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I was due to move in just over a week. My last trip home included a drive up to visit my extended family in southern Ohio, primarily my grandmother, Genie. I was aware that by moving a couple thousand miles away that I would likely miss one of the most important events of a person's life - the completion of it.

We drove up and back in the same day. We left the "town" portion of Jackson and drifted along a winding, hilly road to where my aunt Pat would be living. They were going to build a separate dwelling for the dogs so they could live outside. Off of that road, we took another. Back, further away from houses and street lights. Putting distance between us and commerce. A small cemetery appeared at the top of a hill to our right. We turned and pulled in, stopping to look at names and dates. The makeshift path, worn from tire tracks similar to our own, didn't turn left or right at the end. We had to reverse in order to leave the same way we came in, the names and dates playing back. I snapped a few pictures as my grandmother mumbled names, tracing family lines...guessing if anyone was familiar.

We've spoken a handful of times since I've been out here, always with the intention and promise of talking more. The last few phone conversations were while she was in a hospital bed. We spoke on Thanksgiving and less than a week later she entered the hospital, her stomach swollen with the black fluid from necrotic tissue in her intestines. She kept repeating that she was not a candidate for surgery. They invaded anyway. The prognosis was good. Then she had a heart attack while recovering. She coded and was given the paddles three times. A DNR was stamped onto her chart. They'll only use the paddles on patients who will live for at least 18 more months and it was increasingly apparent that she wasn't a part of that demographic.

She finally stabilized. The medicines were stopped and the breathing tubes removed. Fluid had been building up in her lungs, but she was breathing on her own...albeit laboredly. We spoke twice in the days before she died. I waited until visiting hours were over because I knew they were taking shifts to stay with her for every available moment. I'm not one of those people trying to squeeze every moment in. Instead, our conversations were about continuing to not say the things we had never said to each other, but that we both understood. She chuckled as she asked how "Steve" was...even though she knew his name was Phillip. We talked about clocks and things being expensive and accidentally walking out of a store with a bag full of someone else's ethnic holiday decorations. She asked me not to write any embarrassing stories about her while she was still alive. Not for her sake, but for the sake of people who might be walking with her in the event that she is recognized and they are paralyzed with embarrassment.

We said goodbye without saying goodbye. She said she was ready without saying she was ready. I said I was sorry without saying I was sorry. We told each other not to be sad without telling each other not to be sad.

My mother called me three hours after she found out at 5am by her clock, which happened to be 5am by my clock. The barrier or imaginary time zones torn down as 5am became a mysterious time for us all. She had gone peacefully. There were no signs of struggle or fear. They had checked on her at 4am - when she was breathing, and again at 5am - when she was not.

Late in life, she realized how much of a BeeGees fan she was. CDs were collected for her. DVDs were bought. She became a teenager again, even though well into her 70s. The energy in her speech and her step changed when the conversation turned toward those brothers Gibb. She laughed, she smiled, and apparently she partied. My uncle went to her apartment in the assisted living building where she'd lived since shortly after my grandfather died 20 years ago. Almost 20 years she'd lived there, but it was not her "home" in my eyes. He ran into a woman who was friends with Genie. She told him about how she had slumber parties of sorts with my grandmother. Three women, two of them with the same purple pajamas, would gather on occasion to blast the BeeGees and sing and dance and eat late at night. This was news to us all, but no surprise.

Despite the arthritis and the hip and the catheters and bruises and the balance problems and the medications and the depression...she had joy.

It was a comfort.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 30th, 2011 09:27 am (UTC)
I'm glad she had joy
Dec. 30th, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
If I knew that that would be my eulogy, I'd be pleased.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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