copyright © 2003 Todd Ristau
by Todd Wm. Ristau
(Lights up on TODD, center stage.)
Some of you may know I'm writing my memoirs.
When youre young you want to be old, when youre middle aged, you want to be young. Last month I was up in the quad cities visiting my grandmother while she was in the hospital recovering after her cancer surgery, and I got the impression that when you are old, all you want to be is part of something.
I sat for hours next to her bed and asked her questions about her life, and let her talk about her memories
and as she talked about the places she had lived and the people she had known I could see her visibly improving--and I realized it wasnt the nostalgia that made her feel better, it was sharing her life in a way that made her feel it was also part of mine
It was touch and go, but after a week or so she was out of the hospital and living with my Aunt Kathy...by Mothers Day.
I got an email today saying that her cancer might be back and it didnt look good. I thought a lot about her all day, and I wrote down some of the things I remember about her
which Id like to share tonight with you in the same spirit my grandma shared her memories with me...of feeling like I belong to you, and at the same time helping her to belong to a wider family too.
I remember when I was probably 5 years old sitting in the back seat of my grandma's car. She was sitting in the front seat with her mother, Hazel, whom everyone called Gom. They were complaining about how long it was taking my dad and grampa to walk around this lot looking at used farm implements. "How long is he going to be out there?" She asked. I wanted to feel like one of the grown-ups, and so in language I'd heard my grandfather use a million times, I said, "Oh, that old cocksucker is going to be out there all day, he loves this shit."
Gram and Gom spun in their seats and demanded to know where I'd heard language like that. I knew I couldn't rat out my grandpa; he was already in trouble for taking so long looking at manure spreaders. I said, "Uh, I think in a movie?" They didn't buy it, and demanded to know in what movie I'd heard a word like that. I offered up John Wayne as a sacrifice to save grandpa. The next thing I knew, grandpa was getting yelled at anyway and I was standing in the basement shower with Ivory soap in my mouth.
I remember after my parent's divorce I often stayed at Gram's house, and her telling me how to pray. It is a long story, but basically boiled down to her catching me praying flat on my back in the sofa bed. She told me first of all not to pray lying down, because I might offend God by falling asleep in the middle of a prayer, and I should reverently pray kneeling by the side of the bed. Don't come to God in an irreverent fashion, don't pray on the toilet, he is your king, and you should approach him with respect. She also scolded me for praying directly to God, saying that you needed to pray to Jesus and he'd take your prayer to God for you. Jesus is the only one who talks directly to God.
I remember Gram telling me my dad thinks Im ashamed of him because I stayed at her house more than I stayed at his house. And how she understood when I explained why, but told me I needed to explain it to Dad.
Gram inspecting my fingernails before dropping me off at my girlfriends when I was in high school and not realizing until years and years later that she might have been thinking of Sara's vaginal health and not just Saras mother's impression of my hands.
Grandma telling me that she didnt think it was Christian, but she thought it was better for me to live with a woman before I married her so wed stop having so many divorces in the family.
Gram telling me she hated my long hair and hippy ways and then giving me some earrings shed lost the other half of the pair to.
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Gram saying how if grandpa knew how much she spent on his funeral hed get up and die all over again.
Gram being so upset that shed lived longer than two of her children.
Gram telling me how much she missed my father when he died. And telling me how lonely she was now that he couldn't come visit every day.
How she let her self finally cry when her cat died
and refused to get another cat.
Gram telling me how if she got out of the hospital after that cancer surgery, she didnt want to go back to her old house and live alone anymore.
Gram holding my hand and telling me she thought of me as her son, not a grandson.
How the last time I talked to her on the phone I could tell she was getting ready to go, but still wanted to stay
that she wanted to spend time with her new great grandchild
that by moving out of the old house she could think about the future instead of all that past.
There isnt a point to this story, because its not really a story, except that Ill bet you that if you think hard enough theres someone in your life
Someone who needs to be reminded that you know how big a part of you they are
and if they have to go, when it comes their time to leave, then maybe it wont be so hard on either of you if they know theres something of them that is going to stay.
(End, lights fade)
The attached picture is from my wedding on June 30th, 2001. She was so active and full of life then, it is hard to accept that she would be in Hospice care only two years later. As passings go, hers will be a good one, without pain, at home, and surrounded by a large and loving family.
This piece was first performed at Charlottesville No Shame on June 13, 2003.
- June 6, 2003 - No Shame Charlottesville
Performed By Todd Ristau.
- March 26, 2004 - No Shame Roanoke
Performed By Todd Ristau.
- June 11, 2005 - National Best of No Shame at Piccolo Spoleto (Charleston)
Performed by Todd Ristau
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