A.J. has a cousin. She’s a cat named Betty, and she belongs to my younger brother. (Or my brother belongs to her; it’s hard to tell with cats.) A.J. has never met his cousin Betty, and never will. Betty is a rescue cat, and my brother would rather we not try to figure out how many of her nine lives are left, something A.J. would immediately try to test.
In many ways my brother and I are very different. I studied computer science in college while he studied acting. I love math, math gives him nightmares. He performs Shakespeare, I had nightmares after watching him perform Shakespeare. He has a cat, I have a dog.
Similarly, our pets are very different. In addition to being a dog and a cat, A.J. and Betty have personality traits that are polar opposites. When someone enters Betty’s house, she hides under the futon and wants nothing to do with them. When someone enters A.J.’s house, they instantly become his best friend and he pesters them for constant attention. Betty is cautious and fearful; A.J. is a daredevil, charging headfirst into anything.
But as it turns out, we all have at least one thing in common: we can feel the warmth of Grandma’s blanket.
After reading the story of Grandma’s Blanket, my brother decided to go find his blanket from Grandma, which was stored away in a box. After receiving instructions from Mom on how to clean it, he put it out on his sofa. Normally when my brother leaves the house, Betty will go find a quiet corner to sleep. When he comes home she runs out to him from her hiding place and rubs his legs, welcoming him home and begging for some attention. The first time he left her alone after putting out Grandma’s blanket, he came home to find her firmly settled on the sofa – right out in the open – curled up on the blanket, with no interest in moving. Betty was enjoying the warmth of Grandma’s blanket.
Some of my warmest memories from childhood are from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. There was always Juicy Fruit gum in the drawer, cookies in the cupboard, and those little mini boxes of cereal for breakfast. Grandpa did a lot of puttering around. He couldn’t hear anybody other than Grandma, and he clicked his false teeth – when they weren’t in his shirt pocket. Grandma spent a lot of time at the kitchen table, but she was always busy. Macular degeneration slowly took her eyesight, but she never stopped. For as long as she could she would use a magnifying glass to read letters she received from friends and family. She’d sit right in front of the little 10-inch TV in the kitchen to watch her favorite soap opera, and on Sundays when she couldn’t get to church she listened to sermons on the radio. And her hands never stopped moving.
Grandma knitted and crocheted. Even after her sight was gone, she was always working away on something. One of her biggest projects was her wedding blankets. At some point she decided to crochet blankets for each of her grandchildren (and then great-grandchildren) to be given to them as a wedding gift. This was no small feat, given the fact that she had about 20 grandchildren. Everyone knew about these blankets. One of my cousins asked for his blanket when he went to college, but Grandma said no, and he was very happy to receive it when he married a few years later. She wasn’t able to travel to my wedding, but she came to my bridal shower, and when I saw the package from Grandma I knew what was in it.
That blanket has been with me ever since. It’s spent some time off and on packed away in boxes and trunks, but still a treasured remembrance of Grandma. Right now it’s on the futon in my room above the garage where I often go to pretend to be an artist.
Yesterday I had a sad sort of morning. Feeling very down, I grabbed my headphones and iPod and went up to my room. It was a chilly morning and the heat hadn’t kicked in, so I wrapped myself up in Grandma’s blanket, sat on the floor, and listened to some John Denver. A.J. would come over to check on me, then wander over to his own blanket and sleep. I happened to sit down next to a bookshelf that has some books on it that used to belong to Grandma. After a while I turned off the music, picked up one of Grandma’s books and started to read. I could almost feel the warmth and softness of Grandma.
I’d been there in my corner on the floor for a couple of hours, and eventually, as it tends to do, nature called. I got up and left the room for a few moments. When I came back, there was A.J. curled up on Grandma’s blanket. I guess he felt the warmth too.