Visiting Gran
Adam Gianforcaro


I get that Gran’s dying and all, but Dad doesn’t have to be such a spazz. He wouldn’t let me bring my cell phone in the hospital but Clara gets to bring her toys just because she’s five. It’s bullshit. And I had to hold the breakfast casserole all the way there. The porcelain pan was so hot it burnt my thighs. And I’m not even going to eat it. I asked Dad to make it with egg whites and turkey sausage, but no. He said he didn’t have enough time to run back to the store and he never can get the yolks separated right anyway. He’s helpless, I swear.

So, basically, I couldn’t bring my phone in because Dad can’t drive. He almost crashed the car and I almost wish he did. Clara was screaming to put on some shitty kids song like, “Daddy, play the bop-bop song, play the bop-bop song!”

And I was like, “Clara, I swear to God.”

And Dad was like, “If both of you don’t stop.”

He swung his arm back to get Clara’s attention and swerved into the shoulder. The road groaned as we ran over the rumble strip.

“Watch the road. You’re going to kill us,” I said. “You just hit the wake-up-bitch lane.”

“Excuse me?” he said. “You watch your mouth, young lady.”

Young lady? What is he, two hundred years old? He’s so dumb.

“That’s what it’s called,” I told him.

“I don’t care what it’s called. You call it something else.”

He took the exit and we drove down the most boring road in the history of roads. We finally turned into what Dad kept calling the hospital.

“This looks like a friggin kindergarten,” I said.

“I am so sick of your lip. Give me your phone,” he said. “Give it to me. Give it.” That’s always his punishment. Phone phone phone.

“What? Daddy, no,” I said all cutesy. You know how I can always get my way with that tone, but something was stuck up his ass. I should have thrown the goddamn casserole at him but I know he’d just take the phone away for longer.

And did Clara have to leave her shit in the car? Take a wild guess.

***

Gran was sleeping when we got to her room, and the super gay man nurse woke her up. He was kind of funny with his voice and all. “Wake up, beautiful,” he said. “Look who’s here to see you, sweetheart.” All those pet names for her. It was kind of sweet of him, but Gran looked gross.

I placed the breakfast casserole on the little table in the room and sat down all mopey. Dad walked over to the hospital bed and kissed Gran on her forehead. Her face was all peeling like she was sunburnt. And that reminded me that I need to go tanning, and that my coupon was expiring today. I could have screamed.

Then, the gay nurse asked if we could excuse ourselves. And I know this is way gross, but he had to empty her poop bag. I was disgusted, but also kind of felt bad. That must be the worst job in the history of jobs. That poor gay nurse.

Then, we were in the hallway waiting for the gay nurse to do whatever he needed to do and this guy with one leg wheeled down the hallway in a wheelchair, pushing himself with the leg that he still had. He said, “Merry Christmas.” I felt like I was in the loony bin. I mean, I wished it were Christmas. That way, Dad could pretend he couldn’t afford as many gifts as last year, and then surprise us with a bunch more.

“All done,” the gay nurse said, and we went back in the room.

***

Even with the window open, the room completely stunk. I don’t know how Dad and Clara ate the casserole after that. I poured myself a coffee from the thermos, even though I usually only drink iced lattes. I needed something to hold to my face and smell without looking completely rude. So, I just sat there glued to the Styrofoam cup like I was some coffee-fume-sniffing junkie.

From the time we went back in the room until we shut the window because the smell finally went away, Gran was playing with this rosary that was supposed to be made out of roses from Heaven and thanking God for us being there with her. It was probably just papier-mâché soaked in essential oils from a place like Body Holistics. And Gran’s lips were so chapped that I almost asked her if she wanted some of my Menacing Melon, but I didn’t want her dried spit to get on it. I really felt bad for her.

“Go give Gran her gift now,” Dad said after he and Clara ate that pork-bit, eggy mush I carried in.

“Hey, Mom. The girls got you a gift,” he said.

Gran looked like a mummy. I put the gift on top of her hospital blankets and helped her unwrap it when she took forever. She was always like that with unwrapping gifts. This wasn’t just a hospital thing.

Gran studied the gift. It was a metal-laced vanity I hadn’t seen before, because Dad bought the gift so we had something to give Gran. The thing was actually kind of cute and I was hoping to get it when she, you know, died or whatever. And I know how that sounds, but it wasn’t like I’d want her clothes or anything, so in my mind, I called dibs on the vanity.

