At the ripe young age of 76, my grandmother has found love again. Widowed a little over two years ago, Nana met Leon — a sprightly 81-year-old widower with a full head of white hair and a penchant for modern art — a few months later. They immediately clicked.
Not wasting any time (for obvious practical reasons), they moved in together last December. For the majority of the year, they join the geriatric migration to Florida for “the season.” However, they spend the warm months in Massachusetts, where I had the opportunity to visit and to observe them last summer. I enjoyed my visits, with the exception of a few instances, such as when Leon asked if I agreed that Nana’s trousers “make her rear look like a dream.”
Recently, Nana and Leon decided to make things legal. The bride will not be wearing white and the couple has not registered at Crate & Barrel, but there is a pre-nup and the bride will be changing her name. Yes, this is weird.
Should we aspire to a second love like this? Or is it just being greedy to expect multiple soulmates in one’s lifetime? My grandparents were married for 52 years — unusually long — and now, midway though her eighth decade, Nana’s tying the knot again. With the way that human health and life expectancy are trending, might I find my third or fourth long and happy marriage at the age of 130? Most disturbingly, my boyfriend and I have been together longer than Nana and Leon. Do they know something we don’t, or are they just short on time?
Ideally, I would have contemplated these important relationship questions from a safe distance. Instead, to celebrate their impending marriage, Nana and Leon decided to take their children and grandchildren on vacation together. So, this Thanksgiving, the two families — 23 people in all — hauled down to Cancun for an ill-fated week of forced bonding and Spring Break-style debauchery. It was like some bizarre tri-generational Brady Bunch Thanksgiving special. But with Jewish people. And without Alice.
Arriving at the airport from Chicago, we discovered that, since November is the end of hurricane season, Cancun is the real Windy City. Watching the palm trees thrash around with the blustery weather and the tsunami-like waves in the hotel swimming pool, I realized that this was not going to be the beach vacation we’d been promised. We were either caught in the tacky tourist area that surrounded our hotel or we were stuck inside the hotel itself, paying $8 for Cokes and getting roped into hours-long bonding sessions with the happy couple in their Honeymoon suite.
The panic set in. What were we doing here? To start, these particular nuptials made a strange basis for vacation plans. Due to a series of unfortunate divorces involving the other set of grandparents, I’ve been to my grandparents’ weddings before, but this trip was an entirely different animal. This was so much more than watching Leon kiss the bride; this was sitting on their king-size hotel bed and noting the empty wine glasses on the nightstands. Celebrating Nana’s wedding is one thing, joining her on the honeymoon is quite another.
Which brings up the issue of why everybody was there. How much were we going to blend the families? It’s not like my father and uncles were going to be sharing a bathroom with Leon’s kids once their parents got hitched. Becoming acquainted with Leon’s brethren was fun and I’m glad it happened, but did it need to involve a passport, a resort town and missing the chance to go home for fall break?
And why were we spending Thanksgiving — a genuine American holiday — in frigging Mexico? There was faulty logic here, not to mention slightly creepy circumstances, and now, thanks to “El Nino,” I wasn’t even going to get a suntan out of it.
Having exhausted any off-site options with a day trip to nearby Aztec ruins, we were stuck at the hotel. No Internet, no cell phones, nothing but elderly love and pseudo-step-cousins. After spending several hours listening to Nana recount for the trillionth time Leon’s great experience with acupuncture and give inaccurate retellings of banal family stories, this vacation was becoming more than I could bear. Wriggling away from her grandmotherly grip, I ventured to the street outside the hotel. There, I saw a man and his chimp walking along the sidewalk opposite me. The chimp was not on a leash or anything, and he held a white gym sock in his mouth. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more bizarre, a chimp enters the picture.
After the ape sighting, I decided there was no hope for a normal holiday in Mexico. My grandmother will be getting married in just a few days, and while that may be strange, it makes her happy and that’s what really counts. So I decided, with the last couple of days in Mexico, to take advantage of the location and make myself happy, too. Which wasn’t too hard, because no self-respecting restaurant in Cancun would ever seat you without offering you a margarita.
That would be weird.
Sarah Minkus isn’t quite as kinky as her grandmother, but she’s imaginative.