22 Facts About My Grandmother
By Bizzy Coy
Originally performed in 2018 at Yarnslingers in Callicoon, NY
It was a cold, dark winter’s night. Or maybe it was a hot, bright summer’s day? Who can remember? I certainly can’t. I have a notoriously hazy memory. But, presented now, are the facts I do remember.
One. The location was Clifton Park, New York, a suburb of Albany.
Two. I was with my grandma. I was maybe twelve? Or thirty? Or somewhere in between. Regardless of my age, I’m 90% sure that at the time, grandma was older than I was.
Three. Grandma and I were in a car. Make and model unknown. Was it a powder blue Jeep wrangler? A beige sedan? The Delorean from Back to the Future? No, probably not.
Four. We were alone in the aforementioned mystery car. Having alone time with grandma was a lovely and uncommon occurrence, because she has—
Five. Five daughters, all with families of their own. Whenever we get together, it’s a veritable glut. Aunts and uncles and cousins. Gin martinis and liverwurst and little bowls of pretzels on end tables. At Christmas, Great-Grandma’s German butter cookies, topped with a single chocolate chip, a frugal holdover from the Depression.
Six. Grandma pulled into a gas station.
Seven. She gripped the steering wheel with both hands as she said the following: “Huh. I’ve never pumped my own gas before.”
Eight. I am shocked by this revelation. A woman in her sixties, seventies, maybe eighties?? How could she have never put gas into a car?
Nine. In that moment I realized I knew practically nothing about the woman at the wheel.
Ten. Her name is Patricia Kleinschrod.
Eleven. She is married to Walter Kleinschrod.
Twelve. I could rattle off dozens of Granddad stories. He was garrulous and goofy. He attended Laguardia High school, otherwise known as the school from FAME. He carried a spear across the stage at the Metropolitan Opera. He attended Kennedy’s inaugural ball. He edited magazines in the Woolworth Building. He wrote the first book to ever use the phrase “word processing.” He traveled the world. He corrected typos on menus. He berated waitresses who used his most-hated phrase: “you guys.” He loved happy hour way too much. He was unignorable. A character.
Thirteen. So much he. But what about her?
Fourteen. Well, she loved him. And he loved her. They love each other.
Fifteen. She’s 89 and he’s 90 and they’re still inseparable. We used to laugh that he couldn’t survive an hour without her. Either heartbreak or hunger would do him in.
Sixteen. I’d spent tons of time AROUND my grandmother, but she was never the focus. He was. She didn’t like to talk about herself. And even if she did, she could barely get a word in edgewise.
Seventeen. Maybe I was seventeen that day. I was worried this automotive adventure might be too much for her. I offered to help. I said: “Grandma, I can fill it up.”
Eighteen. “No, no,” she said. “I’ll do it.” She had a placid, yet determined look. She turned off the engine and stepped out of the Delorean. Or whatever it was.
Slowly, she read the instructions on the display screen. She opened her purse. She took out her credit card. She slid the card through the reader and punched in her zip code. She opened the little door and unscrewed the cap underneath.
I watched her through the windows. Prim and pretty and petite. Her short blonde hair was set, unmoving against the winter (or summer?!) wind, but at the same time, soft. Her eyes focused on each task behind fragile gold-rimmed glasses.
She wore her usual uniform, casual but neat as whiskey—a pastel cardigan over a pristine white top, tan pants, white sneakers. Makeup. Earrings. A necklace or a broach.
She lifted the pump, inserted the nozzle into the tank, squeezed the handle, and nothing happened. She paused.
I thought, maybe I should help—but something in me said, no, stay quiet, stay in your seat, this is her moment and it has nothing to do with you—and it didn’t take long for her to figure out that she needed to press the flat square button that said Unleaded.
Nineteen. She pulled the trigger and this time it worked—it worked!—fuel flowed freely and the seconds whooshed by, interrupted only by the click-clank of a full tank. She hung up the pump, replaced the cap, and opened the car door. I smelled gasoline. Like a whiff of sweet, euphoric perfume as she sat back in the driver’s seat.
Twenty. She had a smile on her face. Not an obvious smile—a small, slight smile—a secret smile. I said: “I can’t believe I got to witness history in the making.” Okay, I probably didn’t say that. I’m giving myself too much credit here.
Twenty-one: In return, she said nothing. Or maybe she said something. I don’t remember. I don’t think she remembers either. Why would she? It was just another day, another errand to run, another grandchild to chauffeur about. It was cold or hot or snowy or sunny and none of it mattered. Her name is Patricia Kleinschrod and—
Twenty-two: She knows how to pump her own gas.