Once upon an unstable grandma

Based on a long-ago experience and a memory forever ingrained in my mind, I for many years felt sorry for a childhood friend because of her grandma's instability and erratic behavior. It's only since becoming a grandma myself that I've realized that particular grandmother was not only stable as stable can be, but that I've acted just like her on occasion.

I lived in Minnesota and was in second or third grade at the time of the incident. On one particular bus ride from my school in town back to the farming community in which my family and several others lived, I was filled with excitement and anticipation. On this particular day I wouldn't be getting off the bus at my house with my siblings because I had the grand privilege of disembarking a few stops from my own for an afternoon of fun at my friend Lynn's house for the very first time.

Lynn, my beautiful friend with long, straight, brunette hair—which she always wore high up on her head in the most marvelous of buns or braids or "high ponytails" I could never manage to make stay put on my own head—had full reign of her house as an only child. And it was her live-in grandma who cared for her each afternoon. Such a very different scenario from my own house, where I was third oldest in a line of seven kids, and my oldest brother and sister ruled the roost each afternoon until Mom and Dad got home from business in town.

Lynn and I chattered excitedly and held hands throughout the lengthy bus ride. When we got off at her stop, we raced down the dirt drive to her house and dashed right through the front door and into the kitchen. Which was empty. And quiet. I found the bare room and the silence unnerving, but Lynn simply smiled and called out for her grandmother. After a few moments and no response, Lynn started tiptoeing from room to room, calling "Grandma." No answer. Not in the living room, the hallway, the bathroom. Not upstairs or down.

Lynn seemed unfazed. I, though, was certain her grandmother had fallen somewhere and was hurt or had been gagged, bound and locked away in the attic by a dastardly drifter who'd entered Lynn's home with murder on his mind. Or worse, I feared the ghosts my older sister swore haunted the fields of the farms had spirited Lynn's poor grandma away.

Of course I didn't share such horrific thoughts with my friend. I didn't want to scare her.

Lynn, still smiling, nonchalantly led me to her bedroom to—unbelievably in the midst of such circumstances—engage in our pre-planned afternoon play. But suddenly, as we were nearly to Lynn's room, a closet door flew wide open and banged against the wall. Then her grandmother, dressed in a full grandma housecoat as grandmas really once wore, jumped out in front of us and shrieked, "Boo! I gotcha!"

Scared. The. <cuss>. Out. Of. Me.

Lynn, though, just giggled at Grandma's antics and gave her a hug. She introduced me to the manic woman, answered the questions that followed regarding our school day, then went on her merry way arranging dolls and toys for us to play with until it was time for me to head home.

I no longer wanted to stay. I no longer wanted to play. I no longer envied Lynn and her single-child status. Her grandma was nuts. She had to be, as grandmas just don't act like that. At least not any grandmas I knew.

My grandmas were normal. They loved me, I have no doubt, as they they hugged me and smiled each time I saw them. Then they'd settle into conversation with Mom or Dad or other nearby adults, all while I admired them from afar. They didn't converse directly with me. Or read books with me. Or cook with me. Or play games with me. And they most definitely didn't hide from me, after school or otherwise, and come shrieking out of hall closets scaring the bejeezus out of my friends.

They were as normal and good as grandmas come.

Or so I thought.

Now that I'm a grandma, though, what I thought was normal and good when it comes to grandmas has changed significantly. What I, as a grandma, think grandmas should be is nothing like what my normal grandmas were.

Seems I lean a little more toward favoring the unstable sort of grandmothering.

Now that I'm a grandma, I have hidden from Bubby many a time. It's all prearranged and part of giggle-filled games of hide-and-seek, of course (he is not yet even four years old). But hiding from one another is one of our favorite things to do. We also have dedicated discussions that don't include Mom or Dad. We read together. We cook together. We play games together. And we laugh like <cuss> together—something I don't remember ever doing with my own grandmothers.

It's in seeing the grandma gig from the grandma perspective that I finally—after literally decades of wondering why social services or other family members didn't step in to save my friend—realized that Lynn's grandma wasn't unstable at all. She was just a very different kind of grandma than my grandmas.

My grandmas were elders loved and respected from afar, while Lynn's grandma was an up-close and personal kind of grandma. A fun kind of grandma. She obviously was a responsible grandmother who cared daily for her grandchild, but she also did fun things, silly things, things my grandmas would never ever have done.

Lynn's grandma was the kind of grandma I've caught myself being sometimes.

Unstable or not, she's the kind of grandma I want to be all times.

Today's question:

What kind of grandmas were your grandmothers?