For as long as I can remember my grandmother slept in the downstairs living room of their tri-level home. That part of the house was originally constructed to serve as an apartment. Along one wall was a stove, a sink and cupboards, a small bedroom was accessed through the sitting room. Upstairs was the family room. This was for company, the couch where I spent my teenage weekends had been purchased the year they moved in. My mother was 6.
For 30 years the two spent their evenings downstairs. While the family room saw birthday decorations and seasonal changes, not a thing deviated below. Even when the television developed a thin white line in the middle of the screen my grandmother refused to replace it. In her opinion, it still worked just fine.
While she fought change, my grandpa delighted in it. By the time he retired the world had smartcars, smartphones and smartwater. This encouraged him to upgrade the family room with an HD television and a new recliner. But downstairs, little changed. The television was replaced through the guerrilla tactics of my uncle and grandfather. In the little bedroom the red curtains and carpet remained, but the furniture was removed piece by piece when I married.
“If she’s going to be staying with us for a few weeks then we’ll need to get a mattress,” my grandpa said. “I’ve been needing to get a new one for awhile anyway.” He slapped his rounded stomach and smiled at my grandma, oblivious to the signs written all over her face.
“We can go tomorrow. But I don’t want you rushing me out the door. No fancy mattress either, you don’t need a remote, or a pedia… tempa… those NASA beds they advertise. You know what I’m talking about.” She waved her hand and went back to scribbling in her notebook.
The next afternoon my grandfather was herded down an isle of beds by a fidgety man who asked him a series of questions and made marks on a clipboard when he answered.
“What about this one, Mr. MacDonald? On a scale of 1 to 10, how comfortable would you say this one is?”
He shifted and rolled to his side to more carefully consider his answer. “I’d say it’s the same as the last one.”
“Are you sure?” The first two mattresses were set up to show potential customers the difference between a state of the art bed, and one of your typical inner spring variety.
“I’m sure,” If he had detected a difference, he probably wouldn’t have admitted it. For the next hour this continued, the salesman brought him around to mattress after mattress and talked about pillow tops versus memory foam, Temurpedic versus Serta and the importance of pressure points. Eventually a decision was made. The $859.46 bill was paid in exact change.
Two days later it was delivered and installed in the bedroom with the red carpet. We were pulling the protective sheet over the mattress when I became curious.
“Why didn’t you pay the movers extra to bring the old bed down here? You got it for yourself, you should be sleeping on it.”
“I didn’t really get it for myself,” he said. “If your grandma knows it’s in here, maybe here she’ll sleep on it. Instead of that chair in there.” We finished dressing the bed in silence.
“Besides,” he continued, when we stopped to admire our handiwork, “I liked the one with the remote.”