I usually stop to visit my 91- and 93-year-old parents for a while every day. Sometimes I leave uplifted because they’re bright and ‘with it.’ Other days I leave a little confused by their logic.
Grandma: They were training in a new girl [a certified nursing assistant] today.
Grandma: I can tell she’s not going to be a good one.
Me: And how can you tell that when it’s just her first day?
Grandma: She stood with her arms crossed.
Me: Her arms crossed?
Grandma: She was supposed to be watching the other girl, and the new one just stood with her arms crossed.
Me: Well, I suppose she was told to just observe the first day.
Grandma: The good ones can’t help it. They just pitch right in and work. They don’t cross their arms.
Me: I hope you give the new girl a chance.
Grandma: Oh, sure. But she won’t be a good one. She crossed her arms.
Grandpa: Whose alarms?
Me: No, arms—not alarms. Arms. The new girl—Grandma said she just crossed her arms.
Grandpa: The new girl has arms?
Grandma: Remember at dinner? She just stood there and crossed her arms. And didn’t smile. She won’t be a good one.
Me: Maybe you could at least give her a chance? Maybe she was very nervous and serious her first day on the job.
Grandma: We had to work hard when we were kids. I can tell which girls had to work hard at home when they were growing up because they know how to work when they come here [to the assisted living].
Me (trying to change the subject): So what were you expected to do when you were kids?
Grandpa: Who has a kid?
Me: No, when you were a kid. What work were you expected to do when you were a kid?
Grandpa: I was tall and skinny—six feet tall when I was 13 years old.
Grandma (to Grandpa): I remember when you grew so fast at that age that they couldn’t keep up to you with pants. During Norwegian School one spring, your father told my mother that you grew out of a pair of pants every week.
Grandpa: I grew fast.
They both stopped to think about that awhile. Finally, my mother spoke.
Grandma: Do you remember when Irving jumped twenty feet off the side of the silo because he thought the silo was falling down?
Grandpa (laughing): He was putting up pipe on the side of the silo during silo-filling. It was a windy day. He looked up and saw the clouds moving by the top of the silo and he thought the silo was tipping over—so he jumped.
Grandma: Uffdah, he didn’t realize it was the clouds moving instead of the silo.
They both laughed.
Me: Was he hurt?
Grandpa: I don’t remember that he was hurt.
Grandma: Just his pride. Everybody teased him about that—“The silo is falling, Irving!” (She laughed.)
Grandma: We worked when we were kids. I helped my aunt feed the men during threshing. We didn’t cross our arms. The new girl won’t be a good one because she crossed her arms.
I think that’s where I came in.