My grandmother is dying. By the time you read this, she will probably be dead. Cancer in her lungs and liver are killing her, the mid-century parties of her youth catching up fast.
She lives four blocks from my family, a short, shady walk. Today, I went to see her. She is bed-ridden, barely conscious. Each breathe rattles in and out. I sat with my parents, and held her hand for an hour, before stepping out. I don’t know yet, but it might be the last time I see my grandmother alive.
It was a beautiful day out, so I took a walk. One of my friends described the weather to me as being “like a hand dryer in a public restroom: slightly warm and a slightly windy.” Despite the imagery he evokes, it was an absolutely beautiful day. Warm, sunny, literally not a cloud in the sky. I wandered a little bit, and ended up sitting at the top of a bluff, overlooking the Willamette River. I sat down in a field of tall grass, and while I didn’t really want to, it was an amazing spring day, I thought about my grandmothers cancer.
On the Tuesday of spring break, I had gone hiking to the top of Multnomah Falls with my friend Rachael. While we were ostensibly on spring break, that third week of March is as wintry as any other in Oregon, and that day was cold enough that we wore winter coats for the strenuous hike.
When we got home early in the afternoon, I walked in to find my mom eating tachos and drinking a Coke. For the uninitiated, tachos are tater tot-nachos, a rare treat for my fit, middle-aged mother. The Coke too, is something she indulges in only rarely, and it was immediately clear something was not as it ought to be.
Two weeks after my grandmother’s cancer diagnosis, she decided she was too sick to drive, leaving her baby-blue 2002 Toyota Prius (with requisite old lady bumper stickers for public libraries and all-classical radio stations) in front of our house. Three days later, I turned sixteen, and the week after that I got my drivers license. Now, as my grandmother slipped from the adult world, I was taking another step into it. I had a car, and even if my parents are very adamant, “It’s not your car!” my mom said, reading over my shoulder as I type, I am the one carrying the key on my keychain.
I turned sixteen, and got a car and a drivers license all in early April, as winter segued to that rainy in-between season segued to spring. As time went on, my grandmother’s condition continued to deteriorate. By the last week of April my friends and I were eating lunch outside every day, and my grandmother spent all day in an La-Z-Boy in her living room. She was on full-time hospice care by then, allowing the cancer to take her with the knowledge that her time had come.
Now, I suspect she has only days, if not hours, remaining. As I write on a Sunday evening, I think she is not likely to survive to see Wednesday. While I sat in the field on the bluff, after seeing my grandmother, two flies buzzed around my head. While I am no expert on the behavior of Musca domestica, it seemed to me that these flies were mating. These two flies were just completing the circle of life, of birth and death and new life and more death and more life. A third fly, dead, lay in the grass at my feet.
As the Earth circled the sun, winter became spring. My grandmother’s winter is rapidly ending, and my spring is beginning. While I will be saddened by my grandmothers death, I won’t be. Flies come, flies go, seasons come, seasons go. People too, come and go. I will go someday, it’s inevitable. C’est la vie, as the French say. It’s just life.
Mimi passed away May 6, less than a day after I finished this. Sunday Dinner's should return next week in full force.