In the four years I lived with my Nana, I learned I could always rely on a few constants.
For instance, I could always rely on my aunt Brigid offering a passive aggressive opinion on my living in the house. “Tim’s fine,” she would say with arms folded, looking dead ahead at nothing. I could also rely on Nana to lose various items, usually at the most inconvenient times.
For instance, she lost her hearing aids almost every week, either by accident or by “accident,” the latter being a premeditated disposal. One day, I came home to learn that Nana had truly lost one of her hearing aids. She and my cousin, Susan, couldn’t find them anywhere after searching through the whole house. The only place they hadn’t looked was the very-full dumpster that was baking in the hot sun.
Despite my instinct to do otherwise, I chose not to allow those two to go digging through the garbage themselves. I chose to take their place. I was elbows deep in half-eaten food, used tissues, and a variety of other items.
I got the word “we found it” as soon as my fruitless search completed.
Most of the time, no one is to blame in these misplacings, despite us having a hunch about the 4-foot nothing Italian woman. But one time, Nana happened to blame me. Not for losing any particular item. But for ratting her out.
Nana used to have a red flip phone. Like her hearing aids, she would sometimes forget to take it with her and would often lose it. Most of the time, it would drop into the abyss of her recliner. But one day, it just vanished.
Wasn’t a big deal. My dad called and asked me to take her to the store to get it replaced. Sure, I said. When I got home, Nana was getting dropped off by her friend from a gals lunch. Nana was as bubbly as ever. She and her friend recounted the entire lunch despite not asking if I was interested. I wasn’t but whatever.
As Nana closed the door behind her friend, I asked her if she was ready to head to the AT&T store. I assumed she already knew we were going.
“What for?” she asked.
“Dad asked me to take you to the store to get your phone replaced.”
Nana’s bubbly attitude popped and her face fell into stunned glare.
“How does he know I lost my phone?” she asked sharply.
“I guess someone told him.”
“Was it you?”
“No, Nana. Look, what does it matter if someone told my dad or not?”
Silence. She put on her coat and walked to the car in passive silence. At that moment, digging into the squishy, damp unknown of a dumpster was a more appealing alternative than dealing with a grandmother who felt like she had been wronged. Betrayed. Tattled on.
But the silence was broken during the car ride to the AT&T store. Nana slowly rubbed her hands like a James Bond villain as she audibly listed the possible suspects that could have “ratted” her out. The list only included a handful of names but I knew she truly had just one suspect in mind: me.
I was the prime suspect in any misdeed in the house. If food was missing, if the kitchen floor was dirty, or if a pair of women’s slippers were out, there was a good chance I was going to get blamed for it. That’s probably because Nana was right one time in linking me to the crime scene, which was a freezer that was once filled with ice cream cups.
The freezer was in the basement laundry room and when I went back to retrieve my shirts from the dryer, I found Nana back there, holding two empty cups.
“Having fun?” she asked.