About a year and a half ago, before I started this blog, I shared a little story on Twitter. My husband’s maternal grandmother (G’ma V) sat with me on the couch one evening after dinner while I nursed then-tiny Roo. Not long after having her first son the couple next door had a baby, born prematurely. The mother was ill with pneumonia, and her milk never came in. The baby was given minimal chances of surviving.
So G’ma V volunteered to nurse him. She was just 18 years old at the time.
Over the course of that year, she nursed two other preemies until they were thriving.
Thursday we got a call that G’ma V was in the hospital. She’s 81, a diabetic with weak kidneys, and this year has seen quite a few hospital visits. Matt went to see her once the girls were in bed. They thought it was likely an intestinal blockage. She’d probably need surgery.
Yesterday was Matt’s birthday. We carried on with our plans — went out for dinner (SANS children! it was a simpler time) and picked out Vio’s first bicycle for her 4th birthday — and checked in with Matt’s family as much as possible. If she was in surgery a long time, that would be good news. It meant they were able to fix things. Every minute that ticked by, we breathed a bit easier.
I settled in to nurse down Roo, when an IM popped up on my screen. It was from Matt. (SIDE NOTE: How did husbands and wives communicate during bedtime pre-internet? Friggin’ smoke signals? The mind boggles.)
His mom had left us a message.
It was gangrene. In her intestines. Large and small.
There is nothing they could do.
The past 24 hours since getting that news have been some sort of jumbled mess of tears and confusion and hysterical planning. My mom came over to sit with the girls while we went off to the hospital. We were told she didn’t have much time, but we didn’t (and still don’t) know how long “not much” might be.
Two weeks ago she was meeting up with us to watch Vio at swimming lessons, and now she’s in a hospital bed waiting to be taken off a ventilator.
My maternal grandmother died when I was nine years old; I still remember the sound of the school secretary’s voice over the PA asking my teacher to send me to the office and for me to bring my things. I can’t help but feel like I’m back in that little girl’s footsteps, echoing down the hall, as I march to the inevitable news.
I love this woman so much, you guys, and I wish I was a brilliant writer just so I could tell you all how amazing she is. I’ve never met anyone in my life who had so many people who loved her.
It’s the little things that keep knocking me down. The way she’d always answer the phone, “Hi, this is Val!” in her sweet southern accent. The wall of hats in her bedroom that perfectly matched all of her outfits. Our standing gift of a brand new pair of slippers every Christmas. How will I Christmas shop without buying her a pair of slippers?
And the big ones. The regret over not ever sitting down with her to record her oral history of the family. My annoyance the last time I saw her that we were having to pose for photographs with two very distressed children who very much needed to be put to bed. That we stopped doing Thursday night dinners at her house too many months ago.
There was supposed to be a party on Monday night for all the August birthdays in the family. I’ve mentioned numerous times that Vio shares her birthday with Matt’s mother and cousin. Earlier this week, it occurred to me that G’ma V and Matt’s aunt and I should pose for a picture together — the three generations who all gave birth on the same day.
So it goes.
Matt has just left to go back to the hospital, and the girls are in bed. I’m doing laundry with a hectic ferocity just to feel useful, and staring at the phone, wondering if it will ring and the news will come.