Grandmother-in-law Emma Belsky tiresĀ from ten loops around the inside of the screened rear patio at my mother-in-law’s house, but does not tireĀ from repeating stories of her former days hustling around a Pennsylvania farm. Anyone within hearing distance of Emma B. (she’s the same Emma from the first sentence; there’s no need to repeat her last name) will become, if they’re not already, a de-facto expert on milking cows, gathering chicken eggs, and guzzling screwdrivers–er, I mean, driving screws into barn walls, for installing hooks for hanging stuff useful around a farm, like rakes and extension cords.

Emma’s unwitting audience also accrues knowledge of her high opinion of Oreo cookies, hot milk, and honey-smeared toast. And that’s about all they’ll learn. But they’ll learn it darn well, as Emma will pass on no new morsels from her memory, no opinions of the superiority of one denture glue over another, and no useful pointers on living nine decades–though she often repeats “just wait till you 90!” in response to any questioning of her mental health.

As a rule, every rule has an exception. And that rule has no exception. Six days ago I witnessed a spectacle of science: G-i-l Emma was pushing her walker across the rear of the living room. The television was flashing the previous night’s highlights of the Washington Wizards. She glanced at the picturebox, paused in her slow tracks, looked directly at me, and announced: “how those black men can jump so high!”