My mother-in-law, otherwise known as Nana, has A-list celebrity status in our house. I will spare you the long, schmaltzy list of reasons why I love her so dearly. It’s probably sufficient to tell you that I met her during a time of crisis in her family and she showed me, some random girlfriend of her son’s, uncommon grace and hospitality. It made an indelible first impression that she has consistently lived up to in the years since. My daughter is convinced that Nana is rich because of her consistently superior style (next to a mom who frequently rocks sweat pants, it’s especially impressive) and my son adores her more than squeezy applesauce and Thomas the Train.
Anyway, I was talking to Nana on the phone, as I do almost daily because she and Grandpa (also an A-lister) live on the other side of the country, and she mentioned that another family member, who shall remain nameless, had casually informed Nana of which possessions this person would want to be willed in the case of Nana’s and Grandpa’s deaths. Whaaaa? Pardon me while I stutter in disbelief. Who does that? You almost have to admire the enormous set of balls it must require to casually thrust that into conversation. With one comment you have simultaneously reminded someone of their mortality and let them know that you’re kind of looking forward to their demise as long as you can score some swag. Nothing makes a person feel better than watching a pack of vultures circle over their head.
Nana, evidently not as incensed as I was, went on to helpfully list a couple of things that might come our way should she and Grandpa attend that great cocktail hour in the sky. You know, in case I too was eagerly waiting her demise. I don’t remember what those items were because I was distracted by my violent fantasy aimed at Nameless and also because listening to the list would have challenged my firmly rooted delusion that Nana and Grandpa are immortal. We must cling to our delusions–sometimes they’re all we have.
However, delusional or not, I am adult enough to understand that some things need to be hashed out prior to happening so that things don’t disintegrate into some sort of hillbilly wrestling match. You have to discuss things like wills and power of attorney. And it’s helpful to get feedback from your loved ones. So in the interest of being a team player…
Nana and Grandpa, if you’re listening, I’ve given this a great deal of thought and here a list of what I’d like you to leave me if you two decide not to live forever, though I would strongly urge you to reconsider that decision.
- All of your unused toilet paper. As any high school student with a car, a free Saturday night and a list of addresses could tell you, there is no such thing as too much toilet paper. Unless that toilet paper is in the hands of a toddler with some unsupervised bathroom time and a boatload of curiosity, in which case, I hope you own a plunger. That said, I want whatever you’ve got that hasn’t graced your dearly departed backside.
- The cats. I know they developed a nervous twitch the last time we visited, but the children would like nothing more than the opportunity to slather those cats with love 24 hours a day and I think with enough sedatives, the kitties will stop throwing up whenever they see the kids coming.
- Your cleaning fairies. Clearly there is some sort of magic involved in how unnaturally clean you manage to keep your house. You’ve seen my house–no magic here. Whatever Hocus Pocus you use, I want it. Otherwise your grandchildren may eventually become lost in a pile of discarded shoes and dust bunnies.
- Your cookie selection. I never have the breadth of selection that you two do because I feel guilty if I purchase too many sweets. However, if the cookies were willed to me I would feel obligated to cherish them for the full two minutes it would take me to cram them down my throat like a sugar-crazed lunatic. It would be a very satisfying two minutes.
- Your collection of gourmet condiments. The energy and gas money you’ve dedicated to tracking down the ideal olive oils and jellies is impressive and almost beyond comprehension but I’m sure that it would add joy to my life or at least my waist line. If you have any maximum strength elastic from which I can fashion myself a girdle I’ll take that too.
- One of your many wind chimes. Although the weight of them would crush a Buick, the sound is heavenly–like sitting in the middle of a Buddhist monastery. When I close my eyes in your backyard I see the Dalai Lama dancing with elephants in a field of beautiful flowers, although this vision might be also partially due to beer consumption and heat stroke.
- The exotic liqueurs in your liquor cabinet whose names I can’t even remember. A trip through your liquor cabinet is like taking an exotic inebriated adventure through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. I didn’t even know that half of those liqueurs existed but there they are: ‘Nilla Wafer Jubilee or Cinnamon Thermonuclear Surprise or something. I need it. In a glass.
These things would be nice, but not essential…well except the toilet paper, because let’s face it, life without toilet paper is unpleasant. However, aside from the t.p., the one thing on which I really have my heart set is:
- You guys. Professionally stuffed. Like Build-a-Bear but with grandparents. That way the kids could climb all over you, snuggle with you at bed time, sit with you at the table during dinner. Grandpa, we’ll slather you in whatever combination of coffee, cologne and cigarettes that gives you the special “Grandpa smell” that your granddaughter is so very attached to and Nana, we’ll stuff you with pearls and meat sauce and drape you with jewelry. Then we’ll add those little recorders so that when the kids squeeze your hands Grandpa says “if you say so” and Nana says “I love my gang!”
Sure, people will stop coming to our house because we are the creepy people who taxidermy their relatives. They’ll stare and then whisper to each other whenever we pass by. The kids will become outcasts and sit at the lunch table alone, talking to themselves…
Okay, so that really isn’t a socially acceptable solution but surely you can understand my sentiment, because though you two have collected many nice things over the years, it is just stuff. Nice stuff, but stuff none the less. It can’t compare to the impact you make on our household, especially the household members under five feet, every single day just by being alive. And I’m not just saying that because Grandpa changes our burned out light bulbs and without him we’d live in darkness. You are worth more than the sum of your possessions to the people who love you (and also have social skills).
PS. We’ll still take the toilet paper.