"You bought a new car...?"
The conversation was inevitable.
"Grandma, we had almost seventy thousand miles on the old one."
"But it costs so much!"
Grams isn't one to hold her tongue.
"Don't worry. We can handle the payments."
"What but if something happens?"
Grams is old. She does worry.
"We'll be fine."
"Fine? If we'd have done the same thing back in the thirties, we'd have been sunk!"
Grams is a little senile. She lived through the depression and it's affected her. She's always been cautious about money, but lately, she's become downright paranoid.
"Isn't it time for your nap?" I ask.
"I suppose I could use some rest."
Jim and I do have some issues and she's one of them. At ninety-two, she's strong, but her mind is going. She's constantly harping about spending and politics and her generation. Honestly, Grams probably belongs in a nursing home, but I don't have the heart, or the money, to send her there.
I straighten the house while Grams naps. I sit and read.
"Can I help fix dinner?" It's Grams again.
"We're eating out tonight."
"But...but we just ate out Tuesday!"
"It's okay, Grams."
"How can it be?"
In truth, money is an issue for Jim and I. We get by, but there are rumors of another round of layoffs at work and we don't have much savings. I'm not sure what we'd do if Jim lost his job. But one night out, more or less, isn't going to change any of that.
Grams gets the vacuum out of the hall closet and begins to unwind the cord.
"What are you doing Grams?"
"Vacuuming." she says. "These things don't run themselves!"
The carpet's fine, but I know how she is. She always works when she's upset.
I take my book to the kitchen.
Jim's retirement is looming, eight or ten years away, and, honestly, we aren't ready. Things are tight with our mortgage and bills. I can't imagine what we'll do when we don't have his paycheck coming in. There's always Social Security, I guess.
I wonder if Medicare would pay for her nursing home.
Grams sits with me at the kitchen table.
"Is that a good book?" She's trying to make nice.
"I like it. Would you like to borrow it?"
"Oh. No, thanks. I don't know when I'd find the time to read it."
I smile. Grams sighs.
"Delores, you need to start preparing."
I brace myself for another round.
"Preparing for what, Grams?"
"The next depression."
There's always another depression, just over the horizon. At least, according to Grams.
"It's inevitable, you know."
"I don't think so."
"Neither did we, back in the twenties."
"We haven't had a depression in over seventy years...."
"Not counting the one that started a few years ago?"
"And we got through that, didn't we?" There's no sense in arguing with her.
"So far," she says.
"And even if it gets as bad as it did in the thirties, well, you survived!"
"Oh, sweetie. You don't want to know what we had to do. And besides...."
"Who says it can't get worse than the thirties?"
I don't have an answer.
She gently touches my arm. "We saw what happened when Germany started printing money. We saw it in Hungary and Greece, after the war. We've seen it in Zimbabwe."
I thought she didn't read.
"What we've never seen is what happens when all the countries start printing money at once. That one's new."
I set my book on the table and look at her.
"We're in a different era, Grandma. Things are better now."
"'When people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly.' First Thessalonians 5:3."
I sigh. How do you argue with such a negative outlook?
"Look, just because we're all ultimately doomed, that doesn't necessarily mean we're going in the wrong direction!"
I think about what I've said.
"I mean in the short term."
"Okay," she says. "Okay."
Grams is tired when Jim gets home, so she tells us to go on without her. I'm secretly relieved. I want to relax.
Jim takes me to our favorite French restaurant. We order appetizers and our favorite white wine. I try to make small talk.
When the wine comes, I take a sip and rest my eyes.
I think peaceful thoughts.
I think calming, peaceful thoughts.
But when I set my glass on the table, my eyes are wide open.
"Jim," I say. "We need to talk."
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