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This is an Exercise in Acceptance

I’ve been running, dearest grandmother, and I haven’t looked back.

I haven’t looked back at you.

Only through you, as this alien takes hold of your frenetic mind.

On the phone, on my visits, the person I talk to is not you, but your sad-eyed doppelgänger.

No, you were light.

So much light.

Cotton candy bombshell light.

Platinum courage.

High-heeled resilience.

Salty perfection.

And that’s why you hate yourself.

“I hate myself. I’m old. Who would have thought this would happen to me?”

But I love you, even though I don’t know you.

I love you so much that I just keeping running and won’t look back.

Because if I do, dearest grandma, I will fall to my knees.

Like when I catch a whiff adrift in this world that replicates your garlic-soaked kitchen circa 1995.

Like when I catch your photo out of the corner of my eye, and your eyes are alive.

Like when I get off the phone after our conversation that went nowhere fast.

As I write this, you are in surgery — doctors inserting pins into your fractured hip.

Your mind has been on a crash course to expiration, but your body is still strong — no surprise since you were born from a time when you do not stumble, you do not complain, you just keep. moving. forward.

It’s that determination that impelled you to open your own business during a time when women weren’t business owners, it’s what carried you through divorcing your first husband for emotional neglect and your second husband for infidelity, and it’s what brought you to this moment as a 90-year-old woman who despite cancer, a stroke, dementia and degenerating mobility is still with us.

I believe I’ve mourned you over these past few years as your essence has left us, but I also believe I am fooling myself. It’s easy to think that the former you, straight-backed and stoic, perfectly coifed and perfectly assembled, is just living her joyous life in an alternative plane, and that this new you, slouched and grimaced, is just some stranger who’s come into our lives and who we will take care of.

It’s easiest for me and my mother, your caretaker, to keep believing that you’re turning heads while walking the streets of New York or bantering at dinner with your deceased partner, Lionel. Maybe you still own your beloved women’s clothing store, Leonard’s, and you are dressing career women, brides and prom queens as we speak. Or maybe you’re traveling this beautiful earth, living out the worldly wishes you were too afraid to fulfill.

I just got word that you are out of surgery and doing fine, dearest grandmother. In fact, the doctors conveyed how incredibly strong your body is.

I’m relieved but also fearful. Where do we go from here, grandmother?

Where does your mind go from here?

Where does your body go from here?

I’ve waited until the very last moment to put your picture at the top.

Because I knew if I saw you, I would have never made it through this post.

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