The Boob Stealer

Once upon a time, I was helping my grandma get ready for bed. Warm jammies, cold water, feet tucked in tight. Suddenly, she looked down at her thinning frame and shouted, “Eek! Somebody stole my boobs!”

I chuckle.

“Oh really. Who?”

She looked me in the eye and whispered, with confidence,

“The Boob Stealer.”


They say that cancer and death and sick trays in styrofoam tins can do a number on your mental capacity. You see things, hear things, believe things that simply aren’t.  Maybe this was the start.

Her eyes got big. “You’ve never heard of the Boob Stealer?”

I bit my lip to keep from laughing–honestly, maybe even from crying–but she didn’t seem to think it was funny. In fact, she hadn’t broken her gaze. And suddenly, it dawned on me . . . she wasn’t losing her marbles.

She was trying to tell me a bedtime story.

I may have changed her clothes and checked machines and brought her water–but I was still the grandkid. And despite pain, protruding tubes and cannulas, she’s still the Grandma. How very Ninja of her.

So I nuzzled in close, like a little girl.

“The Boob Stealer,” she continued, “is a very evil man.”

“Uh oh.”

“He doesn’t like women, you see. And he doesn’t think they should have boobs. So he steals them.”

“Really. So where do they go?”

“Into the trash can.”


“And once they go in, you can never get them out.”

“That’s a bummer.”

She nods.

“In fact,” she went on, “he’s the same one who steals your socks.”

This explains a lot. I don’t know what some creeper is doing with boobs and single socks, but I kept listening and cherishing every word. It’s so hard for her to talk and it takes so long for the words to come out that they feel like a present.

A strange, slightly inappropriate-for-children present.

Together, we devised a plan to trap the evil villain so Gam could get her boobs back. We decided that the best way to do it would be feeding him a soggy clam boat from Friendly’s.

(Gam was very upset about the quality of her clam boat dinner. They even forgot the Happy Ending.)

It didn’t take long before she was mid-sentence fading. So I kissed her forehead, dimmed the lights and said goodnight.

It was good to feel like a (grand) kid again.

And good to remind her that she’s still my Gam.


Ninja Trait #7: Responsibility

“Jenny, would you like my bedroom set?”

“Why would you give away your bedroom set?”

“You know. For when I die.”

My ticker stops for a sec. Too matter-of-fact.

“I don’t want to talk about that,” I tell her.

“Well we’ve got to.”

“Not today we don’t. Besides what are you going to keep your cute pajamas in if you give away your bedroom set?”

“Well it’s good to be responsible about these things,” she tells me. “I’d like you to have my bedroom set cause your mother tells me you STILL don’t have one. There. All done! That wasn’t so bad. Now, what fun things shall we talk about?”

Responsibility isn’t always fun to talk about. But tonight it’s fun to remember.

A brief list of responsible things I learned from my Gam . . .

1 It’s OK not to talk to anyone first thing in the morning until you get your grumpies out. (More later)

2 When you go swimming, you always wear sunscreen. But no higher than a 4 or a 6 SPF or else you won’t get a nice tan.

3 Ice cream tastes the best after the news was finished (When I was little I couldn’t understand how Dan Rather could ever be more exciting then going for ice cream. Oh well.)

4 Good neighbors always have a pot of coffee going for drop-ins. Always.

5 When you’re going out, you always wear lipstick and always wear earrings. Always.

6 You go to church on Sundays and you raise your hands or else you don’t love Jesus. (More on that later.)

7 Clean the house BEFORE the cleaning lady gets there. Not because you need a cleaning lady, but because you know someone who could use the work.

8 Treat maintenance men and waitresses with your utmost respect. When your cat runs away or you need an oversized Geisha portrait hung in the perfect spot, you’ll have plenty of help.

9 Say thank you with huge tins of brownies.

10 Decorate your place how you want to, with things you love. Even if that means you have a Christmas tree hung with nothing but homemade stuffed cat faces with google eyes.

11 Take long walks with your dog even if you go so far you get lost.

12 When you say you’ll pray for someone, do it. God listens to anything you put on your fridge

13. Ask for hugs when you need them. Sometimes you just need a hug.

14. When in doubt, tell someone you love them. Even if its three times in a row and you feel silly saying it.

15. Starbucks coffee is overrated and “smells like burnt socks”.

16. Family is the most important thing you’ll ever have.

17. Don’t stare at people who look different than you, even if they have an extra thumb. They’re probably the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

18. Oatmeal is so much more fun with rainbow sprinkles.

19. Old Bay seasoning makes anything taste perfect.

20. Cheer for your favorite teams.

21. Knowing the words to The Wells Fargo Wagon is a resume-worthy life skill.

22. Corgis are God’s favorite dogs.

23. Feed the hungry; you’ll find a best friend. (Even if its about stray cats.)

24. Swear words are sometimes necessary.

25. Keep your life savings in a sock under your mattress.

Ninja Trait #2: Bravery

I’m just about through my Traits of a Ninja series.

