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It’s no secret that Mimi likely remarried in her later years solely for companionship and money.  Like most well-raised southern women before her Mimi was taught that money and a good family name were the most important things in life and silly things like love and sex were meant for the faint of heart or those who had nothing better to which to aspire .  That being said, it came as no surprise when she married Dick, her second husband.  He was a tall, well-dressed man who was nice enough but wasn’t much to look at and harbored the personality of Eyore.

Grandpa Dick was a generous man and always treated me kindly even though unlike Mimi, he hardly wanted to be covered in grandchildren.  He gave Mimi, as she says, “the finer things in life.”  And allowed her to indulge in her whims of shopping and furnishing his house.  However, as the years went by and Dick eventually passed away, Mimi was left to do what she wanted with the various investments and money he left behind.  Given her generous nature, much of that went to various family members as either checks or gifts.  A good chunk likely paid for my college education.  And as we later found out, quite a bit went to a monthly donation to the church.  But as with most things, money doesn’t last forever and when I took responsibility for her finances three years ago all that was left was a large amount of credit card debt and her monthly income of just $2,000.

It was around this time that we started hearing stories of Mimi’s new husband.  While the man was an actual person she had attended high school with, their marriage was only a figment of her imagination.  I had heard of the man, Jim, quite often over the years.  He was a small town boy who went on to become a great success, eventually presiding over Capitol Records in California.

The first time she mentioned him she matter-of-factly asked Tony and I what we planned to do with our money.  “What money?” we asked.

“Well, you know, the $125,000 my husband is going to give you,” she calmly answered.

At first we thought she was joking.  “Well, when did you get married?” I asked.

“Oh, well, about two days ago.  Jim asked if I’d marry him and I said yes.  He said he’s had a crush on me all these years and I said, ‘well, I think you’re pretty special too.'”

Tony and I exchanged glances, not quite sure what to do or say so I asked where her husband was now.  And to this day I’m not quite sure if the story was concocted beforehand or she just thought it up on the spot but without any hesitation she answered, “He’s in the islands on business, down in the Cayman’s or somewhere like that.”

Where she’d heard of the Cayman Islands I have no idea.  But I laughed a little and thought, “If you can’t beat ’em, may as well join ’em.”  So I went right along with her.

“Well my goodness, he must have lunch with Oprah and all kinds of famous people,” I scoffed.

“Oh yes, he really does.  He’s a very important person,” she explained.

And from that day on, every now and again, she’ll slip in some comment about her husband and his money.  She even frequently signs her name, Edna, the last name being that of her aforementioned husband.  Recently, she received a flyer at my Aunt’s house addressed to her “married” name.  We still have no idea how that happened.

It has become a running joke within the family.  Tony and I have slowly been cleaning out her house and among the many things, we found a letter from her “husband” and pictures from his retirement party.  Tony discovered the letter and began reading, “Dear Edna, I’m sorry we have to keep our marriage a secret.”

“It does not say that, does it?” I asked.  He laughed and handed me the letter.

“No but what if it did?” he chuckled.

After their latest visit home, my Aunt learned from Mimi’s few friends who are still living that she has apparently carried a torch for this Jim for years but had never disclosed it to anyone.  It was a crush her friends merely suspected.  And upon further clearing of long forgotten drawers we’ve discovered letters from Jim.  Letters that frequently mention his wife and his sincere thanks to Mimi for keeping him abreast of all the happenings in his old hometown of South Charleston, WV.

I’m glad I never corrected this fantasy although my Aunt frequently argues with Mimi that she is not married.  I think it sometimes hurts her feelings knowing Mimi had this crush while probably still married to her father.  I, on the other hand, think it’s somewhat sweet and if it’s something that makes her happy and allows her to daydream like a lovesick teenager, then she can think she’s married for as long as she wants.  If only she were, then Tony and I’d have a nice, fat $125,000 check sitting in our bank account rather than the couple hundred that’s actually there.

Unlike I promised, I was not able to blog while Mimi was here.  I apologize for that but she was more lucid than I had expected and I couldn’t bring myself to write the blog with her sitting in the same room.  On that note, we did have a nice visit and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Mimi but as with most visits, I was ready for her and my Aunt to pack it in by the end of the week.

The week prior to Mimi’s visit Tony and I spent any and all spare time attempting to get the house in order.  While we had changed quite a few things, I still wanted it to be ship-shape for Mimi and Maryann’s arrival.  The Saturday they were expected to arrive Tony cleaned the basement while I made a pound cake from scratch and concocted Mimi’s favorite “dippy” she had made ever since I could remember.  The “dippy” is simply a mix of cream cheese, french dressing or this time tangy bacon catalina, ketchup and grated onion.  I worked up a sweat trying to mix that cream cheese with the rest of the ingredients, closely keeping an eye on the clock and yelling the countdown to Tony.

