When I was a little kid, my dad’s mother would come stay with us. Granny. The one whose middle name, Treat, I carry.

I couldn’t stand her. She smelled like Eau d’Oldde Peoplle. And she made this weird little sucking-in whistle sound whenever there was something she disapproved of, but wouldn’t speak about.

This image is how she appeared to me then. Looking back from the perspective of someone who is now the age she was then, I understand more.

She wouldn’t speak up about things she didn’t like because my dad would shut her down. Never in front of us – always in another room. I heard him one time – it wasn’t pretty. So she communicated by sucky-whistle, or one of those high, wobbly hoity-toity voices as she asked us to do something we didn’t want to do.

She was obese. I never realized how uncomfortable it is to be so overweight. You feel tired all the time, your knees hurt, you can’t bend properly in all the places that are supposed to bend. You’re short of breath because of the effort carrying around all that extra poundage.

And she wore layer upon layer of old fashioned clothes – straight out of the 40s – with white gloves and hats with veils – the whole (literal) 9 yards. She must have felt suffocatingly hot all the time.

As if that wasn’t enough, we had to wear white gloves when we went to visit – eating at the dinner table with finger bowls, and watching her use the little tinkly silver bell to call for for the maid – who was right there around the corner – oh gag.

The worst thing, though – well, to me, as a possessive little child – was that she slept in MY bed. In MY room. And I had to listen to her snore from the other, less comfy bed. Sawing boards makes less noise. I couldn’t wait for her to leave.

When I was 21, I rode across country with a guy on his huge BMW motorcycle. By the time we got to New York, ten days later, Granny made it very clear that she was disowning me, because she thought I was a ‘sex maniac.’ Those were her exact words.

And yet, I was told that, after she died, out of all the things sent to her by all her grandchildren, mine were the only drawings and cards she kept. I don’t know if that was true, or some sad story my ma made up to make me feel bad – she knew I hated the woman.

She left me an art book in her will. One that was so outdated and spoiled with age I had to throw it out. Weird, no?

I also didn’t realize that she always seemed grumpy because she was the only one left out of her circle of friends by the time she was in her early 70s. She died at 86.

That made me feel bad – for about a second and a half. Then I thought, well, why didn’t she go out and make more friends? Sixteen years of being lonely when all she had to do was walk out the door and make an effort to meet new people?

The look of disbelief upon my mother’s face when I said it out loud said it all. Surprise, shock, disbelief, incredulity, inability to imagine the idea, laughter … we’re talking side-splitting laughter…

Poor Granny. How sad to live such a lonely life. She was elegantly, proudly, Bostonianly, uprightly lonely.


Prints? My fabulous printer has unleashed the Blue, and I can now say YES to print requests. This series will only be printed in 8″x8″size on the most luscious velvety paper. PM me for any of the ones you want.

text & image
© Angela Treat Lyon 2021

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