Life is a funny thing, isn't it?
Last Friday I was out and about in Portland, computer bag slung over my shoulder, walking into a previously unexplored coffee shop, when my phone buzzed. My grandma was in the emergency room.
In a few short hours my bag was packed and I was boarding a plane to San Diego, my homeland.
I was blessed with amazing grandparents: I spent my younger years having sleepovers at their houses, going on special birthday outings, and having pancake feasts on Saturday mornings. There were times they were my parents more than my parents were. They showed us a kind of love I'd never known before. It is because of them, and my aunts, that I am the person I am today. A wife and mother who loves deeply, tries to live life to the fullest, and takes every opportunity to show others kindest.
My grandparents divorced years before I was born, so it meant two of everything: two birthday outings, two places to sleep over, two different brands of love. I won the grandparent lottery, that's for sure.
I lost my grandfather when I was a teenager, but the memories are rich. He will always live on in my memory as a young, vibrant man who raced dune buggies and dirt bikes and saved lives. He was my hero, yes, but he was also a hero. He was a fireman until retirement; oh, the countless lives he must have saved over the decades. An amazing man, that grandpa of mine.
Unfortunately, you reach a certain age when you begin to lose those beloved relatives; relatives that seemed immortal when you were a child. My family is young: my great-grandparents are still alive, and my grandma is still young by today's standards, at 76 years old. She retired from her nursing career just a year ago, a hero in her own right. She was one of those people my heart thought would live forever, though my mind knows otherwise.
When I left on Wednesday night, my grandma seemed to be doing better. She is now back in the hospital, perhaps the victim of strokes. Strokes that have taken her speech and the ability to do her beloved crossword puzzles. Strokes that have stolen her independence when they had no right. My aunt tells me she is asking for me, in her distorted language, and my heart breaks a little more.
Another trip may be in order, but until we know more, I'm going to stay here. And prepare to go back to work. You see, Wednesday morning I got a call about a job. The one I interviewed for twice. The one I was rejected for twice. The one where the funding fell through. It seems a full time position opened up, and they called and requested that I apply. Requested. Me. (Does that actually happen in real life?) (!!!) In the midst of tragedy, my chosen path opened back up. The path that had seemed so impossible just days before; the path I'd begun to question and rethink and doubt.
Next week Mario and Jared are headed to Montana for five weeks, and I want to be with them as much as possible before they go. So it is important that I'm home, soaking up those last few days with the men in my life. Kiddo is going to come back bigger and different in some subtle way, as kiddos tend to do even under threat of punishment. (If you grow one more inch...) As much as I want to be in San Diego, sitting at her bedside, life must go on. Because life is a funny thing that gives you jobs when you least expect it and takes grandmas before their time. It's funny and unfair and, well, life.
I hope this is but another wake up call from the ether. The kind of wake up call that reminds you that life is messy and fragile and you must never become complacent. Perhaps it is reminding me to call my grandma more and to let life's inconveniences roll off my back and to offer hugs more freely.
Hopefully Grandma can be herself again. Because I'm not ready for any other option. Sadly, it's not my choice to make.
Monday afternoon, while talking to her about accepting help from others (nurses make the worst patients, they say, and it is absolutely true), she said she didn't want to be a bother. A very grandma thing to say, no? The conversation went something like this:
Me: Grandma, you need to let people help you.
Her: I don't ever want to inconvenience anyone.
Me: When we were little and my mom was going through something, and you took us in and fed us and loved us as your very own, did you think we were inconveniencing you?
Her: Oh, no! Getting to take care of you was an honor.
And I know that to be the absolute truth.
Here's to you, Grandma. It is has been my honor.