Mimi and Maryann had informed us the prior evening that they’d be arriving at 1:30 p.m.  I had gone to the grocery store that night and purchased all of Mimi’s favorites:  original Pringles, ice cream, strawberries, bananas, Honey Nut Cheerios, orange juice,2 % milk, cookies, Pepsi and cottage cheese.  As I checked out, I looked down at my items and felt a wave of shame crash over me.  During the past two months Tony and I drastically changed our eating habits.  He converted back to veganism and while I still eat meat on occasion, I had adopted a largely vegetarian diet.  The said change resulted in a 30 point drop in my cholesterol for which I was immensely proud so one can imagine my disappointment as I perused the junk food that crowded the conveyor belt.  Nevertheless, at 89 years-old I figured it best to give Mimi what she wanted.  After all, her only ailment with exception to her dementia has been high blood pressure.

On Saturday afternoon at precisely 1:30, I heard a car door slam and Mimi’s shouts of hello to the neighbors.  They had arrived.  As I ushered them into the house Mimi promptly noticed the first change.  We had moved her old console record player out of the foyer into the basement.  “Where’s the record player?” she asked.

“Well, it’s in the basement because we needed a space for the cedar chest,” I explained.  And the issue appeared to be dropped.  She settled into her pink lift chair and promptly began playing with Lola, the dog we had initially adopted for Mimi but who eventually ended up in our care after Mimi attempted to give her Pepsi and allowed her to poop and pee throughout the entire house.

At that moment Mimi seemed at ease, happy to be settled into her old house.  She carried on lucid conversations and was even excited at some of the old treasures we had unearthed in attempting to clean out the house.  Still, I was unsure of how I’d survive this visit and had plans to meet up with a friend later that night for a few drinks.  To my dismay, she cancelled and instead I hid a bottle of wine in my bedroom closet and took swigs throughout the evening to tolerate the plethora of “old lady” shows Mimi and Maryann enjoy.  Sporting a nice buzz, I retired to bed but not before I assembled an Easter basket filled with her favorite candies which I placed on the dresser in her bedroom.  I felt a slight pang as I realized the grandmother who used to coddle and baby me was now, in fact, the baby.  With that I retired, knowing full well that I was likely going to be cooking Easter dinner with a slight hangover.

I realize it’s been quite some time since I’ve updated but for the past few months Mimi and I have only been speaking on the phone and those conversations, as of lately, tend to be relatively short.  I think she gets mad because I interrupt her sleep.  Ha, ha.  At any rate, she and my aunt are coming in this Saturday for their annual spring visit.  This one should be a doozie.  Tony and I have since moved into Mimi’s house and have among other things ripped up the carpet to reveal the beautiful hardwoods, thrown away practically a dumpster’s worth of cards, paper clips, rubber bands, and other items old ladies tend to hoard and painted.  It’ll be interesting to see what she thinks and also to see how things progress with the four of us living under one roof for an entire week.

Mimi has already informed my aunt that she should get the larger of the two bedrooms to which Tony replied, “Well, if she thinks that, Maryann should just tell her, ‘Well, I guess the bigger person (meaning size, Mimi’s gained a considerable amount of weight) should get the bigger room!'”  Admittedly, that would be an interesting reaction since Mimi never hesitates on calling anyone else fat but never considers herself a larger lady.

I hope you all will rejoin us on this adventure because as before, I’m sure it will be a wild and hilarious one!  Thanks again for reading and sending your comments.  I truly do appreciate it. :)

until you begin cleaning out their house.  It’s been nearly a year since Mimi moved to Chicago to live with her step-daughter.  Since, then Tony and I have been trying to maintain some sort of control over her house.  After this summer and our attempt to keep two lawns maintained we decided it’d just be easier to move into Mimi’s comfy abode.  Like most things it’s easier said than done and three months later we’re still in the cleaning out stage.

I imagine the homes of most older folks are packed with trash and treasures, however, Mimi’s boarders on an episode of hoarders.  I can honestly say the woman has hardly disposed of anything in her nearly 89 years on the planet.  Combine that with the condensed belongings of my great-grandparents and suffice it to say I’d gladly open the door and allow on-lookers to take what they want.

Last month, during Mimi’s annual summer/fall visit her step-daughter decided it would be nice for Tony and I to take Mimi to dinner.  It would give her some down time and hopefully time to start sorting through the things at the house and we could spend quality time with Mimi.  No problems there.  We were in no hurry to begin the task of sorting through all that junk anyway.

