Pears! Apples!


Here we see Molly Gaudry bringing loved ones together despite some questionable judgement.

This is my favorite, and maybe saddest, drinking story.

I was nineteen years old and on winter break from college. I wasn’t really on great terms with my parents, and I was drinking a lot back then.

So there I was in Ohio, freezing cold and wishing I was back at school with all my friends in southern California. To pass the days, I visited my grandfather in the nursing home. He was there to recover from a brief illness—it was cheaper by the day to recover in a nursing home than in a hospital—and everyone expected him to be well enough to return home very soon.

My grandfather, the storyteller in my family, entertained me with memories of growing up during the Depression. He was the youngest of many siblings, and because he was his mother’s favorite, her baby, and because she loved the movies, she took just the two of them to see matinees when his brothers and sisters were at school.

Later, as he grew older, he and his friends caused trouble whenever they could. They grabbed onto car bumpers when the streets were icy and stole slippery rides to the corner store. In the summer they swam naked in the Black River and stole pies from windowsills, one boy’s feet atop another boy’s shoulders. They hopped fences and stole apples from the farmers’ orchards.

My grandfather’s roommate in the nursing home was as old and cranky as he was. He hollered at my grandfather that it wasn’t apples they stole but pears. It was pears, you idiot! Who are you calling an idiot, my grandfather shot back, it was apples, moron! And on and on.

He was supposed to be well enough to go home. Any day now, the doctor said.

On Christmas Eve, I picked my grandmother up from her house, drank too much wine at dinner, and protested when she wanted to go home early. It was snowing, the roads hadn’t been cleared, and I was tipsy. We got into the car anyway.

I focused on one thought: Get Grandma home fast, before you get pulled over! God knows why, but in the midst of this I said, Want to see Grandpa?

The words came out and I couldn’t undo them. She said yes, of course, so we turned around and headed in a different direction.

It was a long drive through all that snow.

When we got to the nursing home, I waited in the hallway while Grandma went in to see him. They talked for a little while and then Grandma said, I love you. Grandpa said, I love you, too. Good bye, Grandma said. Good bye, Grandpa said. They sealed it with a kiss.

I took her home, drove myself home, and my mother met me at the door. She said, Grandpa’s dead.

We picked up Grandma on our way to the nursing home. She climbed into the back seat beside me and held my hand and didn’t let go. She said, If you hadn’t taken me to see him I would never have said Good bye.

Many years later, I would dedicate my first book to my grandfather—the man who taught me that there is joy in telling stories, that the stories we tell are the stories of our lives, and whether we get the details right—Pears! Apples!—it doesn’t matter. We tell our stories the only way we know how.

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