Then I got a text from Mum saying she’d gone to see Grandma on Wednesday morning.
“When I walked in, she was peeling spuds!! And I said, “OMG you nearly died 2 days ago what are you doing!?”
It was pretty obvious what Grandma was doing. She was peeling spuds. They don’t peel themselves.
The crux of the matter, though, is that Grandma is a tough old bird. Several times I have believed she must be about to die and then she just gets up and starts peeling potatoes.
Mum brought up the topic of my uncle’s childhood tapeworm, in particular, the gathering method of the worm.
Another time when she had been quite sick, Mum found her washing her cat in the laundry sink, as strange as that sounds. You can’t keep a good woman down.
Me, on the other hand, I get a bit of a cough and you won’t see me preparing a vegetable for days.
Still, it is that season for illness. I’ve had a pretty clear run this winter but earlier in the week I freaked out because I thought I had ringworm. It was a red circular mark on my chest. I’d forgotten it was just a scratch from my cat because I’d held him like a baby for too long. Anyway, for a split second I thought I’d been transported back to school days when everyone seemed to have ringworm at one point or another.
I hate worms. Worms of any kind. I barely even like looking at spaghetti on a plate. I think it stems from a historical worm in my family. Somewhere back in the 1950s when my uncle was a child, he had tapeworm.
Legend has it that Grandma (possibly after peeling some potatoes) lured the offending worm using the tried and trusted technique of shining a torch near my uncle’s young bottom. She put it in a jar to show her kids what it looked like.
This simple zoology lesson took a turn for the worse when my mother teased my uncle about it and started a family fight.
Considering this was many decades ago and that worm is be long dead, I found it most amusing that it could still cause havoc from beyond the great worm farm in the sky.
I was living in London, enjoying a wintry Christmas and took a phone call from home. It was Mum.
Their New Zealand family Christmas had ended with some terse words because Mum brought up the topic of my uncle’s childhood tapeworm, in particular, the gathering method of the worm.
Everybody laughed because it was bloody funny. Not for the uncle who had once harboured the worm, though. He was mighty angry and Christmas was over.
I suppose Grandma had peeled a lot of potatoes that day as well.
Anyway, excuse my dalliance into the things I hate most, worms and my Grandma being sick.
I am heading down to Timaru as soon as possible though, to take over nursing duties. I am a bit bossier with Grandma than the others. I will remove the peeler from her 96-year-old hand and tell her off for being so naughty. I will let her watch Coronation Street then send her straight to bed.
I will also ask her to recount the tale of the tapeworm and see if a single word of it is true. Even if it’s not an entirely accurate account, I don’t care. The legend of the family tapeworm must live on.
PS. I found out my cousin thought the worm was lured out by Grandma putting a piece of meat near my uncle's bum. We put our theories to Grandma at the weekend and she got very cross and said she'd done no such thing. She just happened to see it in the outhouse where they lived in Kyeburn as it was just in a bucket. Sorry about this revealing information.