Tuesday, September 28, 2010

the old lady


Due to a variety of circumstances, my niece moved in with my parents a few months ago. That’s not such an unusual state of affairs; for as long as I can remember, my parents have taken in kids who needed some sort of respite. For years, when we were growing up, a variety of family friends with “bad situations” at home stayed at our house, sometimes for months on end. Comforting and warm, my parents always offered our friends stability and safety without judgment- it’s a quality that I aspire to and admire.

So when my niece packed in her own bad situation and decided to move forward with her life, it was a natural that she would phone my parents for help. And it was even more natural that they would invite her to stay. In addition to the healing and warm environment provided by my parents, it was also meant to be a time of reflection for my niece. Of looking behind, and beginning to look forward towards a new life, bright and full with promise.

However. In the midst of all of these life-altering moments, self-actualization and self evaluation, something else happened this summer.

Slowly but surely. 

My niece is turning into her grandparents.

It’s inevitable, really. Everyone knows that when people spend time together, they often begin taking on each others’ personality characteristics. It’s just not something you’d expect, or could prepare for really, when your 19 year-old niece begins affecting mannerisms and habits of a couple well into their 70s.

And vice versa.

The transition started slowly, communing around the television. Lying around on the couch watching Iron Chef, and commenting on the judges.

“We think she’s sleeping with the chef!” piped my niece.

“Word!” my dad’s emphatic response.

My dad’s habit of repeatedly pausing movies, movies we are all watching, in order to provide an ongoing commentary of sorts, often renders me almost convulsive with impotent frustration. In my niece, he’s finally found a staunch ally.

“You know,” (pauses movie) “I thought that young fella, Heath Ledger, was quite an actor. He really knew what he was doing. Such a shame.”

“I really liked him in Batman, Grandpa. But I’m not sure about this movie.”

(pause)

“I love his tatts."

“Me too, grandpa.”

(pause)

“Applebee’s is a fine restaurant. You know you can always count on a good meal at Applebee’s.”

“I like their cheese sticks, grandpa.”

My health-conscious niece has even changed her eating patterns to match those of my septuagenarian parents. This started with eating seconds at dinner (“to get rid of leftovers”), and quickly morphed into eating dessert a fast 15 minutes later.

“I don’t mean to do it,” explained my niece. “But then grandma says ‘Bananas Foster’ and I start feeling hungry again.”

Mornings are as likely to begin with clouds over the coast as they are with Dutch pancakes and whipped cream. Lunch is also an extraordinary affair, as my father, sandwich-maker extraordinaire, artfully builds teetering reubens garnished with mom’s peanut butter cookies (now deftly made by my niece).

An enormous lunch means yawning faces everywhere, as my parents and my niece mumble “I’m just going to lie down for a minute,” not to resurface from their bedrooms for a couple of hours, when they stumble back out onto the assorted couches, interest piqued.

Because at 2pm in the afternoon, it’s time for my niece to reassess priorities and plan accordingly for the future, as much as anyone can.

“When’s dinner?”