Last time I was in PA, Uncle Harry and Aunt D brought over dinner from Pinocchio’s, Gam’s favorite pizza place.

But she doesn’t get pizza. She gets a tuna hoagie (or sub for you Colorado people). She’s convinced that Pinocchio’s has special tuna. And never wants to hear it when I tell her that all tuna comes out of a can.

“Gam, it’s all the same. I could make you one of those.”

“No you couldn’t. This tuna is white, and sweet, and they’re the only people who have it.”

Anyway. She saved half of her hoagie for lunch the next day. And this is what she said as she unwrapped it.

“Did you happen to see your Uncle Harry eyin’ my sandwich last night?”

“No, why?”

She looks up snidely.

“Oh, he was. And I said to him, ‘up yours.’


“I only said it with my eyes. And it’s the only reason I have this beautiful half a sandwhich here for my lunch. Chess.”



Optimism, Take 2

I wake up to a buzzing phone. It’s Gam. And it’s 6:30 a.m.


“Jenny? It’s Gammy! And I’m just calling you to tell you that today is going to be a GOOD day, with the help of the Lord.”

“Oh yeah?” I roll over and squint at the clock. Yep. It’s 6:30.

“Chess! Because you’re going to pray it so, aren’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Ok. And we’re OFF! Talk to you tomorrow!”


The cancer (never referred to as such . . . Gam always says “this thing” or “this disease,” or, my favorite, “this silly thing that they say I’ve got” . . . ) is a little unpredictable. It gives her good days where she feels like dancing and going on dates; and bad days where she can’t stay awake for more than a few moments at a time and wonders if “this is it.”  I hate those days.

But the Optimism keeps her going. Maybe it keeps me going, too. It’s her extra Ninja Trait, and by far my favorite.

If were a silly thing like cancer, I wouldn’t want to mess with Gam today. It’s going to be a good one.


“Don’t wear your hair up–ever.”

I called Gam this morning. She’s in good ninja spirits. Samurai, even.


“It’s been a good day so far,” she proudly reports. “I had a delightful breakfast. Somebody hung a cake on my doorknob, so I ate the whole thing.”

“A cake? On your doorknob?”

She takes the are you stupid tone. “Well they’re not going to fit underneath it.”

I smile. Of course not.

“Actually there were three cakes on my doorknob today. But I only ate one. People here are trying to fatten me up.”

I think it’s a beautiful thing to live in a world where your neighbors tie cakes to your door and you don’t question whether or not they’ve been poisoned-and where you can forgive the copious amounts of cat hair baked into every bite.

She asks what I’m doing today, and I tell her I’m going to go for a run because its mid-sixties and beautiful and not a cloud in the sky. She tells me Colorado has “doppy” weather–whatever that means.

Then I mention that I’m going to wedding this evening, and she gets very excited.

“Oh, what big fun! What are you wearing to the wedding?!”

I honestly haven’t figured that out yet. So I make something up.

“I think I might wear this black dress I have. Its kinda like the one Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

“Ohhhh….I love that movie. She wore a hat with that dress–you got a hat?

“No Gam. No hat.”

“Well promise me you’ll wear your hair down? I don’t like it when you wear your hair all snatched back. Bleh.”

I smile and roll my eyes. Always honest. But seriously–what girl wouldn’t kill for a pal that will be that honest with you?

Like the time she told me I needed to bangs because my forehead was too big, or that I needed to learn how to properly work my Polish nose? Or when I was wrestling with an eating disorder–the evening when she quietly wrapped an arm around my waist and whispered in my ear that perhaps we both needed to gain some weight, and that she would help and we’d do it together?

I’m thankful. Ok, maybe I could do without the “bleh” sound effects. But I’m thankful.

“Did you hear me, Jennifer? Don’t wear it up! Ever!”

“I’ll wear it down tonight. Heck, I might even curl it.”

She squeals.

I’m lying.

“Jenny, Jesus curled my hair this morning.”

(Oh boy. Here we go.)

“Well you know I can’t see to put my hair up in rollers. But this morning, it got up–chess, it did. I just took a piece of hair and said ‘Lord, help me with this one?’ and he did. And then I took enough piece of hair and said ‘Lord, help me with this one, too?’ and sure enough–Loretta came in to give me my belly-shot, and she said ‘Wow, Pat–how did you get your hair up so perfectly in those rollers?’ and I put my hands in the air and said ‘Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord, for my beautiful hairdo!’

Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord, for doing hair. That definitely falls into the other-duties-as-assigned category. And for “doppy” weather.

And mostly for giving me a ninja for a grandma.