Friday, January 15, 2010
Ode to my Grandma
I am fortunate at 30 years old to have had both my grandmothers still living. My grandfathers died before I was born, and in fact my mom's stepdad and the only man I knew as grandfather also passed away a few years ago. When I was a baby, until I was three my maternal grandmother Frances lived with us and took care of me. I remember her being a fantastic story reader. She is an avid reader, passionately liberal, and, until recently a wonderful gourmet cook. My brother and I would go spend a week every summer staying with my grandparents and my grandma would make us all this fancy food we wouldn't eat. To grandma, simple mashed potatoes were red potatoes mashed with the skin, cream, green onions and tons of spices. She also was great at sewing and knitting-- until I was about 6 she made all of my clothes and made (and mended repeatedly) the baby blanket I carried everywhere with me as a toddler. She and my grandpa traveled a lot and she brought me dolls from everywhere they went, and then made tons of doll clothes for them all. As her only grandchildren, my brother and I were very spoiled and loved. In college when I was scraping by paying my own way through undergrad, my grandma sent me $100 every month to help pay my rent. She has always supported me in any way she could.
My grandma has unfortunately been in poor health for several years. She has arthritis which has lead to the degradation of cartilage in one of her shoulders-- she literally has none left and has bone on bone causing pain so severe she has been on high dose narcotics for years because she is not strong enough to withstand surgery. Narcotics have severe side-effects including loss of appetite and constipation. For the past few years she has had a hard time keeping her weight above 90 pounds (when she was younger she was 5'5-- despite some height shrinkage and being very small framed 90 pounds is definitely too thin).
After increasing abdominal pain over the past several weeks she had a scan that revealed masses on her pancreas and liver. Though the results are not back from the lab yet, she most likely has pancreatic cancer that is spreading. Her doctor is guessing she has at best maybe six months left to live. Given the grim prognosis of pancreatic cancer, plus her age and her delicate state, there is nothing they can do but keep her comfortable.
I don't really know what to do with this information. She has been so unwell the past couple of years that my parents moved to Oregon to be near her (and my uncle and other grandmother who all have health issues) and my mom has been a nearly full time care taker for a year and a half. Cancer at 84 years old is sad but not the same tragedy as cancer in the young. I am glad that her pain will come to an end and that she will get to be with my grandfather, who I never got to meet but who was the love of her life and her soulmate. On the other hand, I love her so much and I hate that she has to go through this and hate it even more that she is leaving the rest of us behind. I have never been very good at goodbyes.