“Why would I want to wash another man’s dirty old underwear?” The question rang forth with more attitude than I knew she possessed. Everyone stopped. Andee turned her head in embarrassment; Kelli howled with laughter; and Mom stood dumbfounded. It wasn’t the sentiment that shocked us; it was the directness. Little Grandma was definitely not the type of person to speak of men’s underwear, in any context.
My sisters and I are Little Grandma’s only grandchildren, and we take our responsibility seriously. We take care in explaining what we wear, what class we don’t like, and what the dentist said. We listen patiently as she sings our praises, always knowing where to turn if we need our egos boosted.
My mother calls her nearly every night, a duty willingly performed despite her grumbles. The calls provide the one thing Grandma needs: information. Since Grandad’s death more than a decade ago, Little Grandma has been consumed by a need for information; especially about her blessed souls from heaven–Kelli, Andee, and me, Shannon.
But on tonight’s call, mom said Little Grandma didn’t ask about my first week of college, whether Kelli passed the Bar, or if Andee got that new job. Turns out that Little Grandma had a boyfriend.
My five foot, gray haired, frightfully proper Little Grandma met him as she walked downtown Tuesday morning. LG doesn’t drive, but she noticed a new car outside Daylight Donuts. Inside, as she ordered her customary half-a-hot-roast-beef sandwich, she noticed the face of a Saturday morning livestock buyer. The farmer insisted LG sit down. Soon the two were reminiscing over the days when Grandma and Grandad had run the sale barn. When the last crumbs disappeared, he offered a ride home in the Cadillac. She declined: lunch was gossip provoking enough.
Her six-block walk home seemed short that afternoon. LG was too excited to evaluate stamp choices at the post office or dilly-dally in the aisles of Carson’s IGA.
Monday night’s dinner-date was Little Grandma’s only concern.
I didn’t know exactly what to think about this development, but if nothing else, it was funny. What really got us rolling though, was the nice man’s name: Raymond Toogood.
Fall break brought us all home the next Sunday. And with the evening call to LG, Raymond Toogood was again in our thoughts. We heard all about Raymond; but mostly we heard about what Grandma thought of Raymond. We were bombarded by reasons for her “feeling so funny” and assertions that it was all “perfectly proper.” But if we weren’t at ease with this new development, there were plenty of people in the family who were.
Aunt Ann’s husband had tried many times to take Little Grandma to church in New Jersey. He assured her Mendham had more millionaires per capita than any other town in the nation. Uncle Bud, Grandma’s little brother, thought this new man was great too—“no longer a man hater” he proclaimed.
Late that night, Kelli, Andee and I were still thinking of Raymond Toogood and our LG. One dinner date to talk about the past isn’t serious, is it? Could they travel in the Cadillac? He’s eighty-nine, I argued. He shouldn’t be driving my Grandma around the state. The arguments went on until finally we hit upon something that had no downside. Little Grandma was giddy.
What more could we say? It didn’t matter that she forgot a birthday or hadn’t read the weekly paper. She can catch up on those things, but Raymond Toogood won’t be around forever. Hopefully that funny feeling and that giddy voice he caused will stay around, at least for a while.
Shannon Cummins is a marketing professor at UW-Whitewater.