After a fairly uneventful dinner we returned home to find Maryann practically in hysterics.  She was laughing so hard she could barely speak.  She motioned for me to come into the kitchen and held up a package of playing cards.  Upon closer inspection I noticed  they were NUDE playing cards.  NUDE MALE playing cards!  I grabbed the deck and began flipping through the cards.  It was obvious they were circulated at some point in the late 70’s or early 80’s and I’m fairly certain they weren’t targeted to women.  There were men of all different races, pants down around their ankles, if they had any on at all,their manhood exposed for all to see.  Some were tied up, others were dressed in black leather, another looked to be a missing member of the Village People.  I was speechless.  Where?  How?  Who?

It was simply too funny and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask my demure, southern grandma where she obtained such pornography!  She gave me a puzzled look and when I held up the package of cards she laughed and nodded toward her best friend Frances, who just happened to be the one who found them while cleaning out the end table drawer.  “Well, Frances gave them to me,” she replied in between giggles.

Frances’ mouth dropped open as she rushed to her defense, “I certainly did not give these to you!  I don’t know where they came from.  I just found them in this drawer.”

Still laughing I followed Maryann to her bedroom.  “Where on earth would she have gotten these?  It’s not like the internet was around in those days and she could just order them, ” I said.  “And it looks like they may be for gay men.  Could they have possibly been your Dad’s?”

Maryann’s guess was as good as mine and we figured we’d never know.  The answer was bound to go to the grave with the owner of the cards, if he or she hadn’t already gone.  Still, Maryann took a couple cards to show her daughter and son in Chicago.  It’s only fair they’d get to share in the laugh.

And so far, those cards are by far the best discovery in Mimi’s house.  In fact, they enabled Tony and I to play one of the best pranks in the history of the world.  We just happened to be taking care of our friends’ cats that weekend.  So after leaving Mimi’s we took the cards and strategically placed them throughout our friends’ house.  There were cards hidden in plain sight on the bathroom mirror, on their wedding picture, above the thermostat, in the kitchen cabinets, silverware drawers, and even inside a wine glass.  Yes, it’s been nearly three months since we’ve found those cards and our friends’ are still periodically finding them.  Just the other day Erica called and said she had found one in the pocket of her jeans which she had been wearing for roughly an entire day before even realizing there was something in the pocket. :)

Pasties and Burlesque

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve updated this blog but a recent e-mail reminded me that there are people who read it and believe it or not enjoyed hearing our daily exploits with Mimi.  So here’s an update.

Last October Mimi moved in with her step-daughter in Chicago because Tony and I can no longer care for her.  Working 12 hours, 5 days a week for me, and 6 days a week for Tony, left us little time to give Mimi the attention she so badly needed and rather than put her in a nursing home her step-daughter decided to take over.  Despite the distance, we’re still bombarded with daily stories of Mimi’s misadventures and as always laugh through our tears.

Mimi’s first trip home took place at the end of January for her birthday.  It was her first night home and Tony and I were sitting in the living room catching up with Maryann, Mimi, and David, Mimi’s son.  We were discussing the mundane, everyday things when Maryann told Mimi to relay a story she had told earlier in the week about a show she had attended back in the 50’s.

She smiled and slowly started into the story, giggling every now and again.  “Well now, honey, this was a long time ago.  Way back when Frank and I were first married he wanted to go to a burlesque show.  And we met up with this other couple we went out a lot with and decided to see what it was all about.”

Just the idea that my sweet, southern grandma even knew what the word burlesque meant nearly sent me into a tailspin.  My eyes widened and I grabbed Tony’s hand, bracing for what was to come next.

Apparently, they attended this show in Cincinnati, Ohio back in the late 40’s or early 50’s.  Mimi sat in her pink lift-chair motioning this way and that showing us how the dancer made her pasties spin every which way.  “And do you know she had one spinning around this way,” she motioned to the right.  “And I’ll be darned if the one on the other boobie didn’t start spinning this a-way,” she said bursting into a cackle and motioning to the left.

Then she did it.  She zeroed in on me.  “Now Tara, if you could just learn to do that you could make a whole bunch of money with your big ole boobies.”  Yep, she’d said it.  My grandmother who used to chastise me for wearing  v-neck t-shirts she claimed, “showed the whole kit and caboodle” was now telling me I could make one heck of a living spinning tasseled pasties on my boobs.

I nearly peed myself laughing.  No one knew what to say but laugh.  Maryann, my step-aunt, told us later, “Yep, she just came out with that one one night when we were getting ready for bed.  I was just as shocked as you are.”

