Monday night I got a phone call from my cousin Jason’s wife. I thought she was calling to thank me for the baby present I’d sent a few days earlier, but it turns out she was calling because my 95 year old grandmother, who lives on our farm with Jason and Jackie and my Aunt Molly and her husband had been taken to the hospital and was going in for emergency surgery.
She’s 95. Surgery is always daunting when you’re that old. She’s been pretty open the last couple of years about being ready to go … “I wish I lived in Oregon,” she told me when I called on her birthday. “Then I could just get a doctor to put me down.” My grandmother has raised horses her whole life, and considering how deaf she is now, how bad her sight has gotten, and how difficult it’s become to get around, I can see why she’d feel this way. I laughed at her — “Don’t tell Molly that,” I said. “You’ll hurt her feelings.” “Well,” she replied in her usual crabby way. “It’s true.”
So I have to say I was a little surprised to hear she’d opted for surgery. Turns out she had a perforated ulcer — Molly found her passed out on the floor of her apartment at six that morning (my grandmother has the ground floor of Molly’s house). Her choice was surgery to fix it, or to live with terrible pain and a condition that would kill her. She went for the surgery — although she went into surgery armed with all her living wills and DNR paperwork on the bedside table. Molly left her at two in the morning, after having reiterated to the hospital staff that there was, under no circumstances, to be a ventilator put in should she start to crash.
By the time Molly got to the hospital yesterday, my grandmother was out of bed, sitting up in a chair, her hair washed, all clean and tidy and looking very pleased with herself. If there’s anything she loves, it’s to be the star pupil — and there she was, older than anyone else in the little community hospital near the farm, and recovering more quickly and miraculously. We all just laughed. She’s always been the toughest bird in town.
As one does in these situations, I had a long talk with my cousin Jennifer on the phone yesterday morning. Jennifer lives in Arizona now, where she has two daughters who look so much like she did at 12 and 14 that their photos make me a little misty. I haven’t actually seen Jennifer since she was that age, and I was in college, and her mother (my grandmother’s daughter) died. Jennifer told me she is in no way ready for MommyJane to die — and I told her that although I know in my head that she’s going to — she’s so old, after all. Even MommyJane can’t live forever. But, I told Jennifer, it’s inconceivable to me — I really can’t imagine a world without her in it. She’s been our rock. She raised half of us cousins. Whenever things went weird, which they did a lot, we got sent to the farm.
And so, it was a great relief to hear that as always, she’s being remarkable. She’s astonishing everyone. She’s being MommyJane.
I went to bed early last night, exhausted from a day of family worry, and unlike the night before, when my grandmother was in surgery, I slept like a baby all night.