Dear readers, I realized the other day that I have made a grievous oversight. I have told you many tales about the wackiness that inevitably ensues when my grandmother has an extended hospital stay – the murderers in the shrubbery, the plots to destroy her dogs, the deathbed phone calls – but I have omitted to tell you about the midnight orgies. Prepare to be enlightened.
I don’t remember what Nanna was in the hospital for that time, but it mostly required bed rest and observation, and the nurses settled her in a nice double room with another patient called Juanita. Juanita was a very frail, very elderly woman who was stuck full of tubes and could barely lift herself off of the pillow. She had a sweet, peaceful personality and whenever we came to visit she would greet us with blessings and quiet updates on Nanna’s progress. Nanna, who has never approved of meekness, didn’t much care for her.
One day my aunts came to visit and found Nanna looking tired and disgruntled.
“How are you feeling, mother?” they asked.
“Terrible,” Nanna said bluntly. “I couldn’t sleep at all last night.”
Her daughters expressed their sympathies and asked what the problem was. Had she talked to the nurses about it?
No, said Nanna darkly, the nurses would be no help in this matter. The problem was Juanita, who had been making so much noise during the nights that it was impossible for anyone in her vicinity to rest.
Sharon and Carrie looked over at Juanita, who was taking a nap, and saw the usual 90 pounds of soft-spoken frailty. She did not look capable of making enough noise to disturb even the keenest hearing.
“What has she been doing?” they asked.
What hadn’t she been doing! Sharon and Carrie listened in horror as Nanna described the drunken revels that went on it that room every night. Juanita’s friends would come over and they would drink and cuss and carry on. They would play loud music. They would have sex with the nurses, right there on Juanita’s bed. They would, in short, indulge in every kind of depravity, and it was disgusting to watch.
My aunts were appalled. What kind of hospital was this? And how could they have so badly misjudged Juanita? We were so nice to her, they thought, and all the time she was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They had worked themselves into a state of high indignation by the time common sense caught up and they looked at each other and thought, wait a minute…
“We were nodding along with every word she said,” Carrie told us later, “and then it just got to the point where we both realized, ‘This woman is crazy.’”
The problem is that Nanna can be very convincing when she’s crazy. She has never had much use for self-doubt, so she always speaks with absolute conviction and brooks no argument. I can see how her daughters, having been trained from childhood up to believe that her word was law, could have been drawn down the rabbit hole. It’s just fortunate that they came to their senses before marching off to the hospital administration to lodge a formal complaint about Juanita’s sex parties.