Random Memory I
Nanny and I sat across from each other at the dining room table in my parents' home. She enjoyed Braunschweiger on Ritz crackers and a cup of sugar-laden milk with a splash of coffee. I was probably eating candy, cookies, or pie, just before dinner, like she taught me to do. She slapped her left hand on the table. I grinned, recognizing the signal, and slapped my right hand down on top of hers. Not missing a beat, she slapped her other hand on top of mine in a hand sandwich. I completed the stack with my left hand. Here's where it got good. She slid her warm, chubby left hand with skin as wrinkled and thin as a fallen maple leaf out from the bottom of the hand tower and put it on the top. I did the same with my right hand. The pattern continued, building momentum, until it became so fast that we were really only waving our hands in a mock catfight, our fingertips occasionally brushing each other's. We laughed.
Nanny (Gladys Behlmer McConnell, my mother's mother's mother) came to live with us when I was very young. She was sensitive to "shpishay" foods, like jalapenos. Sometimes she took a "sharr" for an "arr" to "warsh" her "harr." She taught me to say, "I'm too full for supper... but not too full for dessert!" She would fill a teaspoon with her creamy, sugary coffee and let me drink from it. She probably made my parents' lives a nightmare sometimes. Whenever someone in my family has a brownie and two cupcakes for dinner, parades around only in socks, shoes, and underpants, pretends to have a life-threatening disease until Baskin Robbins ice cream is available, or behaves like a weirdo in general, that's the Behlmer in us.
My first experience with a hospital was when Nanny went to one and we visited. My first experience with death was when she died. I think I was five. I wasn't allowed at the funeral. As I laid on the pull-out in the living room and kicked at the sheets, my parents told me she was in heaven, drinking her favorite drink (I don't remember what it was, but I am sure as shootin' that it was sweet). I cried all that night, and I remember them crying, too.