My grandmother looked at me from her hospital bed. “I think I’m going to die this year. It’s just an odd feeling I have.”
She was less herself, donut loving hips gone, plump cheeks of ice cream folded inward. I wanted to say, “No shit,” but instead I asked her, “If you could go one place before you die, where would it be?”
“Las Vegas,” she said. She and my aunt took a trip every year until they got into a fight right there in the midst of a crowd and my aunt said, “Never again.”
Never again, and then my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She didn’t say anything; just waited for the never again to change. The cancer spread into my grandmother’s bones, black masses popping up in her ribs, groin, then legs. She couldn’t even sit in a car for more than twenty minutes. Her favorite pastime, walking, cut down from an hour to minutes.
“I’m always out of breath, Kristina. I hate this. I hate it. I want to walk.”
There were many accidents. She fell a lot. After the headlong dive she took into her friend’s casket, falling under the tires of my aunt's car five days later was no surprise: lower legs run over, one broken, the other an exposed tension of tumors.
“Las Vegas,” and I raised an eyebrow at her, not because my aunt wouldn’t take her back. Lungs weighted by fluid, she was moving to hospice, where we were told she wouldn’t leave. Unfortunately, no one in the family got around to telling her that she was dying, that this was it.
“Foxwoods,” she said, changing the location to a casino 45 minutes away.
I nodded. “Let’s do it,” but I could see she wasn’t quite into the idea. She was thinking of other things.
“I can’t wait to get out of here. I can’t wait to walk again. I’m going to have the nurse teach me to walk again.”
“That sounds nice,” I said.
Hospice came and she said to the nurse. “I want to walk again, but I’m like a child. I have to start from the beginning. I know it’s going to hurt, but you have to help me.”
The nurse looked at my aunt and mother. They said nothing.
So the nurse held her elbow as she shuffled towards the commode. Three steps and my grandmother was out of breath.
“Forget about,” she said. “Just forget about it.”
We thought she would try the next day, but she never asked again.
Eight days in hospice became two days of rattling breaths, eyebrows up and down as if climbing a rigorous set of stairs, and then she was gone.
A week later, my aunt said, “We should go to Vegas.”
I sneezed at the dust in my grandmother’s bedroom closet, removed her wedding album from the top shelf, boxing up a lifetime of memories to make room for home showings, an eventual sale, other lifetimes
“Not this year, Auntie. Not this year.” I sighed, unsettling more dust. “Maybe next.”
published 27 May 2015