Yesterday my father and I accompanied my 87 year-old grandmother to her 70th high school reunion lunch at a Ryan's Steakhouse in Jefferson City, MO - our state capital. It was . . . well, a day with my grandmother.
The day started out with her yelling at my dad for something completely random while I flipped through the paper. Once that died down we were faced with her disappointment and resentment when we explained that we could be not be using the convertible to make the 2 hour long drive since the forecast for the day was rain with a high of 50 degrees.
On the drive, Gram did a great ode to Marcel Marceau by pretending to have wind blow in her face from the far air vent on my father's left and tried to reach over the wheel to close it. After a moment or two she found that the wind was coming from her blower on the far right. As we pulled off into Jeff City, she erupted into a yelling rant covering the topics of driving, the absurdity of us not thinking she knew her way around (which was stated directly following her calling out that she had no idea where we were), and ended with her angrily stating that she had to pee.
Ryan's Steakhouse turned out to be a Ponderosa-esque buffet which upset my dad, but was kind of a relief to me. You see, almost all of my meals with Gram reach some point when she proclaims to the wait staff that I am a vege-tarr-rian (which she always manages to pronounce as if it were a rare, potentially contagious disease). Then she usually breaks off into a little rant about how she "just doesn't understand it" and "what could I possibly eat?" With the buffet I was able to get my own food without discussing it.
As we walked past the seemingly hours-old buffet, I also realized that I kind of like going out with her to eat at these places every now and then because it gives me a total excuse to be a bad vegetarian and eat what there is for me to eat: french fries, mashed potatoes, cheese, fried okra, and soft serve ice cream. (For example, when she went on her anti-vegetarian rant while we were in France, the confused and good natured Frenchman smiled and handed me a plate of french fries while my grandmother turned to complain about my diet to another customer at the table.)
The attending class at the reunion* was a total of 4 people. After only a few minutes of everyone sitting and eating, Gram launched into her "Back when I was in Japan and I had servants, my maid said to me, 'Missus, can I have your left-over grease?', and I said, 'Of course!' The poor dear was so grateful!" My dad and I discussed whether or not this was a new record time for her to launch into this story.
Most of the rest of the conversation consisted of who was dead and who was in a home. One of the other surviving members discussed how he came to the decision to have himself cremated. "I don't want to have no bugs eating through me!" That was about the time I pushed my lima beans away.
After lunch we over, we decided to drive past the capital building. On the way, Gram told us about how my grandfather knew someone who in the war was, and I quote, "shot between the eyes" and survived left only blind. My dad and I both kept asking her how this could be possible. She ignored us and went on to tell us about the day when a German soldier had come into the same medical area as the blindman. The blindman wondered if it was the soldier who had shot him. I asked if the German was shot in the heart but only left deaf. Gram continued to ignore me.
Once we got to the capital building, we pulled over for my dad and I to inspect the statues in the fountain out in front. The statues are crrrrrazy. There is a huge centaur-esque figure on either end, each holding some kind of sea-life. One battling a huge sea-snake. The other seeming to prepare to kiss a huge catfish. I say that they are centaur-esque because only their front two legs are like those of a horse; their hing legs are more like two water serpents. The other really curious thing was that their front hooves are webbed! Webbed!? After studying them for a minute of two, I then noticed HOW anatomically correct they are. After pointing it out to my dad we made some jokes about how Ashcroft must have missed these while he was still in town.
On the drive back, I heard only bits of a story that Gram was telling my dad. It was about how someone was telling her about how, back in the day, some black men told women that they were Indian. I made some quiet jokes in the back seat which made my dad crack up and, consequently, Gram yell at him for laughing.
*Her graduating class is the oldest "active" high school reunion class in the country.