1771 miles. From my current address, it’s exactly 1771 miles, door-to-door, between me and my grandma. 1771 miles between me and my grandma who is my person, my inspiration in many ways, and the matriarch to our family. 1771 miles between me and my grandma who is dying.
Part of my greatest hesitation moving back to Lubbock was that I might not ever see her again after I left New York for the last time in July. Even prior to that, there was more than one trip from home back to Baltimore where I cried for the bulk of the drive because I felt like I hadn’t seen her enough, and you just never know.
I’m sure this will totally blow the minds of most of you, but I don’t like things that I cannot control. Death is a fickle bitch, and for the most part, we have no control over it whatsoever, so I’m not a fan. I try to remind myself of one of my favorite quotes about death: “After all, to the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure” Albus Dumbledore. But in reality, as I prepare to fly home next week for the first time in 5 months, I’m a mixed bag of emotions.
I am excited.
Not just to see her, though her house is my first stop on the list. No, I’m excited to see my brothers and my parents and my aunts and uncles and cousins. I’m excited to eat real pizza and chicken wings and bagels and drink good NY wine. I’m excited to have a white Christmas (though I’m sure I’ll be regretting the excitement the moment I step off the plane).
I feel selfish.
When I talked to my grandma at the beginning of last week, I told her I’d be flying home December 21st and was looking forward to seeing her. Her response: “I sure hope I’m here to see you too.” Cue ugly fucking crying in the work bathroom for a solid 10 minutes after that one. Have we asked her to hold on for too? Did we ask too much of her and she’s worn out? Am I stressing her out by putting all my focus on getting home to see her? In my rational brain, I go back to the idea that we can’t control death, and she’ll go when she’s good and god damn ready (and if you know her, you can read that line in her voice), but it doesn’t stop the questioning every now and then.
I’m terribly sad.
This will be a trip home of a lot of “lasts.” This will very likely be the last time I see her, hug her, talk to her. This will be our last Christmas in her house. This may very well be the last Christmas we’re all together period. She’s my last living grandparent, so there’s that. I know she’ll always be with me in a multitude of ways. I have inherited her…colorful…way of talking and tough-love-but-actually-a-softy mentality. I will never be able to smell Chanel No. 5 without the hint of a burning Winston in the air too. I share her love of big jewelry, stiff drinks, and well-dressed men (though I like mine with a bit more ink than Maggie might approve of). I’ll forever have these memories and so many more, but how do you prepare yourself for the “last” everything?
More than anything, though, I am relieved.
I’m relieved that, barring any crisis in the next 10 days, I’ll get to see her even if it is the last time. I’m relieved that all her children are going to come together for the holidays. I’m relieved that she’ll be able to see everyone, and I have a lingering feeling that she’ll go shortly after Christmas. But it’s all a relief.
So how to end this? I don’t write this for pity or any of that shit, and I know there are people in far worse situations. I’ve been able to surround myself with people in Lubbock who do nothing but lift me up. I’m quick to agree to any kind of outing so as not to sit home and worry. If death is, truly, but the next great adventure, anyone who knows my grandma knows that she’s going to enjoy that adventure as much as she’s enjoyed this one. I know I’ll carry on what she’s taught me, and I’ll never, ever forget to “keep the faith, babe.”
So here’s to a speedy 10 days, Mother Nature withholding her bullshit so I can fly in okay, and a holiday season full of lasts. See you in a little over a week, NY!