An Ode To Nanny

Let’s get something straight from the start: My Nanny likes Lady GaGa more than you do.

I know this because taking a semester off has granted me more time with Nanny (this is my grandma, not the live-in foreign caretaker my family had when I was a child who force-fed me Bon-Bons), so GaGa has provided the background music for many recent drives we’ve taken together. And I’d like to tell you there’s nothing like driving down an open road while your grandmother offers a slightly off-key verse of a GaGa tune in between explanations of what went down in Llanview, Pennsylvania that week. (Llanview, PA is the fictional town on One Life to Live, the soap opera she’s been watching since its start in 1968. Be impressed or intimidated or both because she’s seen more drama than you ever will.)

Most important, time away from school has also taught me how to truly value my time with Nanny, and really with old(er) people, at that. First of all, I must say I mean no harm in using the term “old.” Relatively speaking, the grandparents in my life are obviously much older than me. And, in their defense, they’re certainly very, very young at heart. It’s a lucky thing, really, to be around people who’ve lived so long. They don’t even have to try to be valuable—they just are simply because of all the time they’ve been living and breathing on this thing we call our planet. (I saw Colin Quinn last night on Broadway and he says our planet looks like Nick Nolte’s face. Think about it.)

I’ve also learned there’s this thing in our culture called a “generation gap” that can hinder a potentially meaningful grandchild-grandparent relationship, a close bond you may instead find with your younger friends and family. In my case, however, I can honestly say Nanny is one of my best friends. I’ve had to time to think about why this is, and I’ve decided that, among many other reasons, it’s because she continually shocks me with her knowledge of pop culture. And current pop culture, like GaGa and the kind of shit about which Perez Hilton “clogs” (see previous post for definition).

But keeping a grandparent close isn’t easy. It takes work. Yes, I know—ugh, work. In my life, while Nanny knows “that Jersey guy who tries to dance on TV” (The Situation) and that “90s pop star who has a movie coming out soon with Cher” (Christina Aguilera), she also misses a lot, too. For example, I drove her to the movies last week and Lady G predictably came on the radio. The subsequent conversation is included below, obviously in chart form:

What Nanny Said What I Thought In Response What I Actually Said In Response
1. “Ohhh I know this one.” 1. “I believe you.” 1. “I believe you.”
2. “It reminds me of that movie.”


2. “THERE ARE 4,593,000 MOVIES HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHICH ONE YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT?! *@&#**!” 2. “Which movie, Nanny?”
3. “Da na. Da na. Da na.” 3. “JAWS?! HOW WOULD LADY GAGA REMIND YOU OF JAWS??!!” 3. “Jaws?”
4. “Who Wants To Be A Millionare.” 4. “HOW WOULD LADY GAGA REMIND YOU OF WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONARE?!” 4. “Do you mean Slumdog Millionare?”
5. “Yes. Oh, right. Slumdog Millionare.” 5. “HOW WOULD LADY GAGA REMIND YOU OF SLUMDOG MILLIONARE?!” 5. “You’re right. It does.”

I know what you’re thinking. Slumdog Millionare totally should’ve ended with a mash up of “Jai Ho” and “Bad Romance.”

Seriously, though, many lessons lie within this chart. For one, while old people may have an impressive collection of knowledge in their brain place, it could take them a minute or eight to call upon it. And this is okay. Say it with me: O-K-A-Y. (None of you said it out loud. Shame on you. Especially you, Claire. Stop watching “Peep Show” and focus.)

For two, patience is key, as I easily could’ve said what lies in the middle column. Note: Limitations apply. So, for three, keep your gut reactions silent unless five or more minutes go by, in which case open your hitherto locked mouth and let grandma have it! “THERE ARE 4,593,000 MOVIES HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHICH ONE YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT?! *@&#**!” Be sure to deliver this ostensibly spontaneous tirade in their bad ear. Then grandma(pa) may not even hear you while you get to experience the cathartic release of said spontaneous tirade.

