“Look at her!” the oldest boy directed with an air of superiority.
“I don’t want to look at her,” the pre-teen girl whispered. “She scares me a little.”
“Aw, come on,” he egged her on. “She shouldn’t scare you. She’s just a crazy old bat!” he nodded his straight brown hair in the direction of the old lady.
“Well, I think she’s gross,” the pretty blonde huffed, looking at her nails. “Look–she’s drooling.”
All eyes fastened on the old woman who was in fact drooling. A group of adults surrounded her, one woman rubbing her back, but the old lady didn’t seem to notice. She sat slightly hunched forward with her feet solidly planted, legs apart. Her knee-high panty hose were actually ankle-high now, neatly rolled above her tennis shoes. Her flower print dress was predominantly a pale green that accentuated her eyes, the only part of her body that seemed alert and in the present. They were piercing eyes, and as if sensing her grandchildren’s glances, she sharply turned her head and stared back at them across the sterile room.
“Elephant in the room–Ha! I couldn’t pretend I didn’t see it if I wanted to!” she spat at them, her dentures shifting in her mouth.
The three oldest children quickly turned back to the little circle they made with their bodies on the couch, afraid of meeting her eyes again. The younger ones lying on the floor pushing cars back and forth to each other didn’t even notice the outburst.
“What is she talking about?!” the pretty blonde asked, rolling her eyes and not caring to hear the answer.
“Oh, who knows?” the boy answered. “She’s always talkin’ about some stupid elephant.”
“My mom says she used to be an officer in the Air Force,” the youngest of the three whispered, afraid of attracting the old woman’s attention. “It’s hard to believe now….” her voice trailed off.
“Oh, Aunt Chloe’s always sticking up for Grandma,” he retorted. I don’t believe she was in the Air Force at all. Can you picture her leading anybody? The only thing I can picture her leading is the line on Jell-O night!”
The sarcastic boy quieted down as a group of adults walked over.
“Well, I think Grandma is getting tired,” a distinguished-looking man observed as he placed his hand on his son’s shoulder. He had the same eyes as his mother’s, hazel-green, but bigger and more pleasant. “You kids need to tell her goodbye.”
The youngest children on the floor obediently got up and went over to the old woman.
“Dad, was Grandma really in the Air Force?” the oldest boy asked.
“Yes, before I was born.”
“Have you seen pictures as proof?”
“Well what kind of question is that?” asked a rather soft-spoken woman, obviously offended by the question.
“Oh, Aunt Chloe, I just was wonderin’. I have a hard time picturing Grandma leading a group of people, is all.”
“You know, Grandma wasn’t always like this,” a stylishly dressed woman jumped in, gesturing to her mother on the other side of the room. “She was actually very intelligent at one time.”
“Well, what happened?” asked the youngest girl, still in a very small voice, “you know, to make her this way.”
The group looked over just as the old lady began swatting at something invisible to them.
“Well, honestly, I think Chloe was the breaking point for Mom,” the stylish woman eagerly volunteered.
“Wha-?” Chloe began, but the other woman continued.
“Three was obviously too much for her. You came along, with your seven days without pooping, screaming at night…Mom said she went five years without getting a full night’s sleep…the sleep deprivation just did her in.”
“I was just a baby! How can you hold me solely responsible for Mom’s condition, Hannah Grace! If anything, you and Caleb drove her crazy! She always said so! In fact, I think I know the exact minute she lost it. Mom is always talking about elephants–you two were the ones who embarrassed her at church knocking down that inflatable elephant in the lobby! She said it was eight feet tall, and all the men in the lobby were trying to stop you, but you two just laughed and pushed it over and kicked it–I’m sure she felt like a failure as a mother.”
“Okay, ladies. I think we’re all being a little dramatic here. I’m sure none of us is responsible for Mom’s condition. These things happen with age,” the distinguished man answered matter-of-factly.
“Oh, please, Caleb,” Hannah Grace snapped. “You just don’t want to get us started on you!”
“Me? I wasn’t any trouble. I always did very well in school, didn’t give my teachers any problem. I mean, Hannah Grace, if you really want to play this game, you peed on your teacher at church. I’m sure that was a bigger embarrassment for Mom than my involvement in knocking over some fake elephant!
“Well, Caleb, in all fairness to Hannah Grace, you had the bigger problem with pee,” Chloe gently chimed in.
“Okay, here we go!” he threw up his hands in the air in disgust.
“I mean, you almost set your room on fire.”
“Chloe, you couldn’t even remember that! You were a baby. Heck–I’m not sure if I actually remember it or if I just heard the story a thousand times!”
“Chloe’s right,” Hannah Grace interjected. “If anyone’s responsible, it’s you. Who pees on their wall? I mean, really! Were you aiming for the electric socket, or did it just get in the way of the urine design you were painting? When was your first clue that this wasn’t normal behavior–when the socket started sparking?”
“Enough, enough,” Caleb said softly, hanging his head in shame.
The sarcastic boy looked up at his father in horror. “Is..is it true, Dad?” he asked incredulously.
Caleb sighed. “Yes, Son. It’s true.”
“Yuck. That’s disgusting, Uncle Caleb,” the pretty blonde spit the words as if they tasted bad.
“Poor Grandma,” the other girl whispered.
“Yes, poor Grandma,” Hannah Grace agreed. “She was a good woman. It’s such a shame, such a shame.”
Slowly, the remaining grandchildren made their way to their grandma to kiss her goodbye.
“Darn pigs all over the place,” the old woman muttered under her breath, not talking to anyone in particular.