Today’s little post is about bravery.

And the fact that “Self Defense” is just so much cooler when you spell it like our little friend on the right.

A few years ago, Gam was invited to a teach a seminar on self defense. To teenage boys. At a detention center. At age 82.


I’m not quite sure if the bravery gets allotted to Gam or to the poor young convicts who learned choke holds and flip kicks from a seemingly innocent old woman who could actually rip out their jugulars with one fell swoop.

But she did it.

She told me it wasn’t the most pleasant experience she ever had, and that two days is not nearly enough to teach anyone much about anything, but that the boys were amazingly eager to learn and quite respectful.

I’d be respectful too if I were getting basic karate lessons from a ninja.

Did I mention she was 82?

Ninja Trait #10: Gifted Speech

When Gam was in Japan, she was invited to attend some fancy dinner reception for the Karate Association’s upcoming tournament.

Mid mingling, a stone-faced Japanese gentleman walked up to her and looked her square in the eye.

“My brother died in Hiroshima,” he stated coldly.

“And I lost my brother in Pearl Harbor,” she returned.

The man stared blankly.

“It appears we both have much to forgive,” Gam said.

The man softened and bowed. Gam bowed in return.


“I didn’t know you had a brother!” her karate teacher whispered as they walked away.

“Oh, I didn’t,” she replied. “I was an only child.”

Tomorrow, Ninja Trait #1: Loyalty

The 11 Traits of a Ninja

According to ancient legend and the interwebs, there are 10 key traits all ninjas possess.

1. Loyalty

2. Bravery

3. Strategic Knowledge

4. Diligence

5. Trustworthiness

6. Good Health

7. Responsibility

8. Ingenuity

9. Knowledge of the Teachings of Buddha & Confucius

10. Gifted Speech

And for my Black Belt Gam, there’s an 11th: Optimism.

Along with being a martial arts master, she is skilled in the ancient battle techniques of Glass-half-full. Especially when the good days aren’t so much.

Last week, hospice brought in a wheel chair so Gam can get around. Gam loves her independence, and losing it–along with the freedom to walk herself down to the nurses’ station, dance down the aisles at church and go on hot root beer dates with charming gentlemen has been a little difficult. So I called a little tentatively to ask how she’s doing with the whole “wheelchair thing.”

She didn’t give me the chance to open my mouth.

“JENNY! I’ve got WHEELS!”


“Oh you should see this thing, Jenny. It’s like a rocket launcher! It’s got silver–no, chrome wheels–and buttons, and FOOT RESTS and oh boy–you should see me and Claire Comalli take off down the hallway!! WHOOSH! VROOM! It’s like being in a rocketship. Or a Cadillac! Let me tell you there’s not a person in the place who isn’t jealous of my pretty chair.”

Truth is, she absolutely hates her new chair–but the world will never know. And I love that.

Tomorrow, trait #3: Strategic Knowledge

Ninja Savasana

Gam always told me that one day I’d realize the value of being flexible.

She’s always been a bit of a bean pole. A human rubber band. Which was excellent for her karate at the dojo, her Tai Chi classes at Riddle, and the occasional games of Twister at a certain eight-year-old’s birthday party.

(As well as a few other things I honestly wished she wouldn’t have told me about, but I digress.)


Once I attended a yoga class with her at Riddle–taught by a young gal about my age who was beyond wonderful with the ladies. Super patient, amazingly enthusiastic, ridiculously encouraging.

Yoga looks a little different with a senior crowd. Downward Facing Dogs are performed upright with a lot less bark for their bite, and the most impressive Savasanas are secured from the comfort of a folding chair–although “comfort” might not be the word chosen by the ladies in Gam’s class. 

What a sweet teacher. She approached each move with grace and patience, rewarding completion of the simplest poses with a “good job, ladies” and “wow, we’re sweatin’ butter now!”

Gam, however, was never satisfied with a simple stretch. She had to push it. Why was I surprised?

What were painstaking movements of right-arm-stretched-slighty-to-left-side became effortless full body contortions for Gam–partly for the challenge, but mostly for the show-off.

She’d throw her entire right side all the way to the left side–well past her ear, far past her waist, and all the way down to the floor. With a “WHEE!” and a giggle.

You could hear winces, gasps, and even eye rolls from those with a lot less dexterity. And a lot less patience for her theatrics.

“Your grandma’s quite the rubber band,” the instructor remarked. “She’s makes me smile.”

“She makes me sick,” a classmate mumbled.

I didn’t know whether to apologize or laugh, but I did the latter.

After all, it’s good to be flexible.