In 1998, I met my father again. I’d not seen him in twenty years and only talked to him a handful of times. There's lots of icky reasons why but let's just skip them for now and move on. Father and I met again in Maryland at the dinky motel I was staying in and spent the day wandering about D.C. looking at old buildings and trying to avoid talking about the horrible bits of our personal history. It was an awkward, uncomfortable and emotional day that took me years to get over. So awkward and uncomfortable and emotional that I totally forgot about this happening:
We were at the brother’s house of Father’s Wife Number Three. (Mom was Wife Number Two. That's a glimpse at the icky bits I'm avoiding right now.) It was the day after the awkward, uncomfortable and emotional day that had culminated in an even more awkward and uncomfortable and emotional dinner with the family where I’d “gotten” to sit with the men as I was the guest and everyone grilled and judged me for hours. It was awesome.
The next morning, for some reason I can’t remember, I was left alone with the two young sons of the brother to Wife Number Three – they called them my nephew’s but they were totally not related to me. After the long, awkward, uncomfortable and emotional day before; it’s weird stilted conversations with Father and it's bizarre evening jam-packed with judgments on my inability to have gotten married and produce children, I was happy to stay with the kids in the quiet. I packed my bag, spent some time writing angst-y poetry feelings about trip and was generally enjoying the silence when there was a huge bang and someone started yelling. Loudly.
I rushed out of the room I was in to find an elderly African woman naked in the hallway. Let me repeat that - I rushed out of the room I was in to find an elderly African woman NAKED IN THE HALLWAY!
I knew who she was, Wife Number Three’s mother, but why they neglected to tell me that they were leaving her alone in a house with a five year old and an eight year old and me and no instructions on what to expect, I have no idea. But there we were, Naked Grandma and me in the hallway.
What they might have told me was that Naked Grandma suffered from dementia, and apparently the wearing of clothes was often suddenly offensive to her. I don’t know. I couldn’t ask her what was wrong because Naked Grandma only spoke Swahili or Kamba or some other African language that I did not speak, do not speak and did not understand. So there I was, in the hallway, with Naked Grandma, probably informing me that my inability to get a man to marry me and have my nonexistence children was shameful. I don't know. All of this shouted at me in a language I didn’t understand. I tried to explain who I was in overly enunciated English. She didn't understand. She shouted. I yelled slowly. It went on for a long time.
And then I tried to get Naked Grandma dressed. Her bits and bobs flaying about, her arms and legs more slippery than an octopus' while I was struggled to put clothes on her and avoid getting poked by a boob in the eye. I did not succeed. She had a a lot of boob.
That flashback had me giggling last night. It was quite a scene and it was sitcom worthy. Like any 'I Love Lucy' episode worthy.
The rest of the memory isn’t funny. It’s sad. The two boys, totally used to Grandma suddenly becoming Naked Grandma, calmed her down, dressed her and put her to bed as they had to do dozens of times each day. I packed myself up, feelings and all, and went back to my life and I never saw them again, the boys, Naked Grandma or Father. Naked Grandma died shortly after and Father a few years later. I have lots of memories of Father - some good, some really bad. I only have one memory of Naked Grandma - some good, some bad.
Here’s hoping, years from now, I’m some random person's good memory.
Although, not naked. I need to keep that bit of breathtaking awkwardness from happening to anyone.