Gran was wise in the way of the world.
But she’d be sane if she could work out her kids and grandkids.
It wasn’t her fault they all had stupid names. Her husband had named Swish and then told Swish’s boyfriend that if he wanted to marry his daughter that he’d have to change his name to Swash. The girls’ names all had to do with weapons and the boys’ names with swaggering, or so she thought. He had been perpetually drunk. Now he was dead, dead before seeing his grandkids, but why Swish was determined to name her children in the tradition of her father she never knew.
They made sure she was comfortable, they could afford it. Her house was on a hill, overlooking the sea. It had a room attached to it where she conducted her business. To remain idle was repugnant to her; she had come from China and strove to make the most of her life in her new country.
As a girl child, she had been treated poorly. Her brothers were wonderful gifts that were treasured but she was always looked down upon. She had fought for every little thing she had, well up until Swash started providing for her. She had been provided with a husband she did not love and had children she did not want. Even when born they bought her no pleasure. They cried, demanded time and she was constantly cleaning, washing and caring for others. She had no choice and did not wear her burden well.
The best day was when her drunk, abusive husband died. She felt free like she had never felt before. The kids had all grown and it was they that decided to leave China. They all left. At first, they kept bringing her grandkids to look after but she stopped that pretty quick. Visits yes, and some overnight stays, but she wasn’t going to be ‘childcare’ fifty hours a week for them or anyone.
The new country was a revelation for her and she embraced it as much as a forty-three old woman could. She had been married at thirteen and had her first child at fifteen. She was an old forty-three old but had never realized it. Now at fifty-four, she was living like a queen. Even the queen did not have as much freedom as she had.
Still years of hard work were engrained within her; she could not bear to be idle.
Most of her children and their children had sensible jobs except for that strange branch with those weird names. It was more problematic because she worried about them and hated worrying about anything.
The thing that Gran hated the most was worrying about them all in that dangerous profession. Every day she was expecting a ‘call’. Why couldn’t they just have nice normal boring jobs? She complained bitterly to her friends but they would glance around at her luxuries and shrug. She didn’t even have the right to complain and so that fuelled her aggravation.
A low but persistent beep alerted her that she was to do something. She wondered around the house until she found her nifty little handheld computer. She picked it up, ‘Hello Gran,’ the machine said to her, ‘you have to ring Swish.’
She grumbled and made the dutiful mother call to her wayward daughter.
‘…is someone still pilfering your panties?…ok….so I made some choc chip cookies for Jim my gardener, do you remember him?…He has been a real dear, helping me with the painting and setting up my shelves for my herbs. He even categorized them for me, one herb has been sprouting very well and is very good to help you sleep…so I’ll package some up once I have processed it properly and send him some…make sure you tell him…what about those remedies I sent you to help you with your libido, did you take them?…you really should visit the doctor as well…are you going to tell me what the doctor said…well alright then but you don’t have to take that tone with me, dear, promise me though you’ll talk to me if you have any other problems…that reminds me Jim, remember Jim my Gardener, he bought a car for $12540, it was a…no, why would I kid about that?…You always say that and he has already signed the papers…Jim knows what he is doing dear, he’s fifty years old and was a salesman,…you never mean it dear but this superior attitude of yours has to stop somewhere dear…so please don’t do on about it…we should change the subject…what now you think he is incapable…there you go again thinking you know best…mmm, goodbye dear…’ and just managed to squeeze in, ‘…make sure Swash calls me today…’
That girl was too full of herself, even when she was little she was taking airs with people. Other times she was so busy she didn’t complete her daily chores. She just couldn’t be trusted to do what she was told. Only with numbers was she reliable. She had a wonderful loving husband, and two wonderful grandsons from Swish. Of her granddaughter Switch, she rarely spoke except when she had a problem with her emails.
Swish was always a handful. She would listen to other people’s conversations and try to offer up advice. She hated doing her chores and would often try to lord it over her brothers. Swish received her share of beatings for those little rebellions and Gran copped it as well for not bringing up a dutiful and compliant daughter.
Gran didn’t think Swish spoke to any of her siblings anymore and while she hated to take sides she didn’t speak to them very much either. The new country had many revelations for her and while she looked on Swash with the respect that he should treat his wife with such leniency and loving affection that in turn Swish should be grateful and subservient to that. It was an honour for her, not her right.
Her other children still treated their spouses like they were in China which she did not agree with either. If only they could be more like Swash. Having leadership but never abusing it.
Gran wandered around the house, feeling very agitated. No wonder she had to schedule her phone calls with her, it was always a problem. She had to do something to get her out of the mood. Working in the garden always helped but it was raining outside. She wondered if Jim was available. He was always soothing and knew ways to make her forget her woes. She rang him. He seemed pretty keen so she busied herself with her lingerie. Maybe the green today.
After they had finished and were lying side by side they enjoyed some herbs.
He had asked her to marry her, but she in her infinite wisdom knew that if she agreed that she would once again be caught into a cage with no doors. She could admit that she imposed that cage but years of Chinese culture could not be so easily swept aside. She was appalled at her infidelity toward marriage sometimes but could not, and would not put herself into a submissive role again.
At fourteen hundred, Gran got a call from Swash.
She chatted with him until she ran out of things to say. She could always rely on Swash to umm and huh in the right places.
Day of the Plan
Gran rang her favourite grandson. She wanted to know all about the job but he seemed distracted.
‘Sitting in front of the Z-Bocks again, dear?’
They talked only for a few minutes but he promised to call her back.
Gran went down to the shops. She breathed in the air. A parcel was waiting for her at the post office. She rarely got parcels, normally her gifts were hand-delivered or money deposited straight into her account.
