I never had regrets. I lived my life working that old, well worn cliché.
The only time in my life that regret attacked me and made up for a whole life of “No regrets!” was when I was sorry I wasn’t independently wealthy, or a magician, if we’re going for crazy talk. Not for the reasons most wish; big houses, jewelry, flashy cars. No. These weren’t even close to being the reasons.
My grandmother, my beloved “Nana” was diagnosed with lung cancer. I hate to even begin that sentence as a descriptor about this dear, little woman. The thief doesn’t define her life, or her passing from it. Cancer is a thief; a thief without honor. It steals the world away from people and laughs as it moves on to its next job.
Something I didn’t do. I had gone home to Dublin to spend time with my Nana, she was sick, but pretended she wasn’t. She didn’t want treatment; hated hospitals. She pretended to believe that “a bit of Vicks” would do the trick with the horrible chesty cough she had. I pretended to believe I agreed, and went to get some. Vicks couldn’t help her legs, though, so swollen and sore that she could stand for any length anymore. We pretended not to think about that. But she stood at the cooker, to make me and Grandad pancakes for Pancake Tuesday; the last time she cooked. And she walked out to the gate, and stood there as my Mam and I drove off… and stood there ’til we couldn’t see each other wave anymore. I cried buckets in that car, on the drive home, feeling I would never see her stand there again.
I had to leave to take a six week job back in LA, the rent needed to be paid, the cat needed to be fed, but I planned to get back to her straight afterwards. My granddad, mother and her sisters and the rest of the family tended to my Nana — at home — during her darkest days. Their darkest days. And mine — in sunny LA. I regret that something as stupid as money, or the lack of a magic wand (in my more hysteria driven moments), kept me from being with her and doing the same. My mother did what good, loving mothers do and tried to tell me not to worry, that there would be nothing that I could do. But there was. I could be with her. That kept rattling around in my head. My Nana and I had a special relationship. I made her laugh; she made me feel like I could do anything. She was the one person in my entire life that made me feel I could do no wrong. She just loved me every day and made sure that I knew I was special to her. To know me, is to know my Nana.
So I worked. I worked every day of those weeks, crying, inside and out, slipping to the bathroom during work hours to scream silently. The bathroom became my best friend, even in my own home.
Six weeks passed. They were the longest, hardest forty two days of my life. On the one hand, I wanted them to fly by so I could go home again; on the other, I didn’t want time to tick by on my Nana. I didn’t know which way was up.
The ringing of the phone at 4am woke me on what was my last day on the job. Before I even picked it up, I knew. My poor mother. The worst call she had ever made. Simple words, “I have some bad news, love…” and all my throat would let me say was “Oh.” The very last day of the job. A day late and a dollar short. Did I ever get that one now.
I can say, with hand on heart, that I truly have never recovered. To love so much, is to lose so much.
This monumental little woman. This woman, my Nana. I will miss her essence and complete and utter unconditional love, each and every day of my life — well past the day I can’t stand or wave either.
For all the pain, I don’t regret loving her the way I do.