"And I realized why old people talk to checkout girls for so long. It's because they haven't spoken to anyone else all day."
And it makes me sad for my grandmother, Mimi. She was widowed in her thirties with four young children, and she never remarried. I think she would have, once, but one of her daughters made a snide comment (and this was LONG after her husband had died) about how they didn't think she should remarry--so she DIDN'T. However grumpy she sometimes was, however much she really didn't like kids in her old age, I can't help but wish I'd been more thoughtful. We used to make fun of the fact that she talked. Incessantly. To anyone and everyone who would listen. She always told cashiers that my mom was valedictorian back in 1970 (and later when my cousin and I were too she'd add that in), she always talked about how "you're looking at three generations!" when she, my mom, and I would go places together--and we (me, my sister, and our cousin) always used to roll our eyes and get embarrassed that she was with us. She'd tell anyone that she raised four kids alone and they turned out fine...but she never talked about the emotional toll that had to have taken on her.
Now, though, I can see why she'd be that way...she'd been widowed for 40 years and lived alone. Mimi had no one to talk to, even if she did stuff with us once or twice a week--can you imagine only talking one day a week? Life had to have meant more to her than us--hence three generations was something to be grateful for, since she never got to live out her golden years with the love of her life. And no wonder it sometimes seemed that she was boastful of raising four kids alone--she was forced to do exactly that during a time when most women didn't even work, much less worry about being a single mom and putting food on the table. (I hope, but don't know, that my granddad had life insurance. She did get military benefits though, thank heavens).
My granddad was a nose gunner at 19 years old in WWII, and because of that his heart was enlarged and he began to have heart problems shortly after coming back. He lived a while in a state of bad health, and died when my mom was just 15. (Mom was only the second of four, too). Mimi never talked about resenting the military for the long years of his bad health and drinking because of being depressed about his health, but I have to think that in that situation I'd have blamed them endlessly AND been a lot more bitter about it than she.
The older I get, the more respect I have for this side of my grandmother that I never knew. I wish I had stopped long enough to consider it while she was living; I think she would have talked to me about it if I'd asked. Too often, we assume people don't want to talk about things that might be painful...but I think she would have been pleased that I wanted to know.
If I had a copy of it, I'd leave off with my favorite picture of her--she's 14, and she and my granddad are on some kind of youth church trip, and they are gripping hands, two skinny kids in the snow, in their bathing suits, looking absolutely FREEZING, and grinning like idiots. I wonder if they were on the way to a hot tub? Whenever I get sad that she's gone, I picture that, and I know that if there is a God, if heaven exists, that's where she is right now. Fourteen, with Jimmy, in their swimsuits in the snow being idiotic teenagers, their life before them. No war, no health problems, just them, making up for the last fifty or so years.