Part 4: Visits with the grandparents
12 May 2014
Mom and Dad leave for the airport in the wee hours of the morning; by the time I wake up they should be in the air en route to Paris. I call Yiayia after breakfast to see if she wants company. “Embro?” she answers the phone.
“Y’assou Yiayia. CJ etho,” I reply.
“You are coming over?”
“I am on my way,” I assure her. Within five minutes I am standing in front of the building, ringing her doorbell. Bzzzzz! I open the door and slide inside, making sure to push it closed securely behind me; there have apparently been problems with people sneaking in who don’t live there. Six flights of stairs later, I reach the seventh floor to find that Yiayia already has the door open, waiting for me.
This was the fifth trip, and the first time that the grandparents did not meet us at either the airport or the hotel. When we arrived, we stayed at the hotel only long enough to put our suitcases in our rooms and call the flat to make sure that we were welcome.
By now I suspected that once he buzzed us in Grandpa would wait with his eye pressed to the peephole in the front door, waiting to see us step off the elevator. In any event, I had barely finished knocking on the door when he opened it and said, “We don’t want any.” But his blue eyes were twinkling, and this time he didn’t even pretend to close the door before throwing it the whole way open and pulling me into a hug.
I was not very surprised this year to discover that I was now taller than Yiayia, but I was surprised to find that I had grown enough that the top of my head was now past Grandpa’s shoulder. He noticed too, making some comment about I had apparently been put on a rack and stretched.
Rather than sit out on the patio, we now gathered in the living room. A small air-conditioning unit had been installed the previous year, although since this trip was made in June we didn’t use it quite as much as we would have needed to later in the summer.
Conversations between the six of us varied in topic. When L and I were younger, I don’t really recall paying much attention to “adult” conversation, only really tuning in when something concerned me directly or if Grandpa started telling stories about Mom and her sisters when they were children. Now, as a teen, I became a more active participant. The living room was (and still is) set up centered on the coffee table. As you enter the room, this table is just off to your left, directly in front of the couch which is pushed up against the wall. Matching armchairs sit at either end. Across the table from the couch, with a walking path in between, are two more armchairs. Grandpa’s chair was the armchair located at the “head” of the coffee table; from here he could see the entire room, including the TV set up on the wall opposite the couch. Seating for the rest of us varied based on who was talking to whom. Whoever was speaking with Grandpa got that end of the couch or dragged the armchair on his right closer to him. Everyone else may start out in one place but would often move around as the conversation continued.
That summer, the conversation centered on two topics: the upcoming Olympics and the ongoing European Cup championship. In the evenings, we would actually turn on the TV and eat dinner while watching the big match of the day. Excitement was high in the city, as the Greek team was performing much better than expected. In the flat in the evenings, the games gave Grandpa an excuse to tease Mom about the fact that she continued to play soccer “at [her] age”. Mom was usually too wrapped up in the match to care much about these comments. I’m not typically one for watching sports, or playing them, but I didn’t mind watching the matches because it was fun to do it with family. The night that Greece played in the finals, we had the balcony door open to let in the fresh air. When the Greeks won, the city exploded with noise.
Although she avoided it for the first year after his death, Yiayia now sits in what I still think of as “Grandpa’s chair”. I walk around the coffee table until I can sit on the end of the couch nearest her. Her hearing is definitely worse than when I was last here, but she is still not sure if she wants to get hearing aids. On the one hand, she has a friend who loves his. On the other hand, Grandpa went through three pairs of the things and was never really happy with any of them.
Last night, I was a little worried if I would be able to converse easily with her now that the parents have left. Mom tends to dominate the conversation when she is there, so I haven’t really had much chance to speak with Yiayia about a topic of my choosing yet.
I was worrying for nothing. She has more questions about my new job, and I try to answer them as best I can. We also talk about the state of education both in the US and in Greece, and I tell some of my funnier stories from my time in a classroom. She then regales me with stories of when she was growing up in Egypt. It is good to see her smile and hear her laugh.
I stay for about an hour before saying that I want to get going. Before she will let me leave, I have to promise to come again this evening. I promise, and after a hug and kiss I am headed for the elevator.