I’m grieving my grandmother’s death but actually, for the past ten years, she’s been living on borrowed time. In reality Grandma should have died the day that we attempted to move the giant, white, lead elephant that was masquerading as a freezer in her basement.
That morning, my mother asked me to go to Grandma’s to help my sister. Mom phrased the demand like it was a reasonable request, being a respectful child, who was still in university and therefore living on her parents’ dime, I obliged. So off my sister and I went, supposedly to move a freezer, but actually to murder our grandmother.
We got there and discovered that the appliance in question was NOT in fact one of those charming, petite chest freezers meant for apartments but rather was a hulking, metal behemoth designed to house enough frozen food for a medium sized army. In “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, the children burned down the house because it would have required a crane to move their deceased and beloved but morbidly obese mother. As far as I’m concerned, my grandmother’s freezer deserved this kind of ending. Not surprisingly, me, my sister and my grandmother discovered that we were unable to lift it ourselves.
“Not to worry girls” my grandmother cheerfully told us. “We’ll get Tommy from down the street- he’s very strong”. My sister and I pictured Tommy as a strapping nineteen year old who has a chin up bar installed on his bedroom door, the kind of guy who wears t-shirts with protein shake logos and whose vocabulary consists primarily of the words: bro, dude and Yeeeeeah! No – Tommy was another octogenarian, although supposedly a freakishly strong one based on Grandma’s faith that he could assist us in moving this freezer. Not recognizing that his demise was imminent, Tommy chatted happily as we walked back to the house, strategizing that we’d use carpet ends that Grandma had kicking around to slide the enormous, metal freezer across the basement and up the stairs.
It bears mentioning the stairs. Specifically the fact that had it snowed in my Grandma’s basement, the pitch of the stairs was so steep that Olympians could have competed for downhill skiing gold on these steps. Later in my grandmother’s life, when she finally acquiesced to having one of those chairlifts installed, cousins would take turns scaring the bejesus out of themselves by taking a ride, moving sideways down the steep slope. One can only conclude that four children gave Grandma nerves of steel even into her 90’s because I would smell like a decaying antelope before I’d ride that chair twice a day to do laundry.
I digress- this was the treacherous path that the gigantic freezer was supposed to take up and out of the house. Suddenly burning the place down to escape moving the gargantuan appliance wasn’t looking so crazy. When the freezer slid backwards down the stairs on the carpet ends and foiled Tommy’s plans to ease the process, it was decided that we would each grab a corner and hoist the enormous metal beast ourselves. Diana and I offered to lift from the bottom of the stairs but Tommy and Grandma insisted that they would take that position, essentially sealing their dark, flattened fate. It was like some sort of elderly Hunger Games with my Grandma and her friend volunteering as tributes. Despite our best protests, they gave Diana and me no choice.
Up the freezer went; slowly, painfully. There were a couple of tense, harrowing moments when someone had to adjust their grasp on the smooth metal. But after every other step Tommy would call out “Up we go now girls, Everything is tickety boo” or “Almost there now, Bob’s your uncle” while Diana and I exchanged skeptical looks because everything was NOT tickety boo and we had many uncles but Bob was not one of them.
The whole experience was horrifying, but the worst part was when we reached the steepest point of the stairs, the shape of the house meant that the top of the freezer almost met the ceiling, so for what felt like thirty minutes but was probably only three or four, we lost sight of Grandma and Tommy. I gripped the freezer tightly with my flimsy, pipecleaner-like arms, stepping up when Tommy’s muffled voice instructed, because even though I was going to be party to his manslaughter, the least I could do was listen to him. Once or twice Diana and I glanced at each other to silently commiserate about our poor choices that had led us here, an act that we’d no doubt continue for many years in prison as we served out our sentence for double senilicide.
Perhaps there was a guardian angel helping us, one who had spent its heavenly days bench pressing Bibles or other weighty items in the afterlife, but we managed to get the freezer up those steep, steep steps. To be honest, I can’t remember how we moved the freezer out of the house, or even how it was hoisted up into the bed of our truck. All of that is overwhelmed by the memory of the relief I felt when we turned the corner away from the stairs and Grandma’s white haired head came back into view.
The freezer made its way to Diana’s house at the university, where it remains, I’m assuming to this day because she left it there when she moved out. As sad as I am today over my grandmother’s recent passing, I’m grateful that she and Tommy survived that day and for all the memories we made during the years afterward.