“Are you studying or reading a book?”
That was the question my grandma asked me whenever she saw me reading. That was always her curiosity, even before her illness compelled her to ask that question every ten minutes, making it challenging for me to read anything around her.
Studying or reading? I found that distinction amusing, and—I confess—the question mildly annoying, but I always thought the correct answer had to be “Reading a book”. She always seemed pleased to hear that, and never wanted to know anything more.
It’s been more than twenty years, but it still puzzles me. My grandma was not against people studying. As someone herself who didn’t finish elementary school, she made sure her kids got their education—especially challenging with my dad, who would have rather spent his days kicking a ball with his friends who had less conscientious mothers. So maybe she was just curious. Maybe her slipping mind was still trying to make a connection with mine, like it used to when I was younger and we’d spend hours chatting about everything. Or maybe she was trying to make sure I got the spare time I deserved, in the summer or on Sunday afternoons.
But invariably the question pops up again in my brain every time I pick up a book: “Are you studying or reading a book?”
She should have known, though, that I was almost never studying.