Monday, October 18, 2010


                     Olivia Joy and Great-grandma Marlo

There are people in life you don't get to choose- your mom, your dad, your siblings, your kids, etc. I have always trusted these people as my guides, my teachers. Placed in my life by a higher power, I took them to heart to learn from them. These people are gifts from God.

There are people in life who are chosen for you- your teachers in school (unless your parents were choosey for you- mine never were), the doctor who is available to see you for your back pain, your colleagues at work, your classmates, etc. These people are the wildcards- incompetent or nurturing or creepy or life-changing or users or absolute treasures. You will never know until you jump in.

There are people in life you do get to choose- your friends, your spouse, your sweet little dog-person Amore, etc. These people are the gifts you give yourself...

Today, Olivia and I went with my mom to visit her mother in the nursing home where she lives. My Grandma Marlo gave birth to my mother when she was 17, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her early 30's and moved into a nursing home before I was born. By the time I was old enough to talk to her, MS had already affected her memory and speech. My mother and her mother had issues between them that would never be resolved- until a choice was made to let them go. I will always remember the chill that ran through me years later when my mother was diagnosed with MS herself.

About a week ago, my grandma fell out of a sling that was being used to lift her in and out of a bathtub. She hit her head and a CT showed a skull fracture. Her level of consciousness had changed and it was possible that she was dying. Relatives from far away were notified and came to her bedside to see her.

It took us a long time to navigate the halls and elevators in the nursing home, because people kept stopping me to see the baby. So, I stopped and shared the baby.

We crowded into my grandma's room with my Great-Grandma Doris, my Great-Aunt Connie and Great-Uncle Jerry, my Aunt Tammy, and Uncle Tony, along with my grandma's 100+ year-old roommate who kept looking at Jerry, asking "Who is that young man?"

After hugs and kisses, we started passing Olivia from arms to arms. Grandma, we were told, had been unresponsive for days. She showed no purposeful movement, but would grimace occasionally which sent someone in search of a nurse for more pain meds. We moved around the small room, changing places in the chairs and on the floor- taking turns talking to Grandma. I moved to the foot of Grandma's bed, my mom sat at the head.

                      Olivia Joy with Great-Great Grandma Doris

Aunt Connie talked to me about cancer. Years ago, she had been treated for ovarian cancer. She had been through chemo, hair loss, hot flashes. Her and Jerry told a story about her going on a 'trial run' in public with her wig on. They laughed when remembering how self-conscious Connie had felt, how she had panicked and had to go back home...

Olivia started to cry and I got her bottle ready. After she was changed and fed, she made the rounds again. When she reached my mother's arms, my mom gently lay Olivia across Grandma's chest and talked to her about the baby. Suddenly, Grandma opened her eyes. She moved her lips. Her face flushed. Her arms and hands moved to touch and hold the baby... Olivia and miracles go hand in hand...

We talked and laughed and cried and hugged. Uncle Jerry took a rare photo of 5 generations of our family. On the drive home, I could not help thinking about these people who were chosen for me. Though I do not see some of them very often, I know- in my heart of hearts- they are always there for me and I feel the deep connection between us.

I can't help thinking, cancer has widened this circle... 

                              Five Generations

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