What’s old but not an antique, wrinkled but not a prune, sweet but not confectionary, often mistaken but never wrong, an automobile owner but not a motorist; prone to confusion but not a GPS unit?
My grandmother is 83 years old and she’s alright.
Characteristic of spending time with an octogenarian, patience is a virtue of which there never seems quite enough – studies show that the thought processes of a 30-year-old male are quite dissimilar to that of a woman who’s well into her fourth quarter.
I like to pay my grandmother a visit at least once weekly. This provides the forum for a candid yarn and catch-up on retirement village gossip; she likes to cook lunch while I fill her in on recent happenings of the outside world. Statements become of an inquisitive nature as we embark on the topic of how technology is taking over our lives; the decadent nature of today’s young ladies, also the way that girls nowadays are all so fat; then if there’s still time we like to discuss other peoples’ peculiarities, idiosyncrasies and foibles. It’s all powerfully engaging stuff.
During these visits plans are sometimes made for a trip to town to carry out all those burdensome tasks that have been niggling at her mind for days – or often it’s for no reason at all. Either way, we’re getting out there. Given Grandma’s inability to drive on account of her inability to see properly, a chaperone is required. If I’m present and willing, these duties are usually offered to me.
Much as I tell myself that it’s me doing her a favour… Come on..?
I turned up for this particular excursion around 11 that Wednesday morning, walked inside, located Grandma and offered myself a seat. Lunch was prepared and subsequently devoured. We then departed. Having since given up on a radio that receives only static, the one piece of instrumental audio was the gentle chiming of the Grandfather Clock in the back seat, along for its fourth trip to the watchmaker in as many months. The 45 minute trip was punctuated with the pointing out of ‘new’ and ‘interesting’ landmarks which had long ago lost their appeal. Additionally, no trip would be complete without the directional guidance that I stopped requiring around 12 years ago.
The watchmaker was pleased to see us; pleased furthermore to see the Grandfather Clock.
Then to the Bush Inn Mall where my eyes fell upon a curious sight: a Chinese boy, standing only slightly taller than his electric piano, embellishing the entranceway with his captivating music. This boy couldn’t have been more than six years old and was playing what even I could recognise as classic compositions. The most amazing thing though, he didn’t even appear interested in what he was doing – gazing vacantly around the area as both hands moved frantically up and down the keyboard with impeccable precision.
Bugger. I’d lost Grandma.
This wasn’t cause for panic, I was aware that she can be inclined to wander off and providing motorists were driving defensively, there wasn’t much chance of her coming to harm. Our impromptu game of hide and seek was part of the fun. Only a few seconds later I spotted her inside a nearby bank. Deciding that I had time, I nipped away for a haircut.
45 minutes later – much longer than expected – I returned to the bank. Grandma wasn’t there. Recalling her words about needing a new microwave I climbed the steps to Smith’s City.
She was nowhere to be seen.
Walking back through a café where she and I had in the past dined, I found her. She had apparently been waiting for me to take her to Smith’s City.
For reasons that I did not totally comprehend Grandma ended up purchasing the most expensive microwave on display. I carried the 32 litre monstrosity back to the car, waited, waited, waited; then we headed home.
We stopped off at Mitre 10 Mega in Hornby, which always used to be decidedly mega; but is now the size of an entire shopping mall. Grandma made a show of asking for directions to the flooring department, before turning and following me there. She spent another 10 minutes perusing the selection of rubber mats before eventually settling on the one that I had initially picked out and had been holding, waiting for this little game to play out.
Back through Rolleston we called in at the Warehouse and bought some vegetable saplings – she also insisted on buying me two pairs of work shorts because apparently a 30-year-old man should not be seen in tattered clothing. While she paid for these I rushed over to the New World to grab a few grocery items. Gauging her walking speed, I knew that I had at least a quarter of an hour. I returned 17 minutes later to find her entering her favourite variety of shop – a haberdashery outlet.
Twenty minutes later I was leading her back to the car. Twenty minutes after that I was pulling the car into her garage. A belated afternoon tea accompanied by the customary small-talk; twenty minutes after that, I was on my own way home.
I was shattered.
Article by Mit Reklaw
Edited by Gerry Atrick
Photography by Fruz Trait