I watched her rotate the vanity in her desert-dry hands. She looked at the sides a hundred times. Finally, she stopped spinning it and looked at its lid—a mirror—and she started crying. Sobbing actually, sucking spit and air through her teeth like thhhhhpppsss. All gross like that.

“My face,” she said. I stepped back and just kind of stared at her. “Oh God, it’s so wrinkled. My hair.” Then she did that thhhhhpppsss thing again.

I looked back at Clara. She looked up from her coloring book and scrunched her face.

“Happy birthday,” I said, and patted her hands. She looked so sad.

“Can I have my Crush Crush Game?” Clara asked.

Dad was pretending not to cry.

I didn’t want to think about how sad everything was, so I tried to think of what I was going to post online about day thirty-two of my One Hundred Days of Happy. Not this obviously.

“Dad, where are your keys,” I asked. “I need to text Courtney.” Naturally, he ignored me.

“It’s about school,” I said. “I think we have some test on Monday. I just remembered.”

He still didn’t say anything, and there was this awkward silence as he was trying not to cry, so I got all pissed off and said, “God, I hate Miss Flint. She’s such a bitch.”

He turned with that stare. “Tiffany!” he spit through his teeth.

“What? She is.”

Gran started crying again for no reason, still looking at her face in the vanity’s lid.

“Dad,” I said.

He threw the keys at me. Hard, too. He’s lucky he didn’t break any of my nails. I literally just got them done. But he almost probably bruised my arm. And just because Dad was being a dick, I didn’t say goodbye to Gran. But I did say I’d be right back. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I would. I should have hitchhiked to L.A. or somewhere cool like that. But instead, I laid on the couch-like seat in the most God-awful minivan in the most God-awful state in the history of America.

I pulled my phone from the sticky cup holder and texted Courtney to see if her mom could pick me up and if she wanted to go tanning. But, of course, the bitch didn’t answer me. I was just stuck in that stupid oven-hot jalopy while my family members were crying and dying and Courtney was doing godknowswhat. But I kept on reminding myself, One Hundred Days of Happy. I couldn’t be sad just because I live in some stupid town with a stupid dad and baby sister with cleft lip. I had good things in life, too. But one hundred days is a long time for anything, especially for something as stupid as being happy. How can there be a hundred days of happy when I can barely get a hundred likes on my selfies? Courtney gets a hundred in like five minutes.

I thought, This is seriously hell on earth, so I got out of the ugly minivan and made my way back to the second most depressing place on earth.

Luckily, Gran was no longer crying, and as soon as she saw me, she made this motion with her veiny hand to come hither, as she used to say. I went and sat on the edge of her hospital bed. She kissed my hair, and it was like something in me just snapped. I started crying. Sobbing harder than Gran was before. I cried a hundred tears all over my Forever 21 shirt and Gran’s hairy arm. But they were a hundred happy tears. Honestly. I was crying because her smell reminded me of the times we’d visit her in the city and when she’d buy special food dye to make all my food glittery pink.

I squeezed her soft so I didn’t break her and asked if she could selfie with me. It just felt right, but she didn’t get what I was doing.

I got the picture, and we actually looked cute there like that. And my tits looked huge sitting the way I was sitting. It was really nice. And then I got giggling thinking about the hashtags I could put with the picture, like #lesbians or something. And Gran starting laughing at me laughing, and then Clara farted from across the room, and we both laughed even harder. Dad told us it wasn’t funny, but even he started laughing a little. I wished then that Gran could live for another hundred years.

Not long after, we said goodbye. Dad squeezed Gran’s hand and kissed it.

On the trek home, I wondered what Gran would post if she decided to do One Hundred Days of Happy. Or the gay nurse. One Hundred Days of Shit, I bet. And that got me giggling. And just before I started to bag up, Dad hit the rumble strip again because he really does suck at driving. He looked over and smiled at me like it was a secret we shared. He must have thought I was giggling at him, so he put his hand on my knee. I didn’t roll my eyes and I didn’t pretend I hated the music he was playing for Clara, and that was my way of telling him I was really sorry about Gran.

I could have let the moment hang there, but I grabbed my phone really fast to post online before the moment was ruined by Dad trying to be sentimental or Clara being Clara. I used a vintage filter on the photo with Gran, wrote some sappy message, and I got six likes in less a minute. By the time we got home, I had twenty-four likes. I was truly happy, at least for a little while. And that was enough.



Adam Gianforcaro is the author of the poetry collection “Morning Time in the Household, Looking Out” and children’s picture book “Uma the Umbrella.” His work can be found in Hippocampus Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, Potluck, Sundog Lit, and others.