When the twins came at Christmas-time, Nana baked cookies and roasted sweet potatoes and chickens and simmered her stews. She loved it when the babies climbed into her lap. After a week of two sets of 2-year-old twins having a really good time, Nana decided it was time to leave the house. "Time to flee" were her exact words to herself. She realized that her gynecologist had died 15 years ago and thought it prudent to find a new one right now this minute and so she did. She made an appointment with a nice woman doctor. "See you later," she said to her family and drove away.
Nana lives quietly. She does not lack for anything. Many of Nana's friends are looking for romantic companionship. Nana wants to live her life, write her stories, knit her scarves, and play with her grandchildren and then have their parents take them away. She does not want a man, and she does not want to want a man.
She thought she was safe at the gynecologist.
The nice doctor examined Nana inside and out and then called her into the office. The doctor sat behind a desk. It was a pleasant room with water trickling over stones in plug-in fountains. The doctor needed to ask a few questions. Nana sat neatly in a hard chair and she nodded.
"Have you had more than one sexual partner?" the doctor asked. Outside, sun was shining on the snow. This was not the question Nana was expecting.
"Yes," said Nana. Land sakes, yes.
"More than five?"
"Quite a few more," said Nana, as modestly as she could. She didn't want to appear to be bragging, so she added, by way of explanation, "It was the '60s."
"Have you ever had a sexually transmitted disease?" was the next question. It seemed a little nosy, but Nana answered truthfully.
"Yes," she said. But now she was remembering how she got it and who she gave it to, and it was Washington Square and she was young and slender and barefoot and it was 1968 all over again.
"Damn," thought Nana.
It turned out that Medicare will pay for certain yearly exams if you have had more than five sexual partners. ("Who knew?" thought Nana.)
But now, instead of being safe and sound and insulated against desire (shudder), Nana was suddenly thinking other kinds of thoughts, having other kinds of memories. She went and bought Guitar Town by Steve Earle instead of listening to her better self, and she even played it indoors because when she got home the kids were out. "Oh, God," thought Nana, "I shouldn't be doing this." After a bit, and despite her new relationship with time, Nana began to experience impatience. One song at a time was taking too long. She began to wonder if there weren't some way she could cram all this music in at once. Oh, hell.
"That's called f******," Nana realized.
So we will leave her there.
Excerpted from Eye of My Heart: 27 Writers Reveal the Hidden Pleasures and Perils of Being a Grandmother (Harper), a new anthology of essays edited by Barbara Graham.