And so it seems that maybe, just maybe, we don’t know our loved ones quite as well as we think we do.  You sure could’ve knocked me over with a feather after hearing that story pop out of Mimi’s mouth.  And so it happens that over these past few months I’ve learned more and more about the grandmother I once thought to be so demure and proper.  I look forward to sharing these and all the other discoveries I will undoubtedly make as we continue this rocky journey through what I can only call elderly dementia.  For those that may be caring for loved ones in a similar situation I urge you to find the humor in even the saddest situations because eventually the memories are all we’ll have left.  Even though I’m no longer directly caring for Mimi I do still talk to her everyday and thank the powers that be that she’s still with us even if it’s a slightly altered version of her former self. :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Like most hormonal women, I tend to get weepy during this time of year.  I’m not sad but just touched with the kindness and emotional out-pouring of the season.  This is something I think I’ve inherited from Mimi.  In fact, I’ve never seen the woman cry except around the Thanksgiving table.  She didn’t cry at either of her parent’s funerals, not at her husband’s, not even at her own daughter’s service.  However, something about sitting around that table declaring what we’re thankful for always starts the waterworks.  This is something I’ve witnessed every Thanksgiving since I graduated from college nearly 8 years ago.

This year is the first Thanksgiving in those 8 years that Mimi and I will not be sharing a meal and to be honest, it makes me kind of sad.  Yes, last year I nearly killed her as I attempted to prepare a homemade dinner.  She shuffled around the kitchen turning up burners and opening the oven and adding salt to things that didn’t need anymore.  She forced me to make her recipe for a cranberry jello salad and then heaped a piece of the offending dish onto my plate almost on top of my turkey.  FYI:  I do NOT like my food to touch.  Yes, it’s a weird quirk but one I must stick to.  For instance, the gravy cannot seap onto my green beans and the cranberries must never touch any part of my dish.  I require a fair amount of space between each entree and side item.  But I digress.  Despite the stress-free holiday, I’ll miss her making me crazy.  I’ll miss seeing how excited she gets at talking with Tony’s parents even if she could never hear a thing they said.

Thanksgiving with Mimi was always different than the Thanksgivings I experienced as a kid.  Growing up we always ate at my paternal grandparents’ house and things there were anything but calm.  The holiday with Mimi seemed more normal and how it was portrayed in the Hallmark or Lifetime movies.  Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ house replicated those in the Griswold household.  I remember one year my two uncle’s got mad at each other and one ended up throwing the turkey at the other.  Yep, a fully cooked 25lb. bird went sailing through the air because Uncle Vic’s wife pitched a fit when there wasn’t enough room to scoot her child’s highchair up to the table’s edge.  Another year Uncle Sam, who had shed his shirt because of the high level of heat in the kitchen, was washing dishes after the meal.  My Dad folded over a piece of toilet paper and squirted some of my grandmother’s brown cream onto the surface and slapped that piece of toilet paper right onto his brother’s back.  Once he pulled it off and looked at it, Sam comenced gagging and stumbled to the front porch where he deposited his half digested meal over the railing.  Yes, good times these were but what Mimi’s Thanksgiving lacked in frat house fodder it certainly gained in dignity.

I will miss all the oohs and aww’s over my meal because Mimi  is and has always been my biggest fan.  So this year, even though we won’t be together, I’ll give her a call and assure that I’m thankful most of all that I’ve been blessed to have her in my life for so long.  And whether I’ll be able to hear it or not, I’ll know that there are a couple of tears streaming down her cheeks just as there are mine as I write this.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone and may we all remember what we’re thankful for and just how precious each day is. :)

Last week marked my husband’s 39th birthday.  Admittedly, I was both delighted and shocked when Mimi remembered and even asked to wish him a happy birthday on the correct day.  My aunt, however, was not aware of the day and immediately became flustered over not sending a card or gift.  Naturally, that was not a big deal to us but she insisted on sending some sort of gift card.  Well, Maryann called last night to tell me one of our neighbors had called her to inform her Tony’s card had been delivered to his house.  She gave me the man’s name and phone number and told me to call him so we could retrieve Tony’s gift.

Apparently, knowing full well the state of Mimi’s mind, Maryann had allowed her to address and send the card.  Oops, she sent it to 205 rather than 206.  The neighbor, Dave, whom until this point we had never met, said he looked all over the internet for Tony’s phone number but couldn’t find anything.  That’s because we don’t have a landline, we just use our cell phones.  So, he looked at the return address and decided to look for Maryann’s phone number which he was able to find.  He called her explained the situation and within minutes the card was in my hands.

I don’t know what people are like in your neck of the woods but this sort of behavior is something for which West Virginians have become known.  This poor man obviously did a lot of research to uncover the rightful owner of the card and we appreciate his effort, not just for our benefit but because we can now discuss the card with Mimi and thank her for her gift.  Afterall, gift-giving was and still is the one thing Mimi likes to do more than anything else. :)

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