“Carrie’s Grannie Smith,” Friend, May 1992, 18
“Grannie Smith’s coming for supper tonight,” Mom said as Carrie scurried around, getting everything ready for the meeting of the Super Scooper News staff.
“Oh no!” Carrie moaned. “Everybody’s coming over!”
“That’s fine,” Mom said. “Go ahead with your newspaper meeting. I’m sure that Grannie won’t mind.”
“No! Not now. Maybe I’ll call the others to tell them to come some other time,” Carrie said. Then she remembered that last week Shauna hadn’t been able to come, and the week before, Adam couldn’t make it. It had been several weeks since they’d printed their newspaper, and now everybody had plenty of news for another issue.
“It’s up to you,” Mom said. “It’s been ten days since we’ve had Grannie over, and she must be feeling pretty lonely.”
Carrie stomped into the living room to watch TV. Why can’t Grannie be like other grandmothers? she wondered. Adam’s grandma was always baking cookies and giving them to the kids in the neighborhood. One of Shauna’s grandmothers was a writer who published lots of books about all the places she’d traveled. Shauna had an autographed copy of each book that she had written. Carrie’s other grandmother had moved to Arizona, far from the cold prairie winters.
But Grannie Smith was different and something of a problem. Most of the time she stayed in a nursing home, but whenever she came over for dinner, all she did was embarrass Carrie. Sometimes she’d ask Dad what his name was, and she’d call Carrie “Penelope.” Aunt Penelope was Grannie’s sister, but she had died a long time ago. Sometimes Grannie spilled her food, and one time she had even started eating her mashed potatoes with her fingers! When that happened, even Mom had looked as if she were about to cry, though they all realized that Grannie couldn’t help it. She did things like that, the doctors had explained, because she has Alzheimer’s disease.
Carrie heard the doorbell ring and went to open the door.
“Hi, Carrie!” It was Adam, one of the newspaper’s best reporters. “Boy, do I have news! Let’s get it typed up.”
“Great!” Carrie went over to her corner of the living room and sat down at an old beat-up desk. She rolled a sheet of paper into her rickety typewriter. Some of the machine’s letters didn’t print right, and Mom kept saying that she was surprised that the typewriter hadn’t broken down long ago.
Soon Shauna came in, and the three of them sat on the floor, trying to decide which news items to put on the front page.
“Come on in and sit down, Mother.”
Carrie cringed at the sound of Dad’s voice. She wished that she could pretend that she hadn’t heard, but she knew that she had to go give a kiss to the wobbly little lady with the cane and white hair. “Hi, Grannie,” she said.
Grannie stroked a wrinkled hand over Carrie’s hair. “You’re growing like a weed, lass,” she said with a smile. “Run along and play with your friends now; they’ll be waiting for you.”
Carrie gave a sigh of relief and went back to her desk. Maybe, just this once, Grannie won’t do anything awful.
Shauna’s eyes were wide. “How old is she, Carrie?” she whispered.
“Eighty-one,” Carrie said quickly. “Now, about the front page, …”
They decided to use three pieces: Mrs. Currie’s fall off her stepladder, Bryan Wilson’s plans to become a hockey pro, and the mysterious footprints in the dirt around the Adam’s family’s garbage can.
As they worked, Carrie could hear Grannie talking. At first she thought that Grannie was talking to her father, but when she looked around, Dad was in the easy chair, reading the newspaper.
“Look at the clowns!” Grannie was saying. “Oh my—see how many elephants there are!”
Nervously Carrie looked at her friends. Their heads were bent over the dummy sheet that they were putting together. Maybe Grannie’s watching TV. Carrie glanced over at the television set, but the screen was blank. Grannie was staring out the front window.
Elephants on McDonald Street? That’s impossible! Grannie’s seeing things again. Carrie felt her face getting red. Why did Mom have to invite Grannie for the same night that Shauna and Adam were coming?
“Oh! There’s the lion tamer!”
Adam looked up and began to stare.
Carrie quickly turned back to her typewriter and said, “Super Scooper News,” loudly as she picked out the letters.
“Bonnie, come here. I have some treats for you and your friends.”
Carrie’s face got redder. Bonnie was her mother’s name, but she was sure that Grannie was speaking to her. “Just a minute, Grannie,” she said.
But Grannie had sounded so pleased with herself that Carrie couldn’t bear to hurt her feelings. She went over to Grannie’s chair, where the old woman pulled some lint-covered cough drops out of her dress pocket. “Here. And when these are gone, I have some more.”
Carrie nodded and took them.
“What’d you get?” There was an expectant look on Shauna’s face.
“Oh, nothing—just some cough drops.” Carrie tried stuffing them into her jeans pocket, but Adam stopped her.
“Can I have one?”
But it was too late. Adam reached and took one. It had not only lint on it but a clinging hair as well.
“Yuck!” Shauna started giggling.
“She can’t help it!” Carrie whispered, embarrassed. “She just doesn’t know any better.”
“Some people get senile,” Adam said sympathetically. “Boy, I hope I never do.”
It sounded as though Grannie were busy watching her invisible circus parade again. Tears burned in Carrie’s eyes as she turned back to the typewriter once more. “What’s the best title for this one—‘Mrs. Currie Breaks Leg in Kitchen Fall’?”
“So you’re using that typewriter again, Penelope.”
Oh no! Grannie was coming over! Carrie wished that she could tell her grandmother to leave her alone. She poked at the r extra hard, and her finger went between the keys, jamming the r and t keys together.
Now Grannie was looking over her shoulder. “I used to be a real good typist in my day,” she said. “I could type eighty words a minute—clean copy, without a single error.”
Carrie’s head lifted. She had to admit that that sounded fast. “We’re doing our newspaper, Grannie,” she said.
“Oh yes!” Grannie beamed. “Our newspaper, Penelope! I’d almost forgotten. Be sure to tell about how Mrs. Schneider’s cat chased off those huge dogs.”
Shauna looked uncomfortable. Adam looked restless. Carrie’s finger hurt, and the letters were still jammed. “I need to type now,” she finally said in a low voice. Maybe Grannie would take the hint and go back to her chair.
Grannie reached out and unjammed the keys. “Careful, Penelope.”
“I’m Carrie,” Carrie said loudly. Shauna began to giggle.
The old woman sighed and shook her head. “Carrie. Yes, Carrie. Sometimes I get so mixed up these days.”
Does she ever! said the look in Shauna’s eyes. Adam looked puzzled. And Grannie looked very sad.
Carrie took a deep breath. Does Grannie feel bad about the way she is? It must be terrible to be so forgetful and not be able to do anything about it. “Want to help, Grannie?” she asked. “You could type, and we’ll dictate the copy to you.”
Grannie’s smile was like sunlight coming through clouds. “Why, yes, Penelope! You just tell me what to type, and I’ll be extra careful to get it right.”
Carrie held her breath. Shauna was holding her breath too. Grannie sat down at the typewriter. Adam began reading in a loud, steady voice: “‘Mrs. Currie Breaks Leg in Kitchen Fall.’”
Nervously Carrie looked over her grandmother’s shoulder. The words were typed just as Adam had read them.
Maybe Grannie was a little strange and sometimes got all mixed up, but she really was a special person. Besides, the Super Scooper News staff didn’t need cookies or autographs right now—they needed their newspaper typed. And from the look of it, Grannie was going to give them the neatest copy they’d ever had!