My grandmother, who has been dying for the past 25 years, may be reaching the end. I just got a call that she has been flown to the Regina hospital with a gall bladder too large and infected to leave in, but impossible to take out. Antibiotics aren’t working. Through her cancer two-and-a-half decades ago, its recurrence a few years later, the surgical removal of half her jaw and cheek bone, her insecurity about looking like a “monster” leading to severe isolation, her decline to the point where she could no longer drive, then crochet, then clean, then eat, then breathe, to now – we have all been preparing for her death at any minute. She is 64.
I am waiting for the call that will send me to Regina to be with her, it is all I can do. Tomorrow or the next day we will know if she is getting better or worse. God, I hope my grandfather is doing alright. I can’t afford to take time off from school – I have two fifteen-page papers due in the next two weeks, along with a ton of other things. I can’t not go, though. Some things are more important than school.
A year ago exactly I had a miscarriage, and my paternal grandfather died. This summer, while I was at a family reunion at my grandparent’s place, a dear friend passed away. Since I had to leave the reunion early, my grandmother promised me that she would stay alive until Thanksgiving, but that she couldn’t make any promises beyond that. AB and I went and had a pleasant Thanksgiving with them a couple of weeks ago, and hadn’t heard anything until today’s phone call. Of course I hope that my grandma recuperates, but if she doesn’t, at least we had that holiday together. My brother hasn’t seen her in five years.
Waiting is so hard. For my entire life, my whole family has been expecting my grandma to die. Every time I said goodbye to her, “See you at Easter!” her reply was always “If I make it,” or “Maybe.” When I was 12 she started asking me to put my name on the bottom of things that I wanted. She asked me every time I saw her. This past visit, she gave me a box with my name on it, filled with things I had given her over the years – coins from Malaysia, letters I had written – and a book on grief. Now we are waiting to see if she makes it through, if we get to keep waiting, or if the waiting is soon ending.