Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My grandmother knows something I do not know

Blanche by Kate Green

My grandmother has lived a long time also. The woman - I feel she that if she had not lived (it's true) that I would not be here. This poem, written by Kate Green for her grandmother touches me deeply inside - deep down where I feel I must touch my grandmother but I cannot reach her. I sit in her apartment. She sits. We watch the children. Oh, I know she loves them and (I imagine she) thinks my grandfather who died even before I was born. I think of my aunt Joan who died as a baby of a brain tumor. She was blind. My mother knew her (she was the oldest child, my mother was.) She cared for her, diapers, bottles, crying, playing but she died a long time ago. I didn't even know about her until I was sixteen or so. I asked, "Who is this infant in this picture? Is it you or Roseann, mom?" My mother told me it was her sister Joan and left it at that. Only later did I pry the painful details from her. I know my grandmother was hurt - who could not be hurt by the loss of a child - a toddler? My grandmother knows her whole life - has seen her parents die, her husband, her brothers and sisters - her youngest sister just weeks ago. She knows something that I do not know and will never know until I too have seen them all die.


As a cancer survivor, I have faced death since writing this poem reaction. My grandmother - we did reach. We touched. She was so very kind. I was home from the hospital for a weekend. I had tubes hanging out of all sorts of places on my chest and belly. I was so thin - less than 100 pounds - I was just trying to make it through August to make it through to my birthday so I could have my transplant. After what seemed an eternity, everyone left the room. Most went outside, I think they were preparing a BBQ meal - hamburgers maybe - my dad's hamburgers were small round balls. My grandma sat in the rocking chair, her back to the bank of windows. I sat on a chair directly in front of her. We held hands. I told her I didn't want to die, but I was ready. I wasn't afraid. I told her I wasn't supposed to die before her. We looked into each others eyes. We cried.

I was with my grandmother when she died a decade later. I had a chance to be alone with her, tell her I loved her and held her hand. She couldn't speak. She was afraid. I saw it in her eyes. Later the nurse said it was time. Grandma's vital signs were waning. Her limbs were becoming cold. We entered her room: my mom and dad, my aunt Roseann, my aunt Maryann and Uncle Tom. I stayed near the end of grandma's bed. I reached out and took hold of her left foot and gave it a squeeze. "We love you." "You can let go now, it's okay." Grandma's breath became irregular and shallow. My dad said, "she is coming in for a soft landing." The heart monitor showed a slowing of action. Grandma took a sudden breath and exhaled. I thought she was gone - we all did - then she gasped again - pulling in air. We were startled. My dad, having seen many people die, was not phased. She did indeed come in for a soft landing. Her slowing heart, her slowing breath and finally, peace.


I have selfishly neglected my blog recently. I have been struggling for 5 weeks with bronchitis. Of course, every time I get sick, I immediately go to the "cancer" place in my mind. It nags at me. I have no energy to do anything but exist. My dear husband asked me to finally get groceries delivered. I couldn't shop. I couldn't walk more than 1/2 a block without being winded. I missed 6 days - unpaid - of work. I have seen the doctor 5 times, taken 100 - 600mg tablets of Mucinex in the month, taken a course of antibiotics that causes tendinitis - because I am allergic to most drug classes. Taken a burst of prednisone, and resorted to using an inhaler to manage breathing. I have nearly stopped drinking diet coke and switched to water - something that surprises me and amuses those who  know me best. I am only now starting to fell a little better. I hope I will continue to improve. There is too much life I want to live to give it up just yet.

I will attempt to continue my regular posting as soon as I am able!

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