With these mind tools in place, I’ve formulated a new outlook on my conversations with Nanny. I used to be quite frustrated when she’d tell me ten-minute-long stories I could easily summarize in 140 characters or less, but now I view them as a gift. You see, dear reader (yes, you!), I often have a tornado of thoughts swarming in my head place (yes, you, stress and anxiety!), so it’s sometimes difficult to devote 100% of my attention when listening to other people. Sorry, teachers and friends. But with Nanny I can get stuff done in my head while she speaks! It’s brilliant! Moreover, I don’t even have to worry about missing out on any details because she’s most likely told the story before.

An example in yet another chart lies below.

What Nanny said What I was thinking while she was speaking (in addition to actually listening to what she was saying, as to avoid being labeled an inconsiderate and rude grandchild)
“On, um, One Life this week, the boyfriend…Cole, was at home. And his girl…Starr, came home with, um, Hope. They were away from each other, but I knew that mean girl, Hannah, had Starr and Hope. I’ve been watching the show so long now I can always predict what’s going to happen. Ha. So they came home, and Cole was really happy, and then Hannah got arrested. Good thing they got away from that mean guy. I told you I knew this would happen.” “I worked on this show all summer. I know what happened this week. More important, what I don’t know is what happened to the Swiss Army knife Dad bought me on our cruise. Where could it be? Well, when did I have it last? The airport. And if you can’t bring a small knife with scissors on the airplane, then I must have left it at home. And if I left at home, then I must have left it in my drawer of random stuff! It’s in my drawer of random stuff!! Deductive reasoning saved the day once again!!!

So I solved a mystery while Nanny summarized a week in OLTL. This means we were both winners, and everybody knows it feels good to win every now and again. In this case, I found my pocketknife and Nanny inadvertently engaged in a stimulating mental puzzle. (And having worked in the writing department at OLTL all last summer, recalling the 65,237 characters on that show is no easy task. Kudos, Nanny. Kudos.)

I realize you may think I’m rude for not listening wholeheartedly to my grandma, and I accept this. In my defense, though, I almost always listen to her enthusiastically and rarely engage in side conversations with myself. I promise. If you don’t believe me, I grant you permission to quiz me next time we engage in a conversation by requiring me to repeat back to you what you said while talking. (A five-minute limit applies.) Game on.

All jokes aside, what I’ve really learned from Nanny almost supersedes these above lessons. The night before my drive with her, a friend from school emailed me saying how stressed and busy he was with life. And not the good kind of stressed and busy. In return I sent him an email describing what my aunt once told me and what Nanny has taught me every time I see her: let a joy that pops up in your day make that day a good one. And even better, let more than one small joy in. Cheesy on the surface? Sure. But it can be quite rewarding on the inside. I promise. And for those of you who don’t know me, I don’t make promises very often.

That night in front of the theater with Nanny, she tripped on a metal plate in front of a statue. “Ha. Looks like he wanted me to go with him!” she said.

I smiled, letting myself enjoy the moment and appreciate my grandma’s continued sense of humor. I’d let the joy in.

As we drove home after, Nanny talked about Lindsay Lohan and how she’s a paragon of childhood star gone awry.  A few minutes later, I noticed her staring at a license plate on a nearby car. It read: “Lindsay.”

Nanny freaked out. “Oh. My. Gosh. We were just talking about Lindsay Lohan. Ohhhh this is a sign. Yes. An angel’s talking to us.”

“Calm down, Nanny.” I thought. “It’s just a silly coincidence.”

“You’re right, Nanny,” I said. Joy Number Two. Plus, who the heck was I to rob her of that moment?

We arrived at Nanny’s apartment soon after and I made sure she got in all right. Before I drove off, I smiled at the license plate on her car: YNG@HRT. Young at heart. Yup. Joy Number Three.

I pressed on the gas to drive away into the budding moonlight, but the car wouldn’t move. I looked down, only to realize I hadn’t turned the car on. “I’m getting old,” I said in my head.



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