I had made a trip home to see my Grandmother in late June.
The baby was turning one and she had never seen him. But my visit coincided with her tests. And before I left we knew it was cancer.
I will never forget her talking about his curly baby hair. (she loved curly hair) And him stretched out on a blanket on her living room floor sound asleep as I had slept so many times in my life. My Grandmother was my anchor in a stormy life. Her home, although it changed every year as she moved from apartment to condo, was my refuge, my sanctuary. I was only home for a week and I had to leave her.
I called her almost every day..
Phone calls really didn't convey to me that this, the second round of cancer (it was a different kind) was fast and deadly. Maybe I didn't want to know or hear. I called her and called her. Listening for a change, a sign that she was getting better.
Finally one day in the middle of September I was talking with her. She could barely speak. I just made out her saying, "you come". I was on the next flight out. Absolutely didn't have the money, left a homeschooled first grader and one year old with my bewildered husband who just said, go we will figure it our later.
I got in that evening. They met me at the airport. We drove straight to the hospital. The hospital where I was born. She didn't recognize me at first. Someone put her glasses on, she looked at me. I held her hand. The aunts were tired and wanted to go.
I wanted to stay.
I didn't fight them.
She would be here tomorrow, she had never not been there for me. I never thought it would be our last visit. I never thought I would never talk to her again. She was in so much pain. But she had waited for me to get there.
One last goodbye.
The aunts were there to drive us back to her house. We joked like old times and I slept.
The call came before we made it back to the hospital the next morning. She was gone.
We arrived, and other family were there. The nurse said, I have to remove her rings. I need someone from the family. No one could go. I will, I said. I stood there tears soaking my soul as she washed Gram's hands tenderly. I said, those hands bathed so many babies. She smiled and handed me the rings. I slipped them on my fingers and clenched my fist.
The hurt was so bad. She was too young to leave us. She had done everything in her life so quickly, married and a family before the end of the war, before her twentieth year. A grandmother in her forties. But it was too soon. I was not ready to let her go. It was out of my hands no though, she was gone.
That is what cancer does to a family. It is more than pink ribbons and provocative phrases. It isn't cute, funny, or flippant.
This is why I hate cancer.