Saturday, January 29, 2005


My grandmother was so important to me. She had an immense influence on the person I am. She introduced me to classical music, and ballet, she gave me my first music lessons on my great grandmother's piano when I was a small child. She taught me how to sew and how to make applesauce, and she instilled in me a love and appreciation of beauty.

Almost exactly one year ago she was in Yuma, Arizona on vacation and I had this weird feeling - like time is short and passing quickly. I was thinking of how I used to stay at her house, and thinking of the bedroom upstairs where I would stay, and the brush I would use on my hair before bed. I was remembering all these little details that I hadn’t thought about for so many years.

I wrote her a letter and included this memory (archived). I hadn’t written her a letter in years; we mostly just kept in contact through the phone lines while she was out of town. I had this eerie feeling, like something would happen. Time is running out.

So I mailed her this letter, and 2 weeks later a package arrived for me in the mail. It was some abalone earrings (my birthday gift) and a letter from my grandmother in which she said how happy she was to get the letter from me and she loved reading about my memory of staying at her house. She told me that I am a wonderful writer and that she is so proud of me.

Then, when she came home, she started talking about pain in her abdomen.

She went to doctors and they could find nothing wrong with her so they gave her painkillers. When the painkillers didn’t take away her pain they gave her more. And then they gave her more tests and more painkillers.

In April, I read about a rhododendron garden in Portland and thought of my grandmother because she always loved rhododendron flowers as her favorite. So I called her and invited her to spend a few hours with me wandering amongst the rhododendron flowers. She picked me up when both of our schedules allowed, we had lunch and went to the rhodie garden. We took plenty of photos because we were both avid photographers. Afterwards, she drove me to the house in North Portland that my great grandfather built and that she lived in for many years. On the way there, she told me about her experience in the Vanport flood and the story of how her family had managed to survive it. It was a good day.

It hurts a lot to write this.

I miss my grandma.

Then, three weeks later, my mother was in the hospital having her back surgery and my grandma was there of course. We went into the bathroom alone together and she told me that her pain was getting worse and the doctors want to do an endoscopy, and had scheduled for the next week. I had no idea what would happen. I was thinking everything would be ok because my grandmother has always been so healthy.

The day came and she had her endoscopy.

My mother called me that night to tell me that my grandmother was dying.

I got my car from my moms house, had it insured, and commenced to drive out to the hospital every day to visit my grandmother. They kept her there for a week due to complications from the endoscopy. I will never forget about when my mother climbed onto the bed with her and they held each other and reminisced about grandmother's life. My mom told her that she would see my great uncle Ken and my great grandpa and great grandma and all of the people that she loved who had gone before.

In seven days, my grandmother got to go home. I started visiting twice weekly instead of daily because it was so far to my grandmas house (about 70 miles one way). The first week when I pulled up and came in the house, my grandfather was crying. The second week, my grandmother was lying on the couch and we just talked about her life. The third week she was asleep in the bedroom and I didn’t want to wake her up so I did not get to see her. The fourth week, she was also in bed and my aunt said that I do not want to see her because she is so thin she does not look like grandma anymore. She’d had to take off her rings because they were sliding off her fingers. She had lost so much weight. I had that dream two nights later, you know, the one about the gymnasium funeral where my grandmother disappears around the side of the house (archived). The next day my mother called me to say that she was gone.

Four days later was her funeral. We had the option of looking in the casket but I decided not to because I didn’t want to see her dead. I wanted to remember her as so vibrant, and alive, as she was in all of our happy moments together.

I remember when I was young and I would stay at her house, I would wake up in the morning to the smell of bacon or sausage and grandmas blueberry pancakes. She made the best pancakes. It was served with warm applesauce and lots of love. Then I would go with grandpa to ride on the tractor and feed the cows.

One last thing

I should tell you what she had.

She was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and by the time they found it, it had spread to her liver and stomach. The weird thing is, her brother died exactly 2 years and one week before she did of the exact same thing.

She was a wonderful person.

So that’s the story of what happened to my grandmother.

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