Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Life lessons

Last Thursday after we got back from her post-cataract surgery exam, my grandma cut a bunch of lilacs from her bushes and gave them to me. Then she shoved a ten dollar bill in my bra. I fished it out and double checked that it was only a ten though, because the day I drove her to her cataract surgery, she had slipped me a hundred. And since there's no arguing with my grandma (because even though I left that hundred at her house, I STILL wound up with it), I accepted the ten and lilacs and kissed her papery soft cheek in thanks.

She apologized that she had nothing cooked or baked, and instead she whipped out fresh strawberries, grapes, pineapple, bananas, crackers and peanut butter to snack on. I let her fuss and fix me a Diet Coke. I sat with her for a while and chatted while she buzzed and offered and never sat still. Even with a blurry bum eye, she insisted I eat something, drink something, have anything I wanted.

And when it was time for me to go, her face visibly fell in disappointment. She asked if I had to leave, and as much as I wanted to stay, I had three babies at home who needed dinner and anatomy homework that needed finished. She profusely thanked me for just driving her to her appointment, and I told her I'd see her soon.

I don't see my grandma as much as I should. And I can brush it off and say I'm busy, and I am, but that's really no excuse. Grandma turned 76 in March. She just had cataract surgery on her left eye, and they want to do her right eye this summer. She battles high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She's getting spacier and more forgetful. She's relatively healthy, but still. 76.


The husband's mom passed away last month. We got the call in February that she had liver cancer. Over the next month, she went from sounding completely like herself to being admitted to the hospital to being not awake to not being alive. In one month. She was 58.

The husband and I got to see her before she died. He drove down on a Monday, and after the husband's sometimes hourly reports, I flew down to be with him that Friday. She died on Saturday. She was pretty doped up and was on a ventilator, but she reacted to voices and touch. I held her hand, which is an exact replica of the husband's even down to the fingernails, and whispered into her ear. I told her that she was a good mother-in-law. I told her she was an excellent mom who had raised three awesome kids, but that she shouldn't worry because I'd take care of her son and grandbabies. It was hands-down the hardest thing I've ever done.

My mother-in-law and I weren't the bestest of friends. We didn't fight or argue or not get along, I just held onto some rather large grudges that prevented me from opening up to her and really talking to her and being a friend. But let me offer a word of advice, don't do this. Don't be an ass over things that have happened years ago. Let shit go. Really. It does no one any good.
I realized as she lay in her hospital bed in the ICU that I'd never gotten to ask her when she everything I wanted to know about the husband. Things only moms know. Like when did she potty train him? Was it an arduous process? Did she cut the crusts off his sandwiches? We had talked a little about when the husband and his siblings were little, but I know we didn't cover everything. And now I'll never get to ask.

We're still dealing with her passing. We're still reeling from the fact that it all happened so fast. And while I'm not the-glass-is-half-full kinda girl, I'm trying to find the silver lining in all of it. If anything, she's taught us not to take people for granted. Don't assume the people you care about will be around forever. Patch up past arguments now. Visit them, tell them that you love them and appreciate them. Pick up the phone and ask your grandma how her lilacs are blooming. You'll make her whole damn day, and maybe you can ensure that when she dies, your heart will break from the loss and sadness instead of being consumed whole by regret and guilt.

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