On the trip from Chicago to Seattle, my dad and I stopped in Moorhead, MN (near Fargo, ND) to visit my grandma for a couple of days. She has recently been in declining health and moved from her apartment into a nursing home. It was difficult to visit her, not only to see her dependent on the staff and not her “normal self” but also that I am going through a big change in life. My emotions were already running high. There were points in our stay that she had trouble remembering things such as her apartment that she had moved from only a couple weeks prior to our visit. She knew that she was having trouble with her memory and mentioned that she noticed it going for the past couple months. She said at first it really bothered her, but then she learned to accept it. Her humor was still intact, thankfully. When she was talking about not remembering the apartment, she said to me in her cute, silly voice, “I lost that part of my memory, do you know where it is? Is it in your pocket?”

My grandma is a soft personable minister’s wife (she grew up a minister’s daughter and then married two ministers) who reserves certain comments for behind closed doors. But she does love baseball and football.

Her roommate was a stitch – I can’t remember her name so I’ll call her Hen. Hen came back from bingo one afternoon and said that of course, she won again. My feeble grandma, lying in her bed looked over at Hen and said, “That’s why I’m trying to get better, so I can beat you.” Hen scowled, “you could try.”

Hen and her husband had owned some farming or implement dealership in a small town in ND. As she ran her long fingers over her white, balding head, I wondered if she, too, had worked on the equipment. Her thick body and big work hands were reminiscent of farm-life. She seemed to be a tough broad who was looking for conversation. A nice, shy, old lady came to visit my grandma and as soon as she left we got her whole story. Hen said that the lady’s brother had lived in her small town so she had known her. The lady moved to S. California and had lived there decades up until a couple of years ago. Her family had convinced her to move back because she had been living on her own and had been attacked twice on the street. The most recent time, she had gone to her mailbox when she was hit on the head, her purse stolen and ended up in the hospital. Hen shook her head in disapproval, “she had a long-time boyfriend who she lived with and never married!” He had passed away and the lady was on her own.

Hen was going to be leaving the nursing home soon, she had gone through treatment for arthritis. She said that her house in small town ND had been custom built with the kitchen near the front door (instead of the typical living/family room) so she could see out the front window. Hen monitored the street and knew EVERYTHING that went on in front of her house. I’m sure she told parents when kids were misbehaving and others when families didn’t meet her approval. I didn’t dare bring up the recent election with her.

Hen seemed innocent enough to me, it was just her way. When I told her that I was on my way to Seattle that I might be moving there, she smirked. “I’d send a sympathy card to anyone who would move there,” she muttered. What? I about died laughing. Why? “It’s depressing there,” Hen said as if trying to help me. I shook my head and smiled. Behind my smile, I pictured Hen snowbound in her kitchen trying to peer over snowbanks. I mean really, the frigid cold? To each his own.