I didn’t get it at first. I thought she was kidding. Viagra, Cialis, your woman will want to keep going all night. I won’t say I didn’t blush. But it was indeed funny, and I thought, Stop being such a prude, it really is funny. Even though she’s your grandma.
She, however, was not kidding. Nor was she serious or grim. But she had no intention of levity. I don’t need all this, I told her. We’re just fine, touch wood. Well, she says, I didn’t say you do. But listen closely, duckling, Grandma has hunches other people have not.
Duckling. I’m sure it sounds better in Yiddish, but my grandma doesn’t speak Yiddish. And sometimes I regret this whole email thing started, but she’s all alone there, she’s always all alone there, and it seemed like a good idea. At the time.
Really, duckling! Ashamed of your own grandmother? That’s what she said. After all, your grandfather and me, well well well, did I ever tell you about your grandfather and me?
You did, I say. They went through this phase, I’d rather not go into details. Both because she’s my grandmother, and also because it was many years ago, so why go into it now? And Grandpa is in this home for the mentally unstable, or whatever they call it. We don’t talk about him much. Not since he, who was born in Petah Tikva and never laid eyes on a Nazi his whole life, maybe just in the movies, maybe not even that, anyhow, not since he yelled Capo, capo at her, didn’t recognize her at all, after all these years he didn’t recognize her that morning, and nearly broke her nose. For a whole month she carried around this fading black eye like some battered woman.
Long story short, I really went at it with her that week, the week in which it was all over. Went at it in the evening, it was a Sunday, and over the phone, and I was probably a bit scared of it myself, that voice I was making, but it wasn’t on purpose, and she just said, You don’t raise your voice at your grandmother. You’re just like your father, you think you have it all figured out, but your grandmother has seen her share in her day.
Grandma, I said, how many times have we discussed it? You don’t simply email someone your credit card number, it’s dangerous.
She was offended. You can hear it in her voice instantly. She sounded like a four-year-old. And she immediately denied it. Credit card number? That’s what she said. Do you think your grandmother is senile? Do you think she’s stupid? I did not give anyone a credit card number.
I was breathing with relief. The mug almost fell out of my hand earlier, an elderly woman home alone, go figure who’s going to try and hassle her. But I was breathing with relief and doing the dishes, she would have insisted on saying rinsing, but it’s a different generation, it is, and it’s nothing to be offended by. It may be a matter of dividing the attention, but it really isn’t a problem for me, being concentrated while talking with her while doing the dishes or sweeping the floor or doing some other useful thing while we talk. And she said, I did a wire transfer.
You did what?
A wire transfer.
Why the hell did you wire him money? How much did you give, maybe we can still cancel it.
Why cancel it, she said angrily. You must learn to trust people, you’re just like your father, so suspicious.
Grandma, I said. And she said, You and your sister, you’ve got a family to take care of you. There are people in this world who don’t have that privilege. You simply do not know what it’s like, to go through a disaster. Thank God.
What do disasters have to do with it?
Lots, she said. This gentleman was the Nigerian minister of finance, his English is not all that good, he just needs a little help. And anyway, she added secretively, it might add a little something to your inheritance.
It was not, simply put, something Dad could be told. Their relationship is a bit tense, one might say. Probably because of Grandpa. Definitely after that time he left the home and wandered around town for a whole day until finding the house, and she, who was afraid to let him in, all those years and she was afraid to let him in, called the police. I think about her sometimes, looking out the window when they put him in the car. But they were gentle with him, she said they were gentle with him, and a day later he didn’t remember anything anyway. His brain is like an eye gazing at the sun, some pattern remains burned there for a few minutes, and then it’s all gone. But Dad got upset. I can’t blame him. Can’t blame her, either.
All in all, we’re pretty close. I tell her my dreams. She finds it interesting. But not the other way around. That is, I would have been interested, but she’s not telling. Probably would have, had I asked, but I don’t. If she wanted to, she’d tell me. That’s not something you can force. I’ve told her my dreams ever since I was little. It was like some sort of ritual when I came over on holidays. Nowadays, I tell her over the phone. Sivan knows, too, and if I tell her in the morning, then when I talk with Grandma in the evening she might fill in some details aloud, from the other room, in case I forgot them in the hours that passed since I told her in bed in the morning. They have this good relationship. I’m happy about that, too.
But I should have told Dad this time. I say that in hindsight. I thought this would be the end of it. I really did. And maybe it was, there’s no way of telling now. No easy way, at least.
He wanted her to come to him, to Nigeria. Not my dad, naturally. The Nigerian minister of finance. What he hoped to accomplish eludes me. I don’t even know if he had any idea how old she was. It’s hard to tell what goes through people’s minds, even those closest to you, all the more so with someone from an email. And anyway, she was the one corresponding with him, not me at all. So there was something soothing to it, something definitely soothing, because the very idea of her catching a plane to Nigeria, not to mention less than a year after breaking her hip, this idea was too funny even to consider, and we both laughed. My laughter somewhat subsided when she said she wired him the money for an airplane ticket.
You must stop that, I told her. Can’t you see you’re being conned? It’s a known fraud.
Known fraud, known fraud, she said. She has that voice sometimes, that mocking tone. We almost never hear it, but when we do, I can almost understand Dad. His anger. But I won’t go into that. I refuse to. And our children as well, when we have them. I have no interest whatsoever in them getting into my relationship with Dad. He’ll probably make an excellent grandfather. All things considered, he probably will.
Promise me you won’t give him any more money, I said.
As long as your grandmother is still alive, she said, she herself will decide what to do with her money.
It’s not as if … I said. It’s not as if, ah … Oh, look what you’re turning this into. I only say that because I’m worried about you.
It is a grandmother’s place to be worried about her grandchildren, she said, and grandmothers are completely capable of taking care of their own business.
It’s a different generation, Grandma, I said. I was a bit upset, I guess. I remember. And I regret it, naturally. No doubt about it. It’s a different generation, and there are things online I know and you don’t. Seriously, can’t you see what’s going on here? What are you doing, going around sending people money for an airline ticket? Just imagine some stranger coming by and knocking at your door, would you let him in? Hadn’t you been afraid?
Hadn’t you?! she says. Who taught you how to speak? Hadn’t you? Would you not have been?
Cut it out, I said. You know exactly what I mean.
I thought I’d heard the end of it. The price of an airline ticket here, that and what she gave him to begin with, she didn’t tell me how much it was, but it’s probably a lot of money in Nigeria. Then again, what do I know about Nigeria?
I don’t even know how long the flight is.
But that night, she did not tell me about it, hasn’t said a word, she dreamt she and Grandpa were at a café by the sea. The band wearing suits, the lot of them, everybody so handsome, and their dancing there, she and Grandpa, holding each other tight, she did not tell me that, hasn’t said a word, not how she laid her head on his shoulder, not about his hands holding her, he always had these strong, strong hands, didn’t even tell me about the enormous sun setting there, it seemed as if it would soon swallow the whole wide open porch, maybe it did and they did not notice. Because of the sound of the waves and of the band, and because they danced so close.
But she woke from these knocks at the door, they came one right after the other, loud, relentless. And when she called me she was already pressed to the edge of the mattress, pressed to the wall like a scared little child, and her voice was so small, those knocks on the door in the background, no one calling her name, maybe it was for the best, just knocking over and over for her to open up, open up. And did not even ring the bell.