Gramma Lily's Marble Table

by Ruth Z Deming


The table is small, like she was. Shoes a size 4. Cinderella's step-sisters would have to chop off every single toe in order to wear her red patent leather pumps with the little heels. Her taste in clothes was impeccable. As a child I would go into her double closets and try on her dresses. Mustn't get caught, though, or I'd get a whipping. A master seamstress, she had yard sticks and she'd beat me though I refused to cry out. Until she finished, that is, and then I'd sob until I was hiccupping.

She was a boss lady. The oldest of eleven children who served as a second mother to them all. Mom and I drove her to the Mennonite Home when she was 90 as she could barely mouth a single word. Vascular dementia, they called it.

I had no patience with her. A woman who beat the living daylights out of me and said mean things like "a brilliant girl like you should have had an abortion instead of raising two children."

We chose that particular place as we believed no one would steal her belongings. Wrong! Her lovely white cashmere sweaters were taken, a small figurine of a black stallion, her eau de cologne, and everything else she brought with her.

Reluctantly, I drove to see her in Royersford, PA. Mom and I would chat along the way. Mother had a terrible habit of talking incessantly and I gnashed my teeth as she did so. This was farm country. The back roads with sudden twists and turns and views of dilapidated red barns, shacks for houses, moo-cows, rows and rows of tasseled corn and yes, I pulled over a couple of times and wrenched a cob or two off the tall stem.

Gramma Lily was 98 when she died. All our dead people we ship to Cleveland, Ohio, to be buried. Mom, who lived to a ripe old age of 97, quickly got rid of her mother's clothing, her Singer sewing machine which had a special feature for making rick-rack, and of course her marble table.

"Beauty" is an understatement when describing it. The top holds my Sony radio, an empty artichoke jar filled with pens and curled-up pieces of paper with story ideas on them. Small leaves are fashioned in brass and look like the owner - c'est moi! - is a wealthy woman. I would be if I knew how to grow my stocks and bonds but I'm hopelessly ignorant.

One time, an asshole asked me, "Do you like being poor?"

The table needs to be dusted frequently. I use an old pink sock and bend down carefully so I don't bump my head and see stars. Yes, that's happened to me. Who knows? Might it result in vascular dementia like Gramma Lily?

In another part of my house - it's a split level - and Mommy and Daddy bought it for me - I have Gayelord Hauser's book "Live Longer, Look Younger." I had used a black pen to circle important points - the importance of vinegar, blackstrap molasses, and avoiding sugar and white flour.

From the fading photo on the back cover, Hauser was a handsome man with a good head of hair. He could have been the host on a matinee program, the kind I would watch when I pretended to be sick and missed school, back in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

Hauser, I'm glad to say, died at age 89.

The table top hasn't an extra inch of space. Dental floss, a red timer - is it a Robert Shaw ticker? - a green cup I bought at the grocery store that reads "The Daily Grind" and is filled to the brim with water, tap water. A piece of soft toilet paper to blow my shnozzola. Whenever I eat - and I confess to eating pretzels and crackers in bed - my nose runs. Run run run, like the Gingerbread Man.

Gramma Lily was a famous baker in her day. Pecan sticky buns, Mandelbrot, brownies with added chocolate chips. Soups: split pea soup with bits of hot dogs tossed in for extra flavor and protein. Barley soup made with dried barley, one of the oldest grains there is.

At age 84, she developed her vascular dementia. She should have lived longer. While she was dying at the Mennonite home, did she think, "Why have you betrayed me, Gayelord Hauser?"

Some day soon, I promise I will remove everything on my grandmother's marble side table and give it a good scrubbing. I found some shower cleaner in a downstairs cupboard where I keep a mouse trap, and I shall remember fondly, and I do mean fondly, my wonderful Gramma Lily.

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