From eating gumbo to playing poker to shooting whiskey, my Granny has taught me many life lessons. She was a true Montana pioneer-giving up her privileged past to move to the big sky country for adventure. I went back home to embrace the land, its people, and of course, my Granny. On a hot Montana night I left the town of Bozeman and headed east to meet up with my family.
Dusty and tired, I arrived at my cousin’s house where family and a cold beer were waiting for me. I went up to give my 85-year-old Granny a hello kiss. She took a sip of my beer and asked,
“Well, are you still ornery?”
“I’m actually trying to behave, Granny,” I told her. I had been meditating, vegan-eating and reading embarrassing books like “Embracing Serenity.”
“What?! That’s no good! I thought we’d go out on the town and get into trouble together.”
She was right—my life was becoming a well-behaved yawn fest. I promptly downed the beer and promised her a joy ride to the casino in my new Mustang convertible. A little misbehavin’ would do us all some good.
After dinner we were served a smorgasbord of Montanan desserts from a local bake sale. I groaned under the weight of too many apple pies.
“You gotta finish that whole pie! Eat til it ‘ouches you!”
“I can’t!” I said.
“What-no one likes a pathetic skinny girl! Heidi you gotta get fat and sassy.”
Restrained eating is suspicious, at least in the Isern family.
The next day I went to visit Granny for lunch at her new retirement home.
Moving away from her barn style house to assisted living was devastating to my independent Montanan grandmother. Apparently when Granny first moved there she refused to tell anyone her real name. She arrived and just said,
“Well Hello everyone. My name is Cranky.”
During her first few months there she would plead to us,
“You gotta get me out of here—this place is filled with OLD people!”
Granny forgot that she was in her mid 80s. One benefit of dementia is thinking you are still 25.
Age is a state of mind. Even with a faltering memory, my Granny makes me laugh harder than the girls my own age.
“Well, you belong in a trunk of a car”
Even if memory was going, Granny’s mind was sharp and competitive…especially when it came to cards and men. In her new home she developed a crush on David, a retired boxer. As the only bachelor around 10 women, David was in high demand. Many women coveted him, especially Pat whom Granny claimed as her arch nemesis.
Granny and I entered the dining hall to eat lunch with the other residents. Pat was sitting by David, holding his hand
“Why, I’m going to have to go off and chase that Pat off,” muttered Granny as she pushed her walker forward with urgency and sat herself down right in-between them.
I joined the love triangle for lunch, making conversation with the elders. After I made friends, I thought I’d help Granny show off.
“Hey Granny-you wanna ride in my Mustang again? Got a front seat in the convertible with your name in it.”
“Do you hear that, David,” Granny asked. “We are going to cruise for boys.” She then turned to me suspiciously—“Are you sure you are not just going to put me in the trunk?”
Pat chimed in, “Oh the trunk-well that’s not fun. She’d be all dark and cold. I hate riding in the trunk of cars.”
The idea of Pat sealed away from David appealed to Granny.
“Well, YOU belong in a trunk of a car,” said Granny. She looked at David and Pat. “I’m headed for a ride but I’ll be back soon so don’t get any ideas!”
“Can’t a woman have a few beaus?”
David was lovely, but my Granny wasn’t one to commit too readily. Apparently a Texan retired air force general was moving in next door. He was 90 and according to the rumors, hadn’t developed Alzheimer’s yet.
“What’s that?! A new man is moving in?”
I explained the rumor of her potential new neighbor.
“Well hot diggity dog, I am going to go and honey up to him!“
“What about David?” I asked.
“Can’t a woman have a few beaus?” asked Granny. “Plus I kinda want to make David jealous! Serves him right for canoodling that Pat.”
As we left the home for a little outing Granny shook her head with delight.
“Well, a new Texan. Oh my stars, I may get a hot boyfriend after all!”
Goes to show that love can be found at any age.
As I kissed Granny goodbye to take off for the Montanan hills, she thanked me for coming over.
“You know,“ she said. “I’ve had a good life. A lot of knocks perhaps, but I have no regrets. If I had to do my life over I think I’d do it the same damn thing.”
If we stay ornery and sassy then perhaps we can all say that when we reach 85.