Blanket Fort

When I was young, under the age of twelve, I watched an episode of some ghoulish television show in my grandparents’ living room. As a result, I have been slightly, irrationally afraid of the upstairs of my grandparents’ home ever since.

Before my mom and dad had a vacation place of their own in northern Michigan, we stayed with my grandparents whenever we went “up north” as it is called in Michigan. “Up north” is anyplace north of Bay City/Saginaw. And this is true for any person that lives south of Bay City/Saginaw, even if that place is along the Ohio border. This is the truth for all Michiganders.

Anyway, I remember being sandwiched on their couch, with its scratchy orange plaid cushions, between my mom and dad.  The television show was something about unexplained phenomenon. The episode we were watching was about aliens and how they had supposedly landed somewhere in the American desert. In one shot, one of the alien reenactment actors turned, faced the camera, and my young mind was melded. Holy whoa. There was an alien.

And then bam!

It was my bed time.

My mom ushered me upstairs to bed, into the huge (and it really is enormous) bedroom that housed two twin beds and lots of room for my mind to wander.  She tucked me in, as always, and I knew that she and my dad would be making their way up in short order.

It was that night that I first “saw” the alien. I would have sworn on John Winthrop’s Bible that I did. I “saw” it walk right in front of my bedroom door out of the room that my mom and dad used. It “floated” down the stairs and in another instant, it was back and it was staring. at. me.

Needless to say, I was freaked out. I don’t remember screaming… No one came upstairs, and if I had screamed, the brigade of Scotts in the house would have come to my aid. But I did do what any kid in his or her right mind does. I pulled my blanket over my head. If I couldn’t see the alien, it couldn’t see me.

I have been slightly, irrationally afraid of the upstairs portion of my grandparents’ home ever since.

Last Monday, my grandma was taken by ambulance to the hospital. She suffers from osteoporosis and arthritis and flare ups are not uncommon.

I was in contact with my parents, who were with my grandparents that day, all day.  My grandmother waited for help in the emergency room for six hours. In reality, I know that hospitals are not perfect. Hell, I worked in a surgical center while I was in graduate school. And after she finally saw a doctor, a battery of tests was performed, and no one got any real rest, she was transferred (again by ambulance) to a larger hospital thirty-six miles away.

On Wednesday, I was told that she might be suffering from congestive heart failure.

I only have one grandmother.

One.

I used to have two, but when I was thirteen, my great-grandmother, this remaining grandmother’s mother, died at the age of 91.

I never knew my mom’s mother.

I wanted to collapse in my bathroom and huddle against the sink and cry. I wanted to fling myself onto my bed and cry into my pillow. I wanted to rage, and scream, and throw anything at everything.

My husband and I made the decision to go see my grandparents the coming weekend, which is now this past weekend.

My grandparents have three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Their grandchildren include me and my two older cousins. I don’t particularly like either one of them and am not close to them by both circumstance, and now that I’m an adult and choose my own family, by design.

I am the only one that visited. I don’t know if the other two called, and I don’t actually care.

When I am in the presence of my grandparents, I feel every one of my childhood memories of them. I remember family vacations with the five of us: me, my parents, and my grandparents. I remember running down Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes with my grandpa. I remember going dress shopping with my grandma and my mom because I was starting a new job and I “needed” to look the part.  I remember my trip out west with them when I was eight. I remember how fast my grandpa climbed the hill at Meadowbrook Music Festival after they saw me obtain my master’s degree, just so he could be the first one to hug me.

I recall every good thing that has ever happened with them.

Our visit was a good one. It was full of laughs and it was truly enjoyable. The best part was learning that my grandmother is in fact not suffering from congestive heart failure.

Today, as my husband and I drove out of my parents’ driveway, and journeyed onward “down state”, I wanted to cry when I looked down the street and saw my grandparents’ home. The home I’ve known as theirs since 1988.

I put on my sunglasses even though it wasn’t sunny and slumped down in my seat. My husband could see me cry; he has seen me cry multiple times at everything from toilet paper commercials to marching bands in parades, but this cry… This cry was mine and it needed to be silent.

I looked down the street, and I saw the window that I was convinced allowed the alien into the house. I am thirty-one years old and all I wanted to do was be that kid again, hiding from the aliens. I wanted a blanket fort. Because under blanket forts, things like aging grandparents and health scares don’t happen. My grandparents are both in their late eighties and I know, with the type of knowledge that I would give anything to return, that they will not see my children at the age I am now.

I am grateful, beyond any measure of human gratitude, that they got to see me grow up. They saw me graduate from high school, and college, and graduate school. They saw me buy a house. They saw me get married, and if I am luckier than I have any right to even think I deserve, they might see me have a child. I said that they are aging, they’re not on death’s door.

I am angry at those that didn’t bother to call my grandfather to check on him while his wife was in the hospital and they were scared. I am angry at my cousins for not coming to see our grandparents, although in reality, they have been only mine for decades.  I am angry that people supposedly close to me never asked how my grandmother was.

And I am allowed that anger. Because my love for my grandmother and my grandfather outweigh all of it.

I know without a doubt that they know it too.

In our way, we have a blanket fort. We have a bond that can’t be bought and it most certainly can’t be explained. You see, I might have only one set of grandparents, but they only have one granddaughter as well.

I eventually took my sunglasses off and looked out and ahead at the stretch of road ahead and thought of the next time I’d see them. There will be a next time, and it will come soon, no matter how busy my school year gets. Maybe I will ask if they too have ever been slight, irrationally, fearful of their own upstairs.

 

 

 

 

 

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