The dedicated reader to these entries may recall the laughable, entertaining, and even heartwarming deeds carried out by my elderly and severely senile grandma housemate. At one point in her career of being crazy, grandma was content pulling a “I’m more than half naked in your kitchen” stunt or the notorious “let me artfully hide your potted plants throughout the property” one. I warn thee, however, that this colorful and carefree time now hangs unimaginable and inert in my past like a cloudy rainbow dream. These occurrences seem like petty child’s play in comparison to the advanced disaster for which she is now capable of inciting. Grandma’s behaviors, along with the evolution of her lunacy, have taken on demonic, terrifying, and gag reflex triggering attributes; and under an acute combination of stress, exhaustion, and frustration, have been known to provoke the occasional tear.
The least offensive of grandma’s new found ticks was her attraction to hiding spots. During the daylight, her hiding in corners, shadows, or amidst leafy plants is not a very effective tactic due to sunlight. Come nighttime, however, Jesus Christ could she be terrifying. Not only is it a shock to find a pair of eyes staring at you from the shadows, but this specific gaze in particular make her surprises that much more intense—hollow skeleton features, toothless chomping, and boney limbs creaking in the dark. More than once she has literally caused me to jump and left me breathless for minutes after. A particular case comes to mind when, after a jog one evening I had stripped down to my sports bra and shorts. Perhaps narcissistically, I began to gaze into my own reflection in the kitchen window. Studying my buns, stomach, and back, something confusing happened when I arrived at the reflection my own face. I could see my features, but the eyes looking back at me were not my own. I shrieked out loud when my brain wires finally registered grandma from behind the glass, sullen face pressed up against the smudged surface.
Grandma’s most vile newly acquired habit became shitting in places other than the bathroom or her old person diapers. This was quite a confusing subject when I tried to explain to friends or in-laws the reason why I was looking for other rentals. The first reaction was inevitably to understand “Grandma is shitting in the patio” as some kind of badly translated figure of speech. It generally took several repetitions and rephrases in order to get my point across that the meaning I intended was literal.
Not a day went by without Jere or I encountering either her deep black number 2’s in the patio, or actually catching her in the act—wrinkly buns pressed up against the brick wall in a strenuous squat, ready for take off.
“Señora!” we’d cry desperately, “There is a bathroom!!”
“Oh yes!” she’d reply, hurriedly pulling up her trousers.
“Where?” She would ask, as if the idea of a bathroom had just invented itself in her mind.
The aroma of mal-nourished, old woman feces is unmistakable. It is vastly different from the excrement of cat, dog, baby, or well-fed person—all familiar scents at this point in my life. And so, when that telltale odor reached my nostrils I was immediately on the look out. I had to locate its source so that I would not encounter it unwittingly later under my shoe or smudged up against my clothing. I also wanted to find it so I could see how long it settled into the architecture before someone from the family decided to do something —another piece of kindling in the fire of my burning frustration with home life.
The worst of these poohy days arrived when a whomp of stink bombarded me in the passageway along side the house into the patio. Several entrances and exits later, I remained stumped. Only later that day, I finally discovered the source of my misery. A hand smudge of dark feces ran along the brick, baking in the fiery sun. Doubling my desire to violently reintegrate the contents of my stomach into the outside world, a swarm of inky black cockroaches had decided to make grandma’s excrement dinner.
Daily assaults on my ability to live a cleanly and poo-free existence were nothing compared to grandma’s war against the things that actually meant something to me, my plants. I had raised my little painstaking garden from seedlings. I had nurtured each the best I could, shielding them from the sun, bringing them inside when the rains or winds threatened their lives. I had rotated their pots, moistened the brick around them, and murmured to them in a mix of Spanish and English so they would feel loved and grow strong. Their spindly roots became anchors to that space. They told me that the sandy earth in which they grew was my home, for better or for worse.
Perhaps unknowingly, or perhaps vindictively sensing my foolish attachment to beings so frail; Grandma unleashed a systematic attempt to eliminate each and every plant that made up my garden. She would crunch and crack their stems, tear them up from the roots and abandon them in a pile of debris, or rob the pot entirely and hide it so artfully, that by the time I found it few days later, the scorching sun had sizzled it up. In her fury she destroyed my basil, my marigolds, my rosemary, something called a coffee tree, my jade plant, another plant that resembles jade, and a whole host of nameless plants and cactuses I had collected from throughout Luján. By the beginning of December, I was left with nothing more than a collection of different sized garden pots filled with dirt, and the embittered memory of where my little plants had once been.
These reasons along with a fat list of others provoked us to give our notice and to begin searching for alternative living choices. This search is still in the process although we’ve long since left the nightmare of real family living.