She said hello to a few townies and promised to be there at the next meeting. She lined up and soon picked up a smallish parcel marked with familiar handwriting. It was from her daughter Swish. Why would she mail something to her? This was a first.
She took it home but didn’t open it. She almost wanted to send it back so great was her resentment and disappointment.
She busied herself with some baking and gardening.
She read a book after her jobs, Tantra Sex, and thought it a load of crap, nothing wrong with the old orgasm, and time slipped past her.
She received the call from Swank after eight.
‘…are they still going on about that little episode some time ago dear?…’she didn’t like the fact Swank was praising mum but putting dad down. But she knew better than to say anything to him.
‘…did any of the crew go with your mother….she came by herself then…did she go anywhere before coming to see you?…how was your reception on board the ship…What how could they, I bet it was your mother’s idea, I don’t believe it their own son…’ she was yelling now, ‘…alright I won’t, they should trust you you are older now and understand what’s going on…anyway dear I have been busy with my herbs…I’ve got Jim helping me now…do you remember him?…he wants to meet you…we’ll organize it then…yes dear we’ll both come to see you…I’d prefer to bake for you dear, don’t you like my baking?…Janis the slow one?…I could make some Chinese cookies and put some educational things in them…How are your grades at school dear?…We’ll come soon to celebrate you’re A’s….’ she made a notation in her diary, ‘…how many rings do you have now dear?…goodness…what’s your hair colour, otherwise I may walk straight past you and that would embarrass me in front of Jim…that is a fine-looking bird, you could do a lot worse, …yes dear, go on, the help club…mmm, their getting results though they should think about what they want to change before they change it, the results will certainly suffer….what are you going to do?…yes, you definitely need to think about it some, you’re a sensible man and I am sure you’ll figure it out, but just remember who you are and do what you need to do for the right reasons….thank you dear, I enjoy talking to you as well….I love you…bye.’
She was furious. It was probably all her daughter’s doing forcing Swash to frisk their own son.
Some nine years ago the family was on a job. Normally they would dump the kids with her but Swank was sick and wanted to stay.
They allowed him to stay but tried coaching him to stay out the way or things to say. How on earth a sick eight-year-old was going to handle that she didn’t know. There was no way they would cancel the job. Everything went as usual.
At some point, a young Swank became very scared and was left on his own. He didn’t know what to do and so-called the police on his mobile. Before long he heard the police and then he heard other scarier noises. Gunshots, explosions and suddenly he was dragged up by his dad and they were escaping.
Swank’s memory was still pretty dim on the details and unfortunately called the police was the worst thing he could have done.
To protect themselves they had to abandon the vessel they were on and use their escape craft to getaway. They spent days on sea-crafts with little food. Luckily all the crew had gotten away but two were slightly injured.
They were picked up by a huge dark vessel and Swank only remembers being carried down to a cabin. Much later, the angry faces of his parents loomed over him demanding why he had called the police. He hadn’t understood.
He came down with pneumonia soon after and was taken to hospital. They couldn’t finish the job and lost a lot of money and possessions.
Gran only blamed the parents for being so irresponsible. They still blamed Swank. Swank didn’t give a stuff.
That wasn’t all that she was angry about. She knew that Krok Spiky was in the breeding season and they didn’t even seem to realize it. The last time she was aboard the man-of-war she had seen Krok chasing bugs around and tossing out the cheap seed.
She saw the parcel and felt like throwing it away. But a small part of her said it might be valuable. Curiosity got the better of her and she reluctantly opened the package.
Inside was another official yellow envelope marked with her husband’s old lawyers stamp. There was a letter from Swish. The handwriting was unusual enough for her daughter and it looked nervous. Probably did that on purpose. But the first words gave her pause.
I know you have never loved me and this has always caused me much pain. I have tried my best to be a dutiful daughter but now know this is unattainable for me. I no longer need your opinion to weigh myself against, and though you have always thought me lazy and uppity, I have always believed it too…’
Gran paused here, she felt uncomfortable with this admission.
‘…this is why I guess that since I married Swash, I have striven to be the most obedient of daughters by being a loving and supportive wife and mother. But I have been miserable inside. I have been trying too hard to please everyone instead of allowing people to simply accept who I am. This is not the reason, however for this letter. I thought it best to make it clear that I know how you feel about me.
Swash recently told me what you had spoken to him about and how you felt once you were free and how you felt before….’
‘…and I could truly understand how you felt. My cage has been invisible, self-inflicted to a point, unlike your own. I am not comparing my life against yours except that I understand now why you were so keen to see us children grow and leave. I do love my children though very deeply and am grateful and deeply privileged that I have been able to feel such emotions. What was not of my doing was what happened before and after my father died. No one knows, not even Swash. But I want you to know because you were there and should have stopped it. I don’t blame you but still wonder how you could not see what was going on under your roof. They made me silent because it was in your best interest but you told me recently in such scolding tones that I was responsible for Swank and that I should take responsibility for him that it seemed fair that you too take responsibility.
I do not tell you these things to hurt you, though they will. I tell you because you have held back your love from me for reasons beyond my comprehension. And you have not changed, you treat Switch with the same contempt you have always shown me.
Enough is enough, mother.
I am suffering for my lack, especially toward Swank and past actions, this will change. I will stand up to my husband knowing that you believe it is me that is holding a grudge against my son. It is not I.
I want you to see that you weren’t the only one to make sacrifices. I hope you will forgive me for my past wrongs just as I have forgiven you now that I claim justice. I don’t think this letter is making any sense but the following papers will.
I have included some legal documents that my father served me with.
I hope you understand.
Gran’s hands shook. She sat down. Served. Why would papers be served to her daughter? She was almost too scared to look, but look she did.
She did not speak to her family for over two months.