we'd all been worried about Grandma that week, day, and night. the august before she'd had another scare--her heart--and had been hospitalized. then, the week of thanksgiving, it had happened again. i still have the message from my mom calling me that Monday or tuesday while i'd been teaching, telling me that they were at the hospital, but not to worry. she'd said they were having a family meeting. and with that her voice broke a little bit before she'd cleared it and came back stronger to end the message. while hanging up from listening, i'd thought, as i had many times, that she was lucky to have brothers and sisters to have a meeting with, wondering what i would do in one hundred years when i needed to deal with my parents in their old age.
Grandma was bound and determined to join us all at my parents for thanksgiving dinner, even though they'd only just picked her up that very morning from the hospital. she'd had a balloon put in to open the valve, or close the valve, i can't remember now, but it was supposed to last until she'd need it replaced. it was supposed to fix the problem because she was too scared and not ready to die.
i'd visited her in the hospital one night after teaching all day and making my family dinner. mom said not to stress about it but to go if it would make me feel better. my aunt, uncle, their son and his girlfriend were there when i walked in. i sat in a chair under the television and we'd joked about when they were going to get married. grandma laughed, looked at me, and had said, "well, you've got to do what you've got to do." even though she's strong and determined, she looked smaller and thin in the hospital gown and in that big bed.
thanksgiving night she'd sat on the couch near the fireplace, though it was blasted hot in that living room. the couches and chairs and floor were covered with people who in years past had spent time downstairs. but that night more hovered around grandma in case it was her last thanksgiving. when people get up there in age it's normal to think these things.
i wish we'd remember to think them about everyone else in the room too. because sometimes it's not the oldest who is the sickest or the one who will pass first.
my mom was divvying out mary kay products she'd ordered for everyone with her discount. i liked a lipstick she'd ordered for herself, so she gave it to me. she made it seem like she didn't like it much anyway so she'd rather i took it. she stood in the bathroom and started to cry about how ugly she was. she'd never done this before. "no, Mom," i'd said. "you're not." she was still upset about how yellow she was. she hated to admit it and so nobody mentioned it anymore. mom's family, me included, had always been very good about stepping gingerly around issues. we'd tried to deal with them, but it hadn't gone over well, so mostly we'd stopped. she said she was "fine" and she got mad when we pushed that she wasn't. so we smiled and said how much better she looked.
Grandma ate too much cheese. it had too much sodium and i'd given her the plate so i'd worried i'd be the one to push her over the edge of sodium intake.
she was fine.
all my worry was misplaced.
Mom and i took our second to last picture together that night, down by the roaster and crock pots. neither of us look very good in it. i wish we'd taken a second shot, a closer up shot or from a different angle.
that was thanksgiving.
Grandma made it to the next one, but my mom didn't.