Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

My grandmother died thirteen years ago. Not today, I don't think, but in September of that year. This is the story I always think about at this time of year:

My mother calls my grandmother one day when she knows my aunt is visiting. "Where's Barbara?" she asks my grandma.

"Oh, she went to the funeral parlor for me."

My mother, understandably, is confused by this. When my aunt returns a little later, it turns out that she had gone to the pharmacy.

Hearing this story sends a shiver down my spine. I just know something is wrong. I urge my mom to make sure my grandma sees a doctor. Not long after, we have the diagnosis: gliobalstoma. A nasty, incurable, inoperable brain tumor. Another shiver--this is what my grandfather had died of, more than thirty years ago, a good seven years before I was born, when my mother and aunt were just teenagers.

My grandmother, in typical cranky-old-lady mode (it is, frankly, what she was, though I loved her more than anything), has a moment of clarity before such things are gone forever: "If I'd known this was what I'd die of, I'd have never quit smoking."

A few months pass. We decline varoius treatments on her behalf. I spend a lot of time at the hospital on the weekends, trying to find my grandma inside a woman riddled with strange behaviors and nonsensical language. The day I found her sitting on her hospital bed, compulsively tearing out all the pages of her TV Guide and putting them into piles using a logic only she knew about, was the day I mourned her death. The day I came in and saw all the cards around her bed, and noticed that underneath each and every one of the signatures was a 'copied' version of the signature, done in pencil, by my grandma, was the day my heart broke for her.

One day, after she'd been moved to a hospice and no longer knew any of us by name or face, my aunt called. "I went to the funeral parlor today," she said, and every hair on my body stood up in protest of the eeriness, the echo, in that statement. My grandmother's prophecy had come true.

Having made the appropriate arrangements for my grandmother's funeral, my aunt told my grandma that it was OK for her to go now. She died in her sleep that night.

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