1. After burping in your face, she says, “You’re not allowed to do that, but I am, because I’m old! Teehee.”
2. She talks to you about the texture of her cat’s BMs.
3. She believes Obama is a Muslim.
4. Her favorite meal is rye bread spread thick with spicy mustard and loaded with pastrami. She remembers fondly the mustard sandwiches of her youth in the Great Depression. She recalls, without commentary, how the men from her father’s firm who had been laid off would come begging, and how the maids were instructed to refuse them, and to throw the extra food into the trash instead.
5. She cut all ties to her parents, her two siblings, and she can never produce a reason. Were they abusive? Was there a fight? “I don’t know,” she says, “we just didn’t have a lot in common.”
6. She quizzes you on the names of plants, often when you are in the middle of a story about something else.
7. She claims not to remember high school, that the entire period was “a blur.” The only thing she can recollect is that she had a nice rear end.
8. She has always loved cards and is a terrifyingly adept Bridge player. She loves nothing more than to beat you at Cribbage, and she laughs every time she does it. When her vision fails and she can no longer see the cards, you buy jumbo ones which she cannot shuffle with her arthritic hands. That’s alright. You shuffle them. Anything so that you can see her delight when she bests you.
9. “You’ve gained weight,” she says, whenever she sees you, even if you lost weight.
10. She won a Most Beautiful Baby contest when she was an infant. She graduated from college at 19. She can read Latin and Greek. She can add long columns of numbers in her head without a calculator. She became a housewife and never had a career.
11. Once, she claims, she saw a UFO when she was living in the desert. “There are things out there,” she says. But you also know that the time she was living in the desert was a terrifying time, a dark period, when she was drinking heavily and her husband was regularly beating her.
12. The first question she asks when you tell her you are dating someone is, “Is he tall?” The second question is always, “Is he a lawyer?” These are the only two qualities she is interested in.
13. She likes to eat English muffins and drink coffee while talking on the phone, and periodically it is your job to clean her phone because the mouth piece has become so clogged with coffee-spit and English muffin particulate that it no longer transmits sound. You do this with rubbing alcohol and Q-Tips.
14. She did horrible things to your mother as a child, and you never know how to reconcile this with her now: this tiny woman with a small tummy in a pantsuit, chewing a toothpick and laughing at you.
15. She spends most of her time gardening, and once she lost an opal ring worth ten grand in the dirt and found it again five years later.
16. For years she had Yorkies who were allergic to her cigarette smoke and so lost all their hair.
17. When you moved into your first apartment in New York, she sent you an expensive palm tree in a pot, had it spontaneously delivered by a confused Greek man, right to your door in your four story walk up, because she said she worried you couldn’t see any trees from your window. For more than a year, you have a mattress, a bookshelf, that tree and no other furniture.
18. You wish this list could go on forever, that you could write more and more facts about your grandmother, because now she is dead and her garden has gone to seed and you wish she could see your children even though she would find them annoying and would be cruel to them, because you miss her, Oh God, you miss her, and you would give anything to play cards with her one last time.