At Home With Granny
Peggy was surprised when Granny Grogan told her that her grandson was moving in with her.
"I didn't even know you had a grandson," Peggy remarked, sitting next to Granny on the living room couch.
Peggy lived next door to the older woman and had taken it upon herself in recent months to check in and visit with the kind lady who used to give her milk and cookies when she was younger. Granny's health had been slowly declining and she was often alone so Peggy did her best to spend time with her.
"Austin," Granny said. "He's my late son Ralph's boy.
Peggy's mom had told her that Granny's son was killed in a factory accident which is why the widowed woman was on her own so much in recent years.
"I haven't see Austin much after Ralph died," Granny said.
"Why not?" Peggy asked.
"Oh, I didn't get along very well with his mother."
"Why not?" Peggy asked again.
"We just had different viewpoints, that's all," Granny said. "Joyce was younger than Ralph. She was a free spirit. I really didn't understand her thought process."
"Did something happen to her?"
"Yes, she died a few months ago," Granny revealed sadly. "Poor Austin. An orphan at sixteen."
"Wait, where's he been since his mother died?" Peggy wondered.
"In the hospital," Granny sighed. She lifted her index finger up to her temple and shrugged.
"Do you think it's a good idea that he live here?" Peggy frowned.
"He's my grandson," Granny remarked. "Where else is he supposed to go?"
Peggy was progressive and open-minded about things but she wasn't sure if this sounded like a good idea. Granny could barely take care of herself, let alone some mentally ill orphaned grandson.
The woman was using the downstairs den as her bedroom because she couldn't navigate the stairs very well anymore. She walked with a cane. She was hard of hearing. She took buckets of medication. She had a pacemaker.
Peggy was quite fond of the woman and she visited her quite regularly. They talked and shared stories. Granny offered advice that Peggy found useful. Her parents were always working or otherwise distracted but Granny had plenty of time to sit, listen, and ponder.
Peggy made sure she was in the house when Austin arrived, delivered by a Ms. Desmond, the social worker who helped the newcomer carry in his stuff – which really didn't amount to much. He looked sullen and morose, his hair a mess, his face white and drawn.
"Who are you?" The moody teen asked Peggy once he had given his grandmother an embrace.
"Peggy," she answered. "I live next door. I'm friends with Granny."
"Friends?" Austin looked confused. "How can you be friends with an old lady?"
"It's easy," Peggy snarled.
"You call my grandmother Granny?" He frowned.
"She's like a grandmother to me," Peggy explained. "Granny seemed appropriate."
"Austin, you can put your things in your father's old room," Granny said. To the left at the top of the stairs."
"Well, good luck then," Ms. Desmond said cheerfully. She was a plain looking woman with no make-up and her hair pulled up in a bun. "You have your scripts, Austin. Make sure you take your meds."
"Don't worry about it," Austin said with annoyance.
"You know what you have to do," Ms. Desmond reminded him. "Do what your grandmother asks, go to school, and take your meds."
"I know," Austin said plainly. "You people have programmed it into me. You can go now."
Ms. Desmond nodded with approval. "Good luck to all of you," she said pleasantly. "Austin has worked very hard and I know he's going to do well."
Peggy watched the woman leave and then turned to Austin. "She'd make a good warden."
Austin almost smiled as he grabbed a couple of his bags.
"I'll help," Peggy offered, grabbing a box.
"Thank you, Dear," Granny said.
Peggy followed Austin up the stairs and into the bedroom on the left. It still had some of Ralph's boyhood trophies, models, and other collectables in it, with posters of sports figures from the 1980s on the walls.
"Time warp," Austin said, glancing around.
"Do you remember your Dad?" Peggy asked as she placed the box on the desk by the window.
"Barely," Austin admitted as he put the bags on the bed. "I was only five when he died."
"Sorry about your mom," Peggy said.
Austin sat on the bed but didn't say anything.
"Your grandmother is really a terrific person," Peggy told him.
"It was here or a foster home or a residential placement," Austin replied.
"Well, this is the best place," Peggy assured him.
Again, he didn't say anything.
"So, what's your story?" Peggy dared to ask.
"I'm sure my grandmother has already filled you in," He said bitterly.
"Not really," Peggy said, sitting on the window sill.
"She didn't tell you that my mother offed herself and I've been in the looney bin for the past two months?"
"N….No," a shocked Peggy replied.
"Why aren't you running for the door?" Austin asked after a moment's pause.
"I think I'd be in the looney bin too if my mother did that," Peggy said.
"Well, I was depressed before that anyway," Austin revealed.
"You better now?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"Why were you depressed?"
He gave her a funny look. "Seriously?"
"Sorry," she mumbled. "Anyway, I try to visit with your grandmother every day."
"She's a lonely old woman who deserves some companionship."
He looked at her, trying to figure her out.
"If it's okay with you, I'd like to keep doing that," Peggy requested.
"I won't stop you," he said.
"I can show you around school if you want," she offered.
"What-ev," he shrugged.
She nodded and started for the door. Then she stopped and looked back at him. "You didn't try to kill yourself did you?"
He almost laughed. "What would you do if I said yes?" He wanted to know.
"Nothing," she shrugged.
He held out his wrists to show that there were no scars. "I don't have a gun. I don't drive. I didn't throw the toaster in the bathtub. I didn't OD. I didn't jump off a bridge or roof top."
"So, you were just depressed?"
"Just?" He couldn't help but grin. "Yeah," he said sardonically. "I was just depressed."
"You know what I mean," Peggy said with some exasperation in her voice.
"Not really," Austin replied.
"You're not crazy, right?" Peggy said. "You're not going to slice your grandmother into kielbasa or burn the house down or lock me in the cellar or any of that stuff?"
"I was just depressed, not nuts," Austin assured her. "But thanks for asking."
"Maybe it won't be so bad for you here," Peggy said hopefully before she disappeared from the doorway.