Friday afternoon, through pouring rain and driving wind, WG and I made our way to Las Vegas. We arrived to a cold evening, quickly retrieved our car ($36 for the whole weekend from Dollar!) and were on our way, armed with two forms of GPS, a google map and my grandma's promise to be available by phone, should we get lost.
My grandmother lives two hours from a major airport. I have to fly to Nevada to get to Arizona. For a girl from California, this makes little sense, but we got to Grandma's house, all the same. I drove us over the Hoover Dam and through the surprisingly crowded desert.
Grandma was happy to see me. She hugged me, shook hands with WG and we got settled in.
"Well, where do you want to put your bags?"
"Wherever you like, Grandma, it's your house." I wandered towards the spare bedroom, WG in tow, awkward as he watched me try to navigate the rules of Grandma's house.
"Well...I could go get the air mattress."
"We're fine in here, Grandma."
...."Okay. Uhm. I'll go get you some more blankets."
In the Valley of the Passive Aggressive, we just go back and forth until the stronger one gets her will. In this argument, I was the stronger. It helps that I'm younger.
Throughout the course of the weekend, whenever we got near the bedroom, Grandma got awkward. Friday evening, WG had already gone in the room, and Grandma and I were saying our goodnights (WG's words, "In your family, goodbyes take like half an hour, it's oh, goodnight, oh are you okay? do you have what you need? okay, so goodnight, wait one more thing..."). We neared the guest room, "Well, oh, so, I'll let you go, 'cause I don't know if he's, uhm..."
"Okay, goodnight." but inside, "If he's what, Grandma? Stark naked in your guest bedroom, changed the lightbulbs to red and the sheets to satin, gotten out a video camera and all prepared to film a porno?"
I told a co-worker this and she said, "What exactly do they think we're doing in their house? Why do they assume the worst?"
We took pictures:
Played a game:
And off to bed we went.
Saturday dawned and began a two hour on and off discussion of what we would do.
WG, to one and all, "Do you want coffee?"
Me, "No, I'm having juice."
"Well, I'm not going to make a pot just for myself."
Fast-forward twenty minutes, to the end of breakfast. Grandma watches WG put dishes in the sink, "You didn't make coffee?"
"No, not just for myself."
"Oh, I would have had a cup."
Me? I'm used to this. WG? Well, I think he died a little on the inside.
The plan for the day continued as we drove out to the "airport," presumably to look at planes but really for Grandma to go to the import store that was having a 50% off sale.
By this time, two o'clock had come and gone, and Grandma had it in her mind that we could go and visit Grandpa (and all the other men in the home where he lives) before lunch. Uhm. No.
"Hey, Grandma, I'm hungry."
"Oh, I'm a little hungry."
"Let's get lunch first before going to see Grandpa."
"So, we're going to the diner?"
"So, you don't want to go to Crackerbarrel?"
No one had mentioned Crackerbarrel, so no, we didn't want to go there. "No, Grandma, let's go to the diner."
Before we ate, we had to circle around downtown until Grandma could park and get us to take pictures at the train:
After yet another meal served by someone with bleach blonde hair, we visited Grandpa.
Grandma handed him a chocolate milkshake, and this seemed to be all that he could focus on. He stared blankly into space and sucked on his little red straw. When Grandma wanted his attention, she simply ran the fingers of her right hand along the back of his neck, and my heart lept.
I recognized the gesture as one of my own, and in addition to seeing my grandmother still trying to give a loving touch to the man she has loved for nearly 60 years, I saw my own lifetime.
My grandmother has known her husband in a way no other human being can, and she still loves him, still wants him to turn his pale blue eyes to her own and see love.
After this heart-wrenching experience, and the added bonus of watching a series of differently impaired men wander around asking for candy, vaguely threatening to shoot large quantities of people or insisting that we call them, "Wild Bill," we went to search for my aunt who was supposed to be at the bowling alley but wasn't.
Eventually, we located her at her house, and the passive aggression began anew.
My Aunt, "Sarah! The antique shop doesn't close for another hour, do you want to go over there?"
Grandma, "WG and I could go get the groceries we need for dinner and you and Sarah can go to the antique store."
My Aunt, "Mom! It's just one store. And then we'll go to the grocery store."
Just one store turned into taking the longer, scenic route through a canyon (My aunt, "I figure if people come from out of town, they want to see the local scenery) the store, a tour of downtown and a stop at the local coffee shop. I ordered a Thai iced tea and was asked if I actually knew what I was getting, because, said the owner, most people are surprised and somewhat disappointed that it's creamy and sweet.
As we (finally) trecked through the grocery store looking for ingredients to make risotto in the middle of nowhere, my aunt and grandma continued to ask WG, as they had all day, if he minded cooking. As throughout the day, he said he didn't mind either way, but if he was going to cook, he needed to get started.
A trip to Wal-Mart was required, or, as WG said, "We could go over to the house of satan and get the rest of what I need," in the most sarcastic voice possible.
Groceries in hand, we returned to my aunt's house to retrieve Grandma's car. And then we installed a computer program for my aunt, looked at a buttload of pictures, learned that my great-grandmother was illegitimate and that her uncle fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War.
Finally, my uncle came in the room, "Does anyone mind if I just order pizza?"
"No, that's fine."
And for the rest of the evening my aunt and grandma pestered WG, asking him if he minded not cooking.
Anyway, we bunkered down with pizza, uncomfortable furniture and a cat to watch the Mummy and the Mummy II. My uncle said he was going to take a shower and never came back. My cousin insisted she would stay up to watch both movies and then suddenly disappeared and never returned.
Finally, around midnight, we returned to Grandma's house. Where we proceeded to drink a class of wine and watch America's Next Top Model until two in the morning. Quite frankly, that was my favorite part of the trip.
Sunday morning, we were on the road again, brushing aside offers of breakfast and sandwiches, hurrying out the door to get to the Hoover Dam and the airport, discussing the Valley of the Passive Aggressive all along the way.
We squeezed in time for a casino.
Then we waited. And the flight got cancelled. And we waited for news. And got rebooked on a midnight flight. And booked for "standby" on a 7 p.m. flight. That we got on. That left at 8:30. And went to a different airport than we really wanted.
And then we got home. And we slept. And we were happy to have visited and happy to have left.