I have a story about an ungrateful, impolite guest. At the time, I was around eighteen or nineteen and enjoying Christmas break from college at my grandmother’s house. I’ve always been very close with my maternal grandparents and, due to some unrelated family issues, was raised by them during my teenage years. My grandmother has always taken care of everyone, whether they’re related to her or not. Sadly, my grandfather was in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s disease at the time that this story takes place and a few years later, he passed away.
An important thing to mention is that my uncle, that grandmother’s youngest son, died suddenly and tragically in a car accident when I was eight years old. The horrible, terrible guest in this story is that uncle’s ex-girlfriend. I loved my uncle, and he was a great man – the only negative thing you’ll ever hear me say about him is that he had horrible taste in women! I’ll call this woman “Jane”.
Jane is from the deep south. My family lives in upstate New York. My grandmother wound up inviting Jane up for Christmas that year. I cringed internally when she told me this, knowing that Jane is the type of alcoholic who drinks from the time she gets up (usually in the afternoon) until the time she goes to bed (usually in the wee hours of the morning), and that her volume increases as her blood alcohol level does. But it’s not my house, not my call, so I suck it up and try to be cordial to the woman. I can sort of understand my grandmother’s wish to spend time with this woman and reminisce about her son/Jane’s ex. I find myself avoiding talking to her (and in turn, lose out on a lot of time I could be spending with my grandparents) because I find it difficult to be in the company of people who drink to such an excess, but I don’t think she noticed this possible lapse in etiquette on my part.
Until one fateful night near the end of Jane’s visit. Jane decided to go out to a bar to celebrate. I don’t think there was any occasion in particular – it was during the week between Christmas and New Years’, I remember that much. Finally, I had a quiet night with my grandparents, without Jane’s intoxicated shouting. At that point, I could tell my grandmother was exhausted. I helped her to get grandpa ready and into bed, and we said goodnight early. At two in the morning, the phone rings. It’s Jane, sobbing uncontrollably and shouting into the phone. I try to figure out what she’s trying to say and fail. To me, it’s a mess of incoherent drunk talk. My grandmother gets on the phone and, after about twenty minutes of trying to talk to Jane, determines that she’s calling to request a ride back to my grandmother’s house. Apparently, she drank away her cab fare, which had been the original plan for getting back. There’s something else about her getting into a fight at the bar because “somebody was talking bad about “Henry”” – my uncle, who at this point has been dead for ten years.
Despite all of our better judgment, my grandmother gets out of bed and drives into town (a roughly twenty minute drive) to pick Jane up. She has me stay awake to keep an eye on my grandfather, who like I said suffered from Alzheimer’s and sometimes gets out of bed in the middle of the night. “Wandering” is always a danger for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, so watching my grandfather to make sure that he doesn’t leave the house was what I was doing. So I get a cup of tea and sit in the kitchen to wait for my grandmother to return. About an hour and a half later (so this is around 3:30 am, now) they return. It took my grandmother almost forty-five minutes to coax Jane into the car. Grandmother is dead-tired at this point and just mutters to me that she’s going back to bed, on her way past me. I keep an eye on Jane until she settles onto the couch and appears to pass out.
Less than twenty minutes later, I start to hear shouting in the kitchen. I get out of bed for the second time that night because of the houseguest from hell, and find her drinking another beer. She’s shouting more incoherence (again, something about this alleged bar fight she got into over my uncle’s memory) – who she’s shouting to, I’m not entirely sure, because everyone else in the house is asleep at four in the morning! I approach the situation with a kind suggestion first (“Jane, it’s a little bit late, why don’t you try to get some sleep?”) and when that’s ignored, I move on to something a bit more firm (“Jane, it’s four in the morning and grandma and grandpa are trying to sleep. You need to be quiet.”). That also fails to work. At this point, I’m livid and I can hear my grandmother trying to calm my grandfather down. Grandpa’s getting restless and alarmed because he can hear Jane’s shouting, hollering, and caterwauling.
At this point, something in me snaps and I calmly take the beer from Jane’s hand and pour it down the sink, while informing her that the party’s over and it’s time for bed now. Her protests are loud and angry. I wasn’t very worried about my own well-being – she’s so drunk she can barely stand up. True to form, the only way she fights me is by screaming obscenities and calling me every name she can think of. I check the refrigerator to make sure that there’s no more beer in it, turn out the kitchen light, and say goodnight.
My grandmother thanked me in private the next morning for getting Jane to shut up and go to bed, but to this day (eight or so years later) still talks to the woman regularly on the telephone, considering her a family friend. I say no friend would ever cause the kind of scene that Jane did, or drag a sixty year old woman out of bed at 2 in the morning to pick her up at a bar, and refuse to talk to this woman myself again. It does bother me a little that my grandmother forgave her, especially after hearing Jane call me a “fat b****” over and over that night, but overall it’s her choice who she keeps in contact with. 0518-11