Saturday, February 2, 2008

Still Sharp

Galena, Caedmon and I are down in Southern Oregon again, with my grandparents, and assorted other relatives. My Grandma is still hanging on: weak, but in a better mood than you could expect, and still witty – at least, as witty as you can expect from a 91-year old great grandmother dying of cancer.

When we first arrived, she was bragging about my Grandpa, her spouse of 72 years. She turned to me and said, "You know, he's the best husband I ever had."

She had a hard time last night, and when I arrived this morning, she said, "Every time it hurt, it made me think of you."

"I'm still the boss," she told my Grandfather today, shaking her finger. "In a couple of days you'll be the boss, but for right now, it's still me."

"I can imagine the headline on my obituary," she said. "FINALLY."

Sometimes the conversation has revealed things we hadn't previously been aware of. "You know, the Smiths didn't have a very good reputation in Kalispell," she said yesterday. "They were really poor, and they didn't always marry the right people. When I told my Dad that I planned to marry Grandpa, he said, 'Are you sure he'll treat you well?'" Grandpa was listening, holding her hand. "When you see him," he said carefully, "tell him that I did."

After a hard night, she's been sleeping most of the day. Her breath is a bit ragged, and her pulse sometimes speeds up and sometimes slows down. And she doesn't wake up when people gather in her room and talk, or when someone takes her pulse. We could be reaching the end, but she's surprised us before.

A few minutes ago, I was standing by her bed with my grandfather, watching her chest rise and fall with her breathing. I said, "It sounds like she's breathing more slowly, but that could just be temporary." He responded, "I just wish this whole nightmare was temporary. I don't understand how I can go on from here. This is an awful kick."

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