Dad Grandma

When my father slips into compression stockings, I wonder who will perm his new blond hair. I wonder who taught him how to apply lipstick, if he’ll want the pearl necklace my real grandmother had given me.

His transition into her was sudden; she wasn’t even dead, he wasn’t sad. He just woke up one morning with her old lady hands. He shrugged, shaved his hairy knuckles, applied Lubriderm.

I called my grandma in Florida. It was bound to happen, she sighed. He just needs a hobby, she explained. But he’s wearing your reading glasses, I said, and he has perfect vision. She suggested I get him a cat. I hung up the phone when I heard my father clicking knitting needles in the living room.

I was lucky he hadn’t been her my whole life, I thought as I watched him polish his pearly pink fingernails. But then again, I wouldn’t have had to play catch, no softball team, no need for hustle on the tennis court. My ankles are too swollen, he’d say, “Why don’t you boil water for tea?”

Her Chanel perfume smells sweet on him. We watch Oprah as he carefully snips coupons; he likes her coral silk blouse. He bakes Angel food cake, and it is fluffy good, this new old kind of love.

But then he reaches to pinch my side, says, “If you don’t watch it, you’ll get fat like me, and no man will look at you twice in that dress.”

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Annie Hartnett grew up in Newton, MA. She attended Hamilton College in NY, and earned a masters in English literature from Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English, where she was awarded the Jon and Rebecca Freedman Fiction Prize in 2011. She is a 2013 graduate of the MFA program at the University of Alabama, and is the 2013-2014 Writer-in-Residence for the Associates of the Boston Public Library.