So, tomorrow afternoon, I took out My Dietary and on the second page I wrote, and I will continue to write:
Tuesday May 3 – 3:30:12 p.m. Went to Doctor. Weight 191 and 3/4 pounds. He gave me a diet to follow, 800 calories a day. I will start on it at supper and afterwards I’ll take the vitamins he gave me. This is going to be fun.
Wednesday May 4 – 300 calories a.m. I put it down that way, instead of 7:32:45 a.m. because when I’m on a diet, my time is very important. It isn’t past, the future is weightless. There is only an eternal present. And it is counted in calories, not in hours, minutes, and seconds. Instead of 24 hours in a day there are 800 calories. Hours between meals are fatuous and vacuous, there is nothing in them. The day becomes divided into three parts. Only the moments at breakfast, when I can have 300 calories; luncheon when I am allowed only 100 calories; and dinnertime, when I’m done again with Duke Humphrey, and I feast upon, but do not fatten upon, some 400 calories, actually matter.
This is the second day of my diet. Already there is a gnawing in the pit of my stomach. I await the next meal with great anticipation, although I know that the realization will not satisfy me. Even the rehash will not satiate. Just as my breakfast and thinking about it afterwards left me down in the mouth. Can I make it till lunch? I am swallowed up by self-pity.
From page 192 of “Signs Along the Way”.
I hear you, Grandma – I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t worried about calorie intake… and don’t EVEN want to think how hard it would be to stick to only 800! My Fitness Pal allows a generous 1220 calories for the whole day, but I can’t for the life of me stay under that amount. Keeping track of intake/calories burned is a whole lot easier now than it was when Grandma Layton was dieting, there are all kinds of apps, devices, and of course you can always google how many calories are in that malted milkshake…
It’s true, growing old is not for the weak of willpower. Gray streaks in my long locks don’t concern me, and I have sadly accepted my sagging and crepe paper-thin skin – even my old-lady elbows and knees. But my lack of self-control and expanding waistline is an issue I have decided to tackle head-on, fearlessly, the same way Grandma Layton responded to societys misconceptions and ignorance of the aging process through her art. Will I draw myself naked on a scale? No. I will simply pull up my Big Girl jogging pants, suck it up, and seriously count calories. Right this minute: Monday Sept. 7 – 300 calories p.m.
Even though it had been ten years since the last electric shock treatment, the sisters were still uneasy when their mother would offer to take her grandchildren out for the day. They could never be sure if Elizabeth was suffering a manic phase, or dare to hope that this might be a hint of the return of their once adventurous mother. Elizabeth was adept at masking her depression when she had to, and keeping busy with the grandchildren added some structure and light to a boring and restrictive household routine. Besides, she loved being a grandmother, and was determined not to let anyone hold her back from fulfilling those duties.
…from page 228 of “Signs Along the Way”
It is so good for us that Grandma Layton was so involved in our lives, in spite of our mother’s initial resistance. I can’t even imagine my childhood without Grandma in it… Would I know how to swim? Or sew? Or read, or write a book? Or spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? Or learn grace, independence, and how to write a thank you card? I don’t know – maybe. Well, probably – Mom was taught well by her mother, and she passed along a lot of those finer qualities – but it was a lot more fun with Grandma!
Mom adored her grandchildren, and she led them down a more cultural path: weekends at the Renaissance Festival, art shows, National Geographic magazines, telescopes, microscopes – and attended every school function she could – proudly applauding with every award collected by her little geniuses.
Alas – half-truths and outright lies, ulterior motives and control issues (among other character flaws) from a certain in-law have fathered family estrangements, and I have been branded a pariah by some souls I love the most – unable to heed my grandmotherly calling. The truth about grandmothers is that we are also mothers. And granddaughters. We’ve lived the spectrum, and will never settle for any of those roles by title only. What woman wants to go through the hard work of raising a child, and then be denied the joys of playing with her grandchildren? I would have been a wonderful grandma – I did learn from the very best!
Grandma Layton’s Mother’s Day drawing is at the head of this conversation, the caption reads: “Here sits the Matriarch on her throne, taking, taking, yet demanding more. I call this my sick cow look.” I couldn’t have gifted this drawing to a more deserving person…
Grandma Layton was an insatiable reader and prolific note-writer. Which both helped and hindered our efforts at putting together her biography, “Signs Along the Way” – with literally thousands of slips of papers, backs of envelopes, napkins, old receipts, etc. to go through, it’s a miracle we ever finished the book! Many were simply lists of words, or simple phrases she hoped to use in a short story, or perhaps to help develop a character. Other papers were filled to the brim with notable quotes, news of the day, something she had read or wanted to know more about. Say, for instance, she found an especially beautiful flower, nestled in a crevice by the side of a dirt road deep in the heart of Franklin County. And it was pale blue, with little flecks of purple, and touches of white. Grandma would have to know its name, because that’s just how she was. The resulting search could possibly take days, even weeks, reading through flower books, magazines, encyclopedias – and probably calling friends and neighbors if necessary. While retyping one of Grandma Layton’s short stories, I came across “Henry’s Flivver”, and thought it was misspelled, because I’d never heard of such a thing. In about ten seconds I discovered that it was a car – one of the first Fords – without leaving my chair… I began to imagine how much time that would have saved Grandma, how much she would have learned on top of everything she already knew, and how intriguing she would find that journey.
I forgot about the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (yes, I had to look that up). I have found that an innocent internet search can go from pleasant to horrific in as few as three clicks of the mouse. Watching Dressage videos, the Dancing Mare in particular, is one of my favorite computer entertainment pastimes. Well, I wanted to see more. Three clicks later I was into the middle of a rodeo video that I wish I could unsee. After three or four such excursions, I have learned to stay on topic. I’m too old, and have seen enough tragedy and cruelty to know that it exists, and that I can’t save or change the entire world, just do my best in my small part of it.
Grandma Layton’s life and art work dispels the myths and misconceptions of mental illness and old age, and she did it all the old-fashioned way – without the internet! — Carla