Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nanny, Zula, and the Cataract Surgery

Nanny was my great-grandmother. She was the sweetest woman who ever lived, and one of the sassiest. She made all my clothes, all of them, with matching outfits for my Barbie dolls. She and I quilted together. We cooked. I learned how to make pies from her, chocolate and lemon meringue. She always had stewed apricots in the refrigerator and she kept her long hair in a bun. She could break into tears-streaming-laughter at the slightest provocation, and she kept a snuff can behind her platform rocker.

She also lived to be a million (OK, close to 100), and her elder sister, Zula, lived to be even older. She was sassier--if possible--than Nanny, and lived on top of Petit Jean Mountain, way out in the country. When she was already in her 90s, it was determined that Aunt Zula's quality of life (which was still considerable) could be enhanced with the removal of her cataracts.

This would require a trip to the big city, Little Rock, and she would recover at the apartment Nanny was sharing with her daughter (my grandmother, Mommo).

So Aint (this is how it's pronounced, not "Aunt" at all) Zula showed up, went under the knife, and then prepared to spend her first night at Mommo and Nanny's widow apartment (they had lived together with their husbands, my Papaw and Daddy Gene, in a house across the river previously).

Now Mommo had the larger bedroom, with a king-sized bed. Nanny's room was smaller. So they figured that the "sick room" would be Mommo's, since both Nanny and Zula could fit in that bed, and since Nanny was going to be the caregiver, and all preparations were made. Zula, with her bandaged eyes, was helped to the bathroom, helped out of her clothes and into her nightgown, and helped into the side of the bed closest to the bathroom right there in the large master bedroom. Mommo relocated to the small bedroom and retired for the evening, and Nanny went to the foreign sleeping berth she would occupy for the night--the far side of the king-sized bed.

In their 90s, but still sisters, they giggled and told stories, and finally drifted off.

All was well.

Until Nanny woke up in the night and decided she needed to "tinkle"--in the language of my people. She carefully got up and teetered to the bathroom. However, she had never really paid attention to the layout in her daughter's bathroom, and so when she, um, sat down where she thought she was supposed to (it was the middle of the night, friends, she was groggy), it was the negative space of the bathtub and not the welcoming seat of the toilet.

She hollered for Mommo. Mommo was OUT or wearing earplugs or who knows? But she didn't wake up. Zula did. And Zula, being the sturdy Mountain Girl she was, wasn't about to be hampered by bandaged eyes. Not when her beloved sister was braying in the bathroom. She got up, staggered, arms outward for balance and to avoid walls, blind as a bat, to the bathroom. Her searching arms were too high to detect that Nanny, having fallen backwards into the tub, had stick legs protruding into her way, and so Zula promptly tripped over them and joined her sister in the tub.

Pause here for the visual.

Eventually Mommo did wake up and help the hapless girls back into bed, but not before they had peed themselves laughing and shrieking.

I miss them all. Whatever else I have gotten from the women in my family--a love of cooking, an appreciation for music, a metaphor-laden vocabulary--the thing I appreciate the very most is the embodied and spontaneous ability to pee myself laughing, even when I'm blind and tangled up in the bathtub.

Nanny is on the left. Zula is on the right. They are both laughing and wearing red, bless their hearts.


Sharon said...

OMG--how blessed you are! and how blessed we are that you wrote this.

天氣的 said...