Jun 6 2008, 4:36pm
The doctor has confirmed that my grandmother's tumor is indeed malignant and terminal. I will go to her when she has her ameliorative surgery, which is not yet scheduled.
She is 92 years old, has outlived her husband and her only son, is mostly blind, mostly deaf, lost most of her sense of taste and smell, and she finds her physical weakness supremely frustrating, when she had been abnormally strong for most of her life, up until her mid 80's (she used to be the go-to person for heavy lifting at her factory, because the men had all injured their backs.) I do not begrudge her the right to move on to something better; I believe that the discomforts of our final years are tantamount to a mother bird removing the down from a nest when it's time for the baby bird to fly. But I will miss our conversations, for she is intelligent, perceptive, lyrical, and appreciates the quirky side of life.
The plus side is that I can eulogize her while she yet lives. People often don't know what to say to the terminally ill. It seems to me that the best thing you can say is "Thank you for all that you have given me over the years!" Let the person know that her life meant something, she accomplished something, she can let her life close without regrets.
So here's a toast to a grand, brave lady, who gave me language! Really. I had stopped talking before she got custody of me, and she started me up again, introduced me to the whole amazing world of words! For my bedtime stories she read to me from books of classical poetry, Browning and Byron, Shelley and Keats, Tennyson and Frost, all of those marvelous storytellers in verse. She would come home exhausted from the factory night-shift, her fingers almost blue with cold, but we would wake up just to hear her story-tell us back to sleep again; she never said, "Oh, go back to bed, I want to get some sleep!" She taught me to read, and when the school system would have stifled my imagination, she fought them, and taught me to write. When she saw that I had a passion for it, she insisted that I write every day, and would not let anyone interfere with my writing time.
She had no idea what Tolkien's writings were about, but merely upon hearing about them, she followed her instinct and asked Grandpa to find his books for me anyway (Only "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" were available in those days.) Grandpa eventually had to special-order them through a liquor store that had a book rack, of all things! They were my first New books; before then everything I had came from a used bookstore near the beach, where she and Grandpa would take us frequently for the latest load, ten cents a copy, five if the book was badly damaged, one free for every two we traded in. Every weekend she and Grandpa would take us to either the library, the museums, or someplace in nature (the mountains, the beach, the desert, the chaparrel country.) We may have been poor, but she saw to our education as scrupulously as Bilbo educated Sam.
Some people here have said that they like the way that I write. You can blame Grandma for that.
My website http://www.dreamdeer.grailmedia.com offers fanfic, and message-boards regarding intentional community or faerie exploration.