Spend as Much Time with Your Grandparents as You Can

My Gramma Peg was recently diagnosed with cancer. Ever since I can remember she’s had problems with her heart and hip and lungs, so this scary medical word didn’t rock the family’s boat too hard. But we learned, quickly, that with cancer comes a timeline. A due date.

“Myeloma tends to be a five-year cancer,” her ironically chubby doctor said as we all sat around her hospital bed. She’d been admitted three days prior for Pneumonia; the next day, she’d sign out with Multiple Myeloma.

Reader, how do you imagine your next five years?

I’m not one for thinking too far in advance, but Gramma’s timeline forced me into the future. I know I want her at my wedding. Hell, I want her to make my wedding dress, I thought as I walked back to my car outside the hospital. I want her to meet my kids and rock them to sleep and crochet their first baptism caps. I want her to be around.

So, now we’re here, and I’m thinking about 2020, and Gramma starts chemo on Monday.

I’ve made it a weekly meeting, now that I’m back in my hometown full-time, to visit and sit and chat with Gramma Peg. To listen to her stories and worries and woes. To absorb who she is. And it’s honestly one of my favorite times.

My Gramma is an extraordinary woman. I know that we are all biased towards our loved ones, but Gramma Peg is one for the books. She gives the best back rubs, hems the straightest hemlines, and has not one judgmental bone in her body. She’s 5' 3" full of hearty laughs and bear hugs. It’s common knowledge: Everyone loves Gramma Peg.

And now that I’m becoming an adult, I have a much more profound respect for the woman that Gramma is. I think a bit differently about the engine light in my car or another late Tuesday when I recall that Gramma raised five children from three different (but all alcohol-infused) marriages — alone and without child support. Yet, she raised five damn awesome kids (one being my momma) and continues to beam the brightest joy. Gramma Peg is literally a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man.

At the end of today’s time, Gramma handed me a bound booklet — her life in a 66-page manuscript, titled The Dreamer. “This is me,” she stated. “Read this and you’ll learn way more about your Gramma than you ever wanted to know.”

So, I just finished page five of her typewritten life, and this is what I know: Gramma’s middle name is Elsie. Her husbands were bad men. And at five years old, my own momma was hardly afraid of snakes.

I wish I could say Gramma’s cancer wasn’t what propelled me to spend more time with her, but it was. In a way I’m thankful for Myeloma’s timeline. It could be a five-year or fifteen-year cancer; I’m still going to spend as much time as possible with her. If I can’t have her in my future for certain, then I’m making the damn most of our present and her past.