Let’s take a moment to talk about family. What in any other circumstances would be a random assortment of people, are brought together because of some shared genetic code. And despite the fact you may have nothing else in common with someone, if you have this, to any degree, you have a bond.
I happen to come from a very large extended family. In all actuality it may not be bigger than other families, but because everyone still lives on or very near what is considered the ancestral home, it just seems bigger. I’m one of the few that left, and with each passing year feel like I have less in common with the people I grew up with. However, blood runs very thick in the Davis brood, and the tie that bonds binds tightly indeed. Despite the distance – on all levels – I would do anything for them.
So yes, families are a funny thing. Sometimes ha ha funny, sometimes weird funny, sometimes bat-shit crazy. This is a story about a family member who was all of these things.
It was a fine autumn afternoon. My grandmother (hereafter known as Nana) was driving down the dirt road that led to her children’s homes. All three of her children lived in a row, half a mile from where she lived: looking at the front of the houses there was my aunt on the left, my aunt and uncle in the middle, and my parents on the right. She was starting her visit at the aunt’s house on the left, yet when she drove past the uncle and aunt’s house in the middle, something caught her eye. There, about 6 and a half feet up in a tree in front of their house, was a solitary apple. All the others had been picked, distributed and either cooked or preserved. No one in the family had the need for any more apples. That’s an important part of the story to remember.
Yet my Nana was not one to let things go that easily. She saw the apple and immediately thought, “I’m going to get that apple.” So she turns the car around, heads back to her home, finds a six-foot ladder, shoves it in the back of her Lincoln, and drives it back. It is also important to remember that Nana at this time is 84 years old, has terrible arthritis in her fingers, is about 5 foot tall and shrinking, and has a bad back. She should really not be doing any of this. She then drives back to the tree, takes out the ladder, sets it up, and climbs to the very top of it to get the apple.
It should come as no surprise that she falls off the ladder. Before she does however, she does manage to grab on to a branch. She swings there for a little bit, realizes she will not be able to hold on, and falls, breaking her pelvic bone. Nobody knows she is there: my aunt and uncle are away on vacation, and my other aunt and my mother are home, but not looking at the neighboring yard to see if Nana has done anything ridiculous. Like climb into a tree.
The only two creatures that are around are two Labrador dogs, Duke and Buck. Buck is – and I mean this in the nicest possible way – the stupidest animal to ever live and still function as a dog. He thinks Nana is playing, and proceeds to jump on top of her. In order to get Buck away, she throws the rotten and discarded apples she finds on the ground. However, as he is a retriever by nature, he keeps bringing them back to her, thinking it all a game. It is probably one of the best days of his life.
Duke was more heroic. He ran over to my parent’s home and started barking like a maniac, trying to get my mother’s attention. It worked! She came out and immediately told him to stop barking like a maniac. He did. So much for Lassie.
Eventually my cousin Wayne drove by, saw Nana lying prostrate in the field, and got her the medical help she needed. My father was furious with the way she behaved. When the doctor entered the room and casually asked, “what do we have here?” my father responded “it looks like we have a terminal case of the dumbass.” That got the doctor’s attention!
The phone calls to the family members about this were odd to say the least. When my mother called to tell me what happened, my first reaction was of concern, then of disbelief as to what she just told me. When I tell people that my grandmother once fell out of a tree, their first question is usually “what was she doing in a tree?”
And that is the question. Why was Nana in the tree? What does that say about her? Nana was a vivacious, loving women. She was also wild and crazy. She was determined, brash and did not care what anyone thought about her. She was insanely loyal to her family, and worked hard her whole life to give her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren everything they needed in life. Not everything they wanted, mind you, but what they needed. As the days passed after the incident I found myself very proud of my Nana. Not that she fell from the tree, but that she was there in the first place. She saw something that she wanted and she went for it. And even though my father took all of her ladders away from her after this incident, it didn’t deter the spirit that made her climb the tree in the first place. She would still do her own thing, ladder or no ladder.
In retrospect, she probably should not have climbed into that tree. The health problems that arose from her fall plagued her for years after, and when she passed away last year, it was indirectly related to her fall. But would that have stopped her? Probably not. Nana was not one to be deterred from what she thought was the right thing to do. She was determined all of her life, and wasn’t about to stop then.
By the way, to this day we do not know if she ever got the apple. Some things will just always remain a mystery.