When I was 17 my grandmother had major surgery. She had an aneurysm in one of the arteries leading to her brain, or away from the brain, I can’t remember is veins go to the brain or arteries, but it was a major blood vessel and the surgery was a big deal. As the doctors explained it, an aneurysm is like a balloon, and what the doctors planned to do was clamp the aneurysm at the neck, then since blood is no longer feeding it, it shrivels up and is no longer a threat to burst and bleed and kill her. The surgery was not a success, when the doctors got in there it was too big, the aneurysm was sitting on the artery and the doctors couldn’t get to the neck to clamp it off. So instead they closed off the artery and ‘redirected’ the blood. So she lived, sort of, she was paralyzed on one side of her body and spent the rest of her life not able to care for her basic needs. I remember so many details of that trip to see her when I was 17, I remember one of my tops was lavender and gauzy, I remember after she got out of intensive care she was on the 6th floor, I was knitting a baby blanket for a friend. I vividly remember my grandfather crying in the waiting room and my aunt telling someone (not me specifically) that her husband (who had been sitting next to my grandfather) told her, “I hope I die before you.” She told him that was selfish, he said: “I know.” He also got his wish.

For the past week, ever since I started thinking about writing this post I have tried to remember when she died, I am ashamed to say I can’t. I remember I was sitting at home watching T.V. and a friend of my brother’s was over, we were watching some comedy when the phone rang. But I don’t remember when that happened. I didn’t go to her funeral, I made some excuse about not being able to get time off from work, the truth was I didn’t even ask for the time because I didn’t want to go. That’s the truth, maybe I should add “World’s Worst Granddaughter” to my list of titles. The real truth was, I lost her when I was 17, not when she died.

My grannie was a strong woman who bore 6 children and raised 4 of them to adulthood and buried 2. She was a woman who didn’t let an ice storm keep her from doing her laundry, she hammered nails through pieces of plywood and tied them to her feet so she could make it to the laundry room. When her husband (my grandfather) complained she wasn’t putting enough starch in the wash she proceeded to starch his undershorts (he meant his shirts needed more starch, as far as I know he never complained about the laundry again). When the nasty old rooster spurred her and knocked her glasses off, she grabbed his head and twisted it clean off his body, into the stew pot he went! My father reports that she cooked him for three days and that old bird was still too tough to eat. She hiked to the top of a mountain, part of the hike involved climbing up rock, with her grandchildren, and was not impressed by the Grand Canyon, just a big hole in the ground. That was my grannie, not this frail woman lying in a hospital bed not able to eat, or dress herself or even talk.

Last Saturday my best friend’s mother died. She was a great lady, her daughter is my best friend in the whole wide world and I called her mother Mom. She considered me her fourth daughter. She had Alzheimer’s which is a terrible disease that before it kills you steals your personality. My friend told me that after her last visit home. Now I wonder if she started to mourn her mother during that visit, and now feels guilty thinking that she gave up on her mom too soon. I have no answers for her, she loved her mom, her mom knew that, even if she forgot it in the end it certainly wasn’t my friend’s fault. My heart hurts for her.