Part I — My crazy-cheap grandma
My grandmother–bless her heart–is the cheapest woman in the world. She’s one of those grew-up-during-the-great-depression types. You know the kind, right? The kind with a jar of string labeled “String too short to use” and a drawer full of used, washed, flattened aluminum foil. That’s my grandma. Even among her generation, she’s crazy-cheap. I know this because I’ve compared war-stories with lots of other people. This is a woman who monitors the use of toilet paper in her house (one square per use) and who uses the same water to boil vegetables day after day. She was buying in bulk long before it was cool. Her basement used to be full of boxes of cereal labeled things like “Post Toasties — July ’94.”
My grandmother is 95 and I feel so blessed that she’s lived this long. However (there’s always a however, isn’t there?), throughout my life, her crazy-cheapness has been a source of amusement and embarrassment and chagrin. While I love her, I’m not gonna lie. On more than one occasion, I wished I had a normal grandmother. Someone who would just bake me cookies instead of lecturing me about the value of the stamp. (Not even joking on that one.)
Part II — Yeah, I know I’m crazy
So here’s the awkward part. I’m a little crazy. Not in a cute writer way either, but in an annoying OCD way. My particular branch of crazy is related to the environment. I’m super aware of ecological issues. We recycle. We hang our clothes out to dry. We compost. We have an organic garden. We have chickens. We … you get the point. Yes, all of that stuff is fun and most of it is easier than you’d think. And I enjoy it.
But I’m also aware that my total devotion to all things green borders on the obsessive. Sometimes it’s on the normal side of the border. Sometimes it’s on the obsessive side. Some moms worry about germs. I worry about our carbon footprint. I know I’m a little OCD about it. I try to keep it under wraps, but I am aware that my ecology isn’t a sign of my emotional stability. I know I can tip over. I try to keep the crazy under wraps. And somehow being OCD about green stuff, allows to let other things go. It gives a focus to the crazy. It makes me feel like I’m in control. I can’t stop global climate change, but I can hang my jeans out to dry. For me, it works.
Part III — My awkward Self-examination
This weekend as I was composting chicken poop — yes, I know. Obsessive, right? — I had a light bulb moment. Yes, I’m crazy-green. But I’m also crazy green. Maybe my Grandmother is the same way. Maybe she’s not just crazy-cheap. Maybe she’s also crazy cheap. Maybe her obsession with saving every penny is her way of managing
In case you think I’m sounding judgmental here, I don’t mean to. Just the opposite, in fact. This realization has made me feel more … sympathetic, maybe. In the past, her cheapness has (sometimes) bugged the crap out me. Sometimes, it’s made it hard to even be with her. “Ugh. I need to mail XY&Z to Grandma, but I know she’s going to harass me later if I mail it Fedex. I just won’t mail it.” Which then leads to: “Ugh, I meant to mail her XY&Z. I don’t want to call her because she’ll harass me about that.”
Thanks to my new understanding, I can approach it differently. Now I can think, “Okay, doing it her way may be a pain in the ass, but I understand now. It’s not just cheapness. It’s something else. Something I can relate to.”
Now, will my new understanding lead to greater peace, contentment and acceptance in my relationship with my Grandmother? I don’t know. Maybe. I hope so, because I love her and enjoy her company when she’s not getting on my last ever-lovin’ nerve. How great would it be if my own form of crazy leads to a deeper relationship with my grandmother?
So how about you? Do you have a touch of OCD? Do you have family members who drive you crazy? How do you handle it?