The Queen of the Silver Dollar
Chapter 6: A Vacation With Emma
Caring for my grandma, and taking her barhopping, was hard work for my wife. And she did this while operating a beauty shop at the same time. My job as a mailman was no picnic either, especially with all the overtime I worked. So once in awhile we got away from it all, and went on vacation.
We were never gone much longer than a week, but during those periods someone had to take over the job of checking up on my grandma, and assisting her with housework and other things she had difficulty handling. So my wife would hire somebody, usually a relative, to fill in for her.
But Grandma hated these absences from my wife. She’d grown very attached to her granddaughter-in-law, and didn’t want anyone else taking care of her. So when the hired help showed up at her door, she’d usually tell them she was alright and didn’t need any help, and send them away.
Thus, dishes would pile up in the sink, and other housework would go neglected, leaving a mess for my wife to clean up after returning from vacation.
One day my grandmother announced that since my wife and I had been going on all these vacations, she figured she was entitled to one, also. So she arranged to spend a week with her friend, Emma, starting on New Year’s Eve.
She was 88 years old at this time, and had recently recovered from a broken hip. In fact she was still hobbling around a bit, limping with one leg. Nonetheless, she claimed to feel footloose and frisky enough for this peradventure, about 20 miles away.
Emma was her son’s girlfriend. But her son, my Uncle Mike, was laid-up in a rest home now, having worn his body out partying a little too much with his mother and girlfriend.
It’s admirable that even though he couldn’t party with Emma anymore, Emma remained loyal to my uncle. She kept the relationship with him going, by always maintaining that he was still her boyfriend. And for this, my grandma would reward her with beer and cigarette money, whenever she saw her.
So naturally my grandmother was quite welcome to spend a week with Emma.
Emma had once been very attractive. In her youth she’d worked in Hawaii as a stripper, and more specifically, had been a bubble dance stripper. This form of burlesque involved holding a large, semi-transparent bubble in front of her naked body, while moving it around strategically, in order to tease the men in the audience.
Emma was very proud of her stripper past, and was quick to whip out a photo of herself that she carried around in her wallet, from her young, sexy years. I saw that photo once, and felt shocked at the contrast between then and now.
It seemed to me that over the years, the ravages of booze and hard living had taken a toll on her alluring, stripper looks. Now Emma was middle-aged, with a dumpy figure. I surmised that years of alcohol consumption had contributed to her red and dry complexion. I thought her long, squarish face, which once came across as unconventionally cute, in a jolie laide sort of way, now resembled an oblong box. And her neck and part of her face had unfortunately been scarred by fire in an accident.
Most people expect such changes to their appearance as they grow older. Even if they once were strippers. But apparently not Emma. Although time and flames had caught up with her body, they apparently had not caught up with her perception. It seemed she still saw herself as sexy. And she liked men in uniform, having performed for quite a few of them during her Hawaiian stripper years. So whenever she saw a good-looking male security guard, she followed a routine to try to gain his interest.
She’d walk near him and then suddenly act distressed. “Help me! Please, please, I need your help!” she’d plead. The guard would rush to her side and frantically ask what the problem was. That was her cue to deliver the line, “I’ve lost my phone number! Can I have yours?”
This got some laughs and broke the ice. But if the guard refused to share his number, she’d pull out her 40-year-old stripper photo and taunt, “See? Look what you passed up!”
Emma claimed to be the niece of Oscar-winning actress Joanne Woodward. According to her, she was the illegitimate daughter of the actress’ brother. She never met her father, and her mother didn’t want her, so she ended up being raised in a state-run group home, where she was frequently abused. I guess that helps explain a lot about poor Emma.
On New Year’s Eve, my wife drove my grandma to Emma’s house to begin her week-long vacation. Emma lived near a bowling alley that had a bar, so she and my elderly, hip-sore Grandma walked and limped over to it, to ring in the New Year.
My grandma was all dressed up for the festivities. Her hair had been done up real pretty by my wife. She’d found a gaudy Christmas tree skirt (the kind that wraps around the base of Christmas trees) at a thrift store, and wore this arboreal accoutrement around her neck, as a cape. She modeled a fancy, glittery thrift store dress, and had bedizened herself with fake diamonds and other coruscating costume jewelry. And on her feet she sported sparkling, golden tennis shoes.
They drank and wassailed at the bowling alley until midnight. After the Auld Lang Synes faded away, they decided to hop to a different bar. They called for a cab. But taxicabs are very busy on New Year’s, and none were available. So these two, old drunken ladies hitchhiked.
They soon got a lift, and found themselves whooping it up at the next bar. But after about an hour, they got a hankering to visit their other barroom buddies at another bar. So they hitchhiked on over.
Closing time finally arrived at 2:00 am, and they called for a cab again. But again, no cab was available on this very busy night. That left them standing by the side of the highway, sticking their thumbs out. After a bit, some old drunk from a bar recognized them and stopped and picked them up, and brought them back to Emma’s apartment.
They were hungry, so they munched on some old pizza, from Emma’s fridge. Finally at about 4:00 am, they decided it was bedtime. Emma retired to her bed, leaving Grandma to sleep on Emma’s love seat couch. But Grandma couldn’t straighten one of her legs, due to having recently broken her hip on that side. So she had to hook it over the back of the love seat, and try to sleep that way.
Sometime around noon on January 1st, my wife received a phone call from Emma. It was bad news. She informed her that Grandma couldn’t talk, due to singing all night, she had a terrible hangover, and she was sitting by the front door with her suitcase. She said Grandma was too exhausted to party any longer, and wanted to cut her vacation short and come home.
My wife felt disappointed. She’d been hoping to have a whole week off from caretaking, but instead her vacation had barely lasted 24 hours. She drove straight to Emma’s to pick her up, but experience told her to bring along a small wastebasket.
My hungover grandmother would need that, just in case she had to throw up in the car.
This is the latest installation of my nine-part series, The Queen of the Silver Dollar. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 7: Blood Transfusion . Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.