My grandmother is such a wino that the lipstick-rimmed white wine glass on her living room table is practically a permanent fixture. It’s not uncommon to get a frantic, midday phone call demanding I walk to the local liquor store and bring her back a BOX of wine, which the clerks stockpile in the back for her so she doesn’t go apes**t.
Such was the case last night, when she called me and ordered a 2011 German Riesling. That day, the head of her brand new mop broke while she was scrubbing her already-pristine white floors, making her mood plummet faster than Facebook stocks. Alcohol was an easy solution. “Grandma had such a bad day,” she complained (she often inexplicably speaks of herself in third person). “I deserve a bottle of wine.”
I did what she asked and delivered it 20 minutes later in a brown paper bag. She invited me in and after chilling it, insisted I stay for a glass. I poured one for each of us and she went back and forth between the living room to talk and the kitchen to check her cranberry muffins, which were baking in the oven.
The more wine she drank, the more she opened up about living on a French, rural farm in Kapuskasing when she was a kid. She was about the middle child of 11 siblings and had to be virtually self-sufficient, because her parents were so busy on the farm. She’s still self-sufficient, living on her own in a three-story house. “You guys wouldn’t have been able to do it,” she said with confidence.
She suddenly looked serious — I didn’t know she’d drop a bombshell: “I’m sorry to say this, but if I was a young girl living in the world today, I wouldn’t have kids. I would stay single and be a career girl my whole life. The only person I’d depend on is myself.”
I was taken aback by her bluntness and my immediate response was: “Aren’t you glad you have your family?”
She pounded her hand on her heart a couple times and said with pride: “My kids and grandkids are my LIFE and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. I just hope you’re able to find a partner who gives as much as you.”
Our conversation was suddenly interrupted by a phone call from my mom. “WE’RE GETTING DRUNK” my grandma responded gleefully on the phone. After she hung up she assured me she wouldn’t get too rowdy that night. “Don’t worry,” she laughed. “I won’t be singing on the streets after you leave.”
We finished our wine as soon as her baking timer went off and she walked me to the door. Before I left she said one last thing: “Now you know one more thing about me. I tell you all this so you can write it down and maybe write a story one day,” she winked. “I think they’re pretty interesting stories!”
I never heard her talk so candidly about her choices or what’s more, laugh so nonchalantly at her new catchphrase “top her up.” Walking home, I realized the night I had a drink with my grandma, she didn’t seem like my grandma. She seemed like a girlfriend I was having a glass of wine with, talking about choices, regrets and dreams.
You can read more from Brittany Mahaney on her blog.