Friday, January 20, 2017

The Best Roommate I Ever Had

"Roommates" is a great conversation starter. Everyone's got a roommate story or two--good or bad or weird or whatever. If you don't, though, don't feel bad; I've got enough for the both of us.

From the time I moved out of my parents' house at 18 to the time Barclay became my final housemate of choice (well, and we decided to let Sullivan live with us too), I lived with 20 different people - some of them twice. I guess there was a time where I moved around a fair amount (because I could), but I've also done the sardine thing more than once (like the time we packed five girls into a tiny two bedroom apartment for the summer in Saskatoon or the time there were six or seven of us in a trailer in the mountains).

You wanna talk roommates? Love to, always.

The other day, I was driving with a friend and the topic came up. We exchanged some great Can You Believe It stories and a couple Can't Even ones and then we laughed at ourselves a little (because there's always that cringeworthy moment, right, where you look back at your past self and realize that you were the awful roommate) and then I said the thing I always say when Roommates is the subject matter:

"Barclay's grandma Guzz was the best roommate I ever had."

I lived with her for a summer back in 2009. It was kind of a blur of events leading up to me moving into her basement, and then I was only going to stay a couple of days...but that summer was weird and things with our house renovations took longer than expected and it moved from strange in-between-limbo-situation to I-think-I'm-living-here-is-that-okay type thing.

Do you know what I mean when I say that for some people in my life, I can think of a single story that sums them up? Most of the time it's a trivial little incident or even a moment, but it captures something about that person or about my relationship with that person so well that it always pops into my mind when I think about them. Instead of their face, there's a picture of something else, like the memory is a literal book and the picture is the cover of it.

I have one of those for Guzz; when I think about her, I picture a green pepper, chopped up and sitting on a plate. The story goes like this:

The first morning I woke up at her house, I came up the stairs to find her waiting for me with a box of Raisin Bran and the Yahtzee dice. She seemed nervous, almost frantic. She said, "I don't know what you like to eat for breakfast! This is all I've got in the cupboard!"

I said, "No, this is so great--I love Raisin Bran!" I didn't love Raisin Bran, really. Is it bad that I lied? I just wanted to make a good first (as a roommate) impression, and I didn't know her that well back then, and she was my fiancé's grandmother, and it was so nice of her to even offer me breakfast, and it's not like I hated Raisin Bran, exactly, so...

So I sat down and gratefully polished the bowl off and we played Yahtzee. At some point in the game, she said something about green peppers--I cannot for the life of me remember what it was now--and I, being the felicitous conversationalist that I am, said something about liking them.

I went to work that day, and when I came home there was a raw green pepper on a plate on the table, cut into neat slivers, and the cupboard was stocked to the gills with Raisin Bran.

And good Grandma Guzz did not miss a day with either the peppers or the Raisin Bran. I would come home from work and eat my pepper while we played Yahtzee, and she would sit and watch me with a trace of fascinated disgust on her face. She'd say, "I don't like peppers that much. I don't know how you eat it like that, like an apple!" I didn't tell her that I'd never eaten a pepper like that before either.

But something else I didn't tell her, that I really should've (I really wish I would've), is that there was something amazing about walking into the house after work and seeing that I was anticipated and thought of and cared for, every single day. Do you know what that does to a person? It's incredible. Raw pepper was not my favourite thing, but eating a raw pepper in front of Guzz became my favourite thing.

And at her funeral yesterday, I realized that the green pepper story is a universal one for anyone who knew Guzz. I mean, I was the only one who got a chopped up green pepper, that was my Thing, but that was kind of her love language, trying to figure out the Thing that a person liked so she could give it to them, over and over and over.

Bonus points if she got to watch them enjoy it.

I may not have been a blood grandchild, but I'm really thankful I got to marry in and become an honorary one, even if it was only for a short time. Someone with as big a personality as Guzz had didn't need that much time to make a big impression, anyway.