Monday, 5 August 2013

The Crown Jewel

Granny Crown broke her hip sneaking down to the basement trying to retrieve a beer, a fact she vehemently denied, but everyone knew to be true.
Every night, it was her ritual to hobble down the rickety steps with her cane. None of us ever understood why a 74-year-old woman would take her life into her hands that way, especially considering any of us kids would have gladly helped her out.
But she was kind of a mystery, an old dame who kept a lot of secrets, such as why my Uncle Vern was a 10-year-old living in a 52-year-old body.
"He just never grew up," she shrugged, slurping the last bit of cold tea from the stove.
Pointe finale.
We were simply expected to accept anything she said at face value.
I felt bad for Granny when she broke her hip and was carted away to the hospital for a lengthy stay, but I soon got over my sadness. That's because Granny always saved me her piece of hospital cake, my reward for visiting her every single night for eight months.
When she finally got home, it was my job to help her take a bath.
I was about 12 at the time and it sort of grossed me out helping my 90 pound Granny into the water wearing nothing but her birthday suit.  I imagined that Granny was flat chested but, in fact, she was tubular under the undershirt she always wore.
It was evident that she was a fairly lush lady at a younger age but the years had not been kind and the 24-hour bra had not yet been invented.
I was shocked the first time I saw her without her clothes on.
She only had one breast.
I never got up the courage to ask what had happened to the left one. There could only be one explanation. It had been lopped off because she had had breast cancer.
In today's over-sharing world, everyone with breast cancer talks about it.
Not in those days.
Breast cancer, or any health concerns for that matter, were never discussed.
I am thankful to have been a witness to her cancer. At least I could tell a doctor it ran in my family. If I hadn't seen the lopsided chest of my grandmother, I would never had known.

For the most part, Granny was a miserable old crone who yelled instead of talking and constantly bickered with my mother who despised her.
I felt sorry for my mom sometimes; she had spent the better part of her youth looking after my grandparents. But I also had Granny's back.
Sure she was miserable; she'd had a hard life raising my Uncle Vern after her first husband died in the war, putting up with my crazy Uncle Ivan when he got into his rages, and accepting my mom and the three of us after dad died.
For these three reasons, I thought she was a saint.
Once in a while, we saw a softer side of Granny, like when my brother Gary would run up to her and smooch her on the neck. She'd try to keep a straight face, but eventually she gave into the giggles and pretended to hit him with her cane.
And it was always a hoot watching little Pixie the cat laying in wait for her to hobble around the corner, and then pounce on her ankles and bite them mercilessly. The cane came in handy in those instances, too.
Granny was always happiest playing cards with the rellies with her Labatt 50 beside her, or sitting in front of the telly watching wrestling or Don Messer's Jubilee on a Saturday night.
On those nights when mom was off at bingo, Granny would she let down her tiny bun and allow me to brush her long grey mop of hair.
Her eyes would soften as she patted me with her gnarly fingers that had been ravaged by rheumatoid arthritis.
The love went unspoken. It brings a tear to my eye thinking about the kind heart underneath the lopsided chest.
Ornery as she could be, the woman had a heart of gold.


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