Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Bad Year For Grandmas

It seems like everyone’s grandma is sick this year, some worse than others. My grandmother has bounced back remarkably since her latest “exciting event” and I count myself lucky. Ashley, a dispatcher who works the night shift at my PD, and Jocelyn from This Surreal Life both have grandmothers who are dying.

Yet out of pain and sadness something funny usually happens. This is one of those stories.

I work the opposite shift as Ashley. She’s relatively new and was never one of my recruits (how does that even happen? I swear I fight and scrap to train everyone I can get my figurative claws on) which is why I don’t know Ashley very well. I do know that she’s sharp as a tack and seems to have a great sense of humor under her quiet exterior. I’ll also point out that she’s never thrown a brick at me, but even if she had I’ve learned my lesson about saying something flippantly negative about someone using their real name (thank you again Sherry Dion!).

Ashley’s grandmother is in the hospital fighting a second bout of ovarian cancer. They did one surgery which turned into a second, emergency, surgery where they found more cancer. Due to the nature of this newly discovered cancerous material and to her overall health, she is not a candidate for further surgery. She is terminally ill.

Whistling past the graveyard, I am often known to say “everyone dies” in a flat tone which can seem cold or sad or frightening or all three. But while everyone dies, Ashley’s grandmother is dying now. It’s entirely possible she’ll die never having read this story.

That’s not the funny part.

The funny thing happened a few days ago at the hospital.

A woman from Ashley’s grandma’s church came by to visit. The parishioners had been told of grandma’s dire condition; there was no confusion. I will be perfectly clear on this point: everyone knew grandma was terminally ill. Also, grandma has a sense of humor but is not a circus clown or a stand up comedian. There are many words to describe grandma but no one Ashley has every met would use the words “wacky” or “kooky” in their first hundred choices of adjectives.

Yet into grandma’s tiny, sad hospital room strode a woman with a handful of greeting cards and a big mylar “Bon Voyage” balloon bouquet. She giggles and hands grandma three carefully chosen Hallmark cards with some words carefully scratched out and replaced with others.

Card Number 1 was a “Moving” card. Happy to hear about your move (careful addition): to Heaven!

Card Number 2 was a “Congratulations” card. Congratulations on your new job the end of your misery!

Card Number 3 was a “Graduation” card. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation (careful addition): to the afterlife!"

Ashley’s grandma is 67 years old, twelve years younger than my grandma but still from an era where ladies were taught to have tact and grace (perhaps in cotillion club). She smiled and said “How thoughtful and unexpected, thank you.” She was really thinking “Is this woman off her meds again?”

This surreal experience has given Ashley’s grandma a great story to tell every visitor since the church lady left the room.

I hope grandma gets to tell her “crazy church lady” story for quite a while yet.


john cowart said...

When my elderly Aunt Hazel was in Hospice care, a stranger brought her an armload of Christmas gifts, shiny new toaster, slippers, clock radio, etc.
Later Hazel told me, “John, here I am dying and get all these presents. It felt like I was on a game show with the announcer saying, ‘Sorry, you’re not a winner, but we have some lovely parting gifts for you’”.

J-bro said...

Crazy church lady is redundant....


Rhoda IV said...

That story is incredible. I am so glad Lenora (your gran's name if I'm correct) is on the mend. I truly feel for Ashley. My own Gran, we call her Pete, has had cancer four times. Now she is practically blind and one breast short of a pair, but I am so grateful she is still around. Reading this story has made me laugh, cry and also made me more grateful than ever that Pete is still around. She's the only grandparent I have left now and I love her so much, I truly don't know what I'm going to do when she dies. Ashley and her Gran have my deepest sympathies and highest hopes. Thank you Eric for making me feel lucky to be lucky.

smussyolay said...

you might all think i'm a crazy person, but i think what that lady did was cool! why fuck around and pretend she wasn't dying? why not laugh and celebrate her? why not say she believed that where she was going was way cooler than suffering in this life? i think that lady had it right. it's just hard to let go is all. that's why it's sad and we have such pain. attachment!

Eric said...

John, your aunt Hazel was funny. Perhaps we can start a whole product line of De-Parting Gifts!

J - yes indeed. Yet they sometimes bring food. Hmmm... who to trust, who to trust.

Comadose - Pete's lucky to have you for a granddaughter. Go give her a hug!

Smuss - Right as usual. It sounds like it broke up the mood for Ashley's family too, so maybe she is crazy - crazy like a FOX!

I just thought of a modest proposal. Wouldn't it be fun to have a catering company who took a cart of gourmet food to hospices and the geriatric wards of hospitals so that our elders could have quality foods (such that they'd be able to eat, of course) during their last hours in this realm? We could call it "The Last Supper"

Any potential stockholders out there?

Lindsey said...

Tell Ashley I am so sorry to hear of her grandma. The church lady might get a few stares at the next church service....if she doesn't already. Maybe its a hobby of hers. At least it brought a smile to grandma.
Ashley and her grandma are in my prayers

Rhoda IV said...

Ha! The last supper indeed! I could trade in my wal-mart stock and buy stock in your potential company, sweet.

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