not your charm after all... I hope your grandmother feels better soon.

Posted by: Sweet N Sassy at October 4, 2004 7:55 PM

God Bless her and her eccentricities! We need more Ruth/Carol's in the world to keep it fun. I think I am going to change my name...what do you think of Penelope? Pronounced Peen-A-Lope, not like that Cruz lady...

Posted by: debby at October 4, 2004 8:24 PM

Hey, I've got to just love anyone who only eats dessert! What a great lady!

Posted by: CoolD at October 4, 2004 8:48 PM

what a cool lady! she sounds like a hoot to hang out with. i love sitting and talking with my grandma (she doesn't eat dessert, only things that don't require teeth)

Posted by: monique at October 4, 2004 9:56 PM

What a wonderful story! Your grandmother sounds like an amazing woman. I will keep her in my prayers. I no longer have any living granparents and miss them all dearly.

Posted by: Krush at October 4, 2004 11:12 PM

She reminds me of my great-grandma Sally. Her given name was Sarah but she only went by Sally. She felt you were mad at her if you called her Sarah.

Oh, and my daughter's middle name is Ruth.

Posted by: Kelley at October 5, 2004 12:32 AM

My granny's pretty awesome too. We were discussing The Bay being turned into Target and she said "stupid bloody money grubbing Yanks!" She's just so cute when she rants.

Posted by: Heather at October 5, 2004 12:42 AM

What a sweetheart! You're lucky to have had her for so long and I hope you have many more years to enjoy her. And I will be watching, with great interest, for an entry in December concerning what she has sent you for Christmas this year. I'm sure it will be something worth hearing about!

Posted by: Mary at October 5, 2004 1:54 AM

She sounds wonderful! ... now I miss my grandma :)

Posted by: Sweety at October 5, 2004 3:28 AM

I never really knew my grandma. She lived too far away for me to really get to know her. I'm told she was a nice person though. And she was very good at saving money!! Unlike me. :-(

Posted by: JustAgirl at October 5, 2004 4:10 AM

I love her already. Because quirks are totally endearing.

I now really really miss my grandma!

Posted by: DeAnn at October 5, 2004 5:22 AM

I remember my mother-in-law (she qualifies as a grandmother, to my daughter anyway) finding the HSN for the first time. She said, 'I knew I had to quit when I found myself waking up at 3 in the morning ordering feather pillows I didn't need because they were only $40!' She was a hoot. She loved to tell you how they always called her the 'Giggle with the wiggle.'

Posted by: wlfldy at October 5, 2004 8:02 AM

Consider yourself blessed. My dearly departed Grandmother was never quite as fond of me as all the other grandchildren...it apparently had something to do w/ the Christmas that I skipped out on my turn to do all the dishes. No one could find me for a long time until I was finally discovered hiding in the car, reading one of her Reader's Digests. From that point on...no matter how awesome and expensive the presents were that all the other grandkids got...I always got a subscription to Reader's Digest. :)

Posted by: junkie at October 5, 2004 9:08 AM

I had a grandma like that. Great grandma. Lived on a farm in Iowa her whole life and had a chuaua that sang to her at night. She lived to be a ripe ol' 99 years old. Was the smartest, kindest, strangest woman I've even known, and I miss her so....

Posted by: Jade at October 5, 2004 11:20 AM

Ruth/Carol/Grandma sounds like such a wonderfully interesting woman. You and your family are blessed to have such a person in your lives. She seems like the kind of woman who lived life on her terms and can honestly say she enjoyed the majority of it.

My grandparents passed several years ago and I love reliving the memories they shared with me. It seems to me that you have some very special ones you will be reliving many, many years from now.

Blessings to Ruth/Carol/Grandma. I hope she feels better soon.

Posted by: Desiree at October 5, 2004 11:29 AM

Wow, your grandmother sounds awesome.

Posted by: Fraulein N at October 5, 2004 12:20 PM

I hope at some point, my not yet born grandchildren, will love my strangeness as much as you love Carol's...My grandmother was also a soul like her...and she enriched my life and truly helped to make me who I am! I was grateful to have her. Wishing her good health and fun with the younger yelling man! *grin*

Posted by: gypsy at October 6, 2004 12:23 AM

I just found this post of yours from the other day that I didn’t take the time to read fully...what a cute story! She sounds like a very interesting person!!

Posted by: Zandria at October 6, 2004 6:11 AM

She'd fit right in with me and my group of friends. :) I second gypsy in wishing her health and hapinness...

The people we are blessed with, in my opinion, are the greatest treusures of our lifetimes.

Posted by: Sabine at October 6, 2004 10:39 AM

I love old people. She sounds wonderfully odd. Just the way I like my old people. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: myllissa at October 6, 2004 12:10 PM