Over Spring Break I went to visit my Grandma in Florida. Below is the first of a three-part piece titled, “The World at a Slow Pace,” about my time in her lovely condo.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Today my grandma wears dark blue sweatpants and a thin, light blue sweater flipped inside out. Her sweatpants rest slightly above her ankles and I can see that she has decided to wear one sock, on her left foot, and to keep the other bare. Both feet shuffle around the condo in white slippers designed for comfort rather than support.
Earlier today she walked the ten minutes to the beach with me, and I could see her legs from the knees down. Veins run down her shins like rivers on a map, blue and scattered and criss-crossing everywhere. The skin underneath her chin sits like the throat of a turkey, hanging curved and fleshy off her trachea. My grandma is surprisingly agile for her age; as we walk she sometimes notices that her pace is slowing, so she takes a breath and swings her arms and moves with a new determination.
â€œNice that the beach is so close.â€ I say. â€œFrankâ€™s place is so nice!â€
â€œItâ€™s fine.â€ She says resigned.
A few years ago, when she spent her winters with her second husband Murray, she lived in a million-dollar apartment in an extravagant high-rise north of Miami. Whitney Houston and Barry Bonds owned places in the same building.
She was married to Murray for eleven years; was married to my grandfather for forty before that. Now she lives with Frank, although they are not married, on the west side of Florida, in a small two-bedroom condo in a development of two-bedroom condos and old people. Frank is a widower and an old friend of the familyâ€™s. So when the two found themselves alone, they thought why not be together?
Around every corner of the development I can see tennis courts and shuffleboard games, unused and waiting like park benches in the winter.
I donâ€™t ask my grandma if the pain of burying two husbands is too overwhelming to consider marriage for a third time. I donâ€™t ask if the toll of surviving two separate loves has impacted her physical or emotional health. But I can see it in her actions, small steps she takes to see the middle and end of each day.
I have to hold onto my glass of water here, or else she will clear it away to the sink within five minutes. She is constantly cleaning, even though the apartment is as spotless as can be: white walls, white window curtains, white tile floors, and not a speck of dirt to be seen. There are potted plants and flowers around the condo, several in the living room and more out on the front patio. She waters them twice a day. Talks on the phone to friends or family at least six or seven times a day. She walks to and on and from the beach, each time remembering the route she takes to the sand path out loud.
I notice she takes long in the bathroom. Perhaps a sign of getting older.
After dessert, before sleep, she asks, â€œFrank, do you want to use the bathroom first or should I?â€
Their days are a constant organizing of small matters: runs to the grocery store, deciding dinner menus and afternoon naps. Sheâ€™s invited friends over for dinner tomorrow night, made plans to see a movie on Tuesday. The sun begins in the backyard, bright and eager over the shared, heated swimming pool, and ends in the front, sliding past the still palm trees and the slow-moving golf carts.
I have done nothing today and still feel tired. I sit with Frank on the white couches, under white lighting, as he finishes every word of the New York Times. I am absorbed in my book and we both sit in the quiet as my grandma finishes cleaning, and then joins us with her own book. Eventually, we decide it is time for sleep, and I wander to the twin bed in the guestroom, wondering how I could possibly feel exhausted from a day of eating and sitting, but fall quickly asleep to a soft breeze through the open doors.