Sometimes, as loyal Open Trench blog readers know, I will open a diary to the same date from twenty or thirty years ago and type what happened.
March 9, 1974 was a dull entry so it is not here. But I read about two months of entries. They were short entries because I was just a kid. But what was so sweet about them was how sweet a person can be at that age. It was all about my Nanny, a bunny that never materialized and tropical fish.
My grandmother was living with us for the better part of a year. She was in the middle of a separation from my grandfather and while that was going on he died. My mother got my grandmother an apartment six miles away and we moved her in. For weeks before in the journal, I wrote about my grandmother, the date she was moving. We all helped her move on a Saturday and I stayed over the first night in her apartment. I remember it very well. The towel she laid on the couch where I slept, my incredible sadness that my grandmother, who we called Nanny, was going to live alone for the first time in her life. I was also very aware that she was very aware that this was the last home of her life. It was also a bit institutional in a 1970’s garden apartment, subsidized by the local government kind of way.
On Sunday, I helped with unpacking and cleaning and it came time for my parents to come pick me up. And Nanny kept talking. She did not want to be left alone and in her anxiety she just kept talking and talking about anything. Picture hooks. Pots and pans. The stove. And I felt terrible that I had to leave her alone.
The next two weeks of entries, I wrote about calling Nanny. I called her almost every night. The first weekend after she moved into her apartment, I went over and “I helped clean the rug and had a lot of fun.” And my mother gave me a dollar for helping and then she gave my brother a dollar, even though he didn’t help, because she didn’t want him to feel bad.
The weekend after that was Easter and we had the Easter egg hunt at Nanny’s apartment. It wasn’t too much fun. My Uncle Joe came, too. I think it was a secondary Easter egg hunt. My father was good about dying lots of eggs. I noticed that my mother and my uncle weren’t thrilled to be at Nanny’s apartment. In fact, they both seemed itching to get out of there. I felt terrible that they didn’t really like being there because I loved it. Then, I got a feeling that I wasn’t supposed to like being there either. Besides, I had visited three weekends in a row. It seemed like Nanny was getting used to living there. I went less often and called less often. But I still called and visited a lot.
I was disappointed that Easter because I really wanted a rabbit and I didn’t get one. I kept asking for one and it didn’t happen. I had a rabbit when I was a few years younger. Edgar. And he died. Also, I was terribly allergic to rabbits. And I know my parents didn’t want to get me another one because of my allergies.
Most of the other entries in March and April of 1974 were about stocking and loving my aquarium.
I had an aquarium most of my childhood. I loved tropical fish. My best friendships with other boys growing up were completely centered on being an aquarium hobbyist.
It was all so sweet, the entries that I read. I feel so lucky that 1974 was such a sweet year.
Until I went to college and even during college breaks and after I graduated, I would take Nanny grocery shopping almost every week. We went to Italy together when I was a junior in high school. She was a very difficult personality with a pretty solid strain of Mediterranean bi-polarity. Not medicated. I got along with her extremely well. I understood her intense compulsivity and her loneliness. She died in 1989 of ovarian cancer. I visited her in the hospital every day. When she had a stroke during the last week of her life, she lost her speech. One visit, my brother came with me, and my grandmother, who no longer had the words, pointed at both of us with a fierce, protective look in her eye that meant, “You two take care of each other.” She died and I never quite got over it.
I am still very allergic to rabbits.