my grandmother is the master of the no-win situation. unfortunately, what she has not learned in her long life is that in a no-win situation, no one wins, including the person who sets the situation up.
on tuesday, feeling guilty that i had not been to see my grandmother for any number of reasons none of which mean anything at all to her, i promised to bring her a hamburger for lunch on wednesday. she told me she was "dying" for a hamburger. i had an appointment with my chiropractor and high hopes she might be able to do something about my knee. her office is half way to my grandmother's. i had to eat lunch anyway.
while enjoying the ministrations of the massage therapist, i racked my brain trying to figure out where i was going to find my grandmother a hamburger at 11 am. all options seemed to include driving the other direction - and the knees's made driving even more painful than $4.35 gas. finally, i settled on what seemed to be the only solution - the mcdonald's at bishop's corner in west hartford.
for those of you who don't know this part of the world, bishop's corner is the ubiqitous name the natives use for the intersection of route 44 and main street. created as a mecca for shoppers, it is better described as a maelstrom of suburban hell. but i have good reflexes - and for my grandmother's sake i was willing to go toe to toe with all the suburban assault vehicles driven by all the soccer moms in west hartford. besides, i left the chiropractor's with my knee feeling pretty good. just don't do the stuff that makes it hurt, she said as i left. like drive, i thought, as i slid behind the wheel.
with hamburgers in hand, however, i arrived at my grandmother's to find her sitting in the lobby, fast asleep. we went upstairs, she seemed pleased to see me. then she started. her stomach hurt, she was cold, her shoes hurt. she couldn't sit in the kitchen chair, it was too hard. she couldn't sit in her big red chair, it was too soft. she hadn't slept, she's tired of being all alone, she wants to go home. (she has no idea how fervently nor with how many that feeling is shared.) her stomach hurts.
needless to say, she can't eat her hamburger. she has to go lie down. she wants to go home to ocean city where at least people come to see her. what people, i asked? she didn't answer, probably because she couldn't remember anyone still alive. so she started about her stomach again.
the nurse said it's all the food you've been bringing in, she said. oh, i replied, you mean all the food you've asked me to bring in? i got up, gave her a kiss, threw the hamburger away, and told her i hoped she felt better soon. then i left, wondering why on earth i had gone to trouble she neither cared about nor seemed to appreciate.
when the phone rang later yesterday afternoon, i was tempted not to answer. it's not that i was feeling especially psychic - the miracle of caller id told me it was my grandmother. BE THE BETTER PERSON, i heard my mother say.
im very sorry, my grandmother said when i picked up the phone. i want you to come back.
i can't come back, i said, as gently as possible. the doctor said i shouldn't do things that hurt my knee, and driving is one of them. and it's late now, libby will be home from school and i have stuff to do around the house.
well how about tomorrow, she said.
im not going anywhere tomorrow either, i said. i have to rest my knee. i'll try to come on friday, but i really have to see how it feels.
i could feel her sigh as she hung up the phone. maybe it isn't ever too late to learn.
and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.