Step into my parlor …

Every time I show a serviceman downstairs, I warn him: "Grandma will talk your ear off if you let her." But they never listen. By the time they're done, they've heard the highlights of her life story and taken twice as long to do their job. They can't say I didn't warn them.

Every time I show a serviceman downstairs, I warn him: “Grandma will talk your ear off if you let her.” But they never listen. By the time they’re done, they’ve heard the highlights of her life story and taken twice as long to do their job. They can’t say I didn’t warn them.

“Will you step into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly;
“’Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.
The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things to show when you are there.”
“O no, no,” said the little fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”

Grandma doesn’t like to come upstairs. She has a motorized stairlift to take her up and down, but she really only uses it for doctor’s appointments. Trash, mail, groceries–they’re all delivered or taken out for her.

She does, however, like to chat. And that’s bad news for the people who step into her lair. They think they’re there to service the furnace or install cable. She’s sure they’ve showed up to talk about her medication, her latest fall and pretty much everything else she can bend their ear about while they try to do their jobs.

I always show the repairman downstairs and point out where things are. By the time I turn around and reach the top of the stairs, Grandma swoops in. Instead of staying put in her recliner with her cat on her lap as usual, she follows the repairman around, asking questions and offering commentary the entire time.

“I don’t know anything about these new-fangled furnaces,” she’ll say. “My husband always fixed ours. He worked at Stratton Hardware in Topeka for 25 years.” Never mind these guys have never been to Topeka or heard of Stratton Hardware, which is long gone. They learn Grandpa could fix anything on account of his training down at Camp Walters in Texas during World War II — whether they want to or not.

The technicians have to talk pretty loud for Grandma to hear them, and I’ve never overheard one ask her to be quiet or go sit down. She takes that as a green light to keep sharing … about the Warfarin she takes to thin her blood so she doesn’t have another heart attack … about the lift we had installed after she fell down the stairs … Her stories wouldn’t sound nearly as dramatic if she told them she merely has an irregular heartbeat or that she tripped on the bottom two stairs. She definitely missed her calling as a storyteller.

Sometimes I go back downstairs and remind Grandma the people are there to do their jobs. Other times I let them fend for themselves. I always thank them for listening when they finally make it back upstairs.

A few weeks ago, the technician who came to install our new cable and Internet had the misfortune to show up during Grandma’s Epic Cataract Surgery Ordeal. He had to make several trips up and downstairs, and each time he descended Grandma picked up right where she’d left off. By the time he was done he knew all about her surgeries, her complications, her prognosis and her next appointment–in short probably more than he ever wanted to know about cataracts. Or Grandma.

“Get her out among other old people,” you’re probably saying. I think that too. But whenever I suggest taking her somewhere to mingle with people her age she turns me down flat. She has no interest in leaving her TV, recliner or cat. She barely comes up to visit family when they’re here. But like helpless flies caught in her web, there’s something about unsuspecting servicemen that triggers her attack instinct. Luckily she hasn’t bitten anyone. Yet.

Image credit: theclarkester / 123RF Stock Photo

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