Friday, April 27, 2012

Better, and Worse

I went to the Cardiologist to see about the heart flutterings. Ignore them, he said. Ignore them. Do some yoga. Everyone is firing off odd electrical signals from the heart, he said. Ignore them. And so, thus ignored, they mostly went away, at least until Saturday when I got an email that my grandmother wasn't doing well. The nurse gave her a few days. A few days? I'd just talked to her on the phone. My mom had seen her last week. She was fine. My sisters saw her on Easter. Fine. I mean, not fine. She'd been downward-spiraling since October when she broke her ankle. She went to the nursing home for rehab. After a day of physical therapy, they put ice on her leg. But they put it on the wrong leg--not the one that had been working out--the one with the cast that absorbed the melting ice. The cast festered. Her leg festered. It got gangrene. She lost her leg below the knee on my birthday. When we saw her at Christmas in the hospital, she was out of it. If she'd passed away then, I'd have understood. But two weeks later when she got home, after Erik's uncle built her a ramp for her wheelchair, after everyone visited her at the house, after she had her cat back, she seemed like she'd be OK. But, she'd had diabetes for years. And losing a leg does bad things to your circulatory system. She wasn't digesting food well. She was not doing as well as I thought she was when I talked to her the last time. I didn't know it would be the last time. I guess you rarely do.

It's weird that I feel like I've been given back my good health with the word ignore it just when Grandma was losing hers. But it's not all about me. But death does weird things to perspective. You do think about your own death even though you try to focus on how much has gone from the universe now that she's not her. You do start paying attention to things--if grandma could see these lilacs. I should pay good attention to these lilacs.You never know when these will be your last lilacs. I got all morbid and told my students, poetry is the genre of death. We're all marching toward death. Poetry says, pay attention. It will all be gone soon. It's very unAmerican to think like that. Of death at all. We like fiction--the idea that narrative will take us on a train trip. We'll go somewhere cool and when it ends, and the book is dead, we're still alive. Take that, we say to the book. Poems try to slow us down. Looking at things slow might as well be looking at the best woods for caskets.

But my grandma herself. She will miss her cat. Her plum tree. Pussy willows. Her daughters. Her Saltines. Her Coca-Cola bears. Well, it's a long list. I'll write it up for the funeral. I'm glad I get to be there with my family so they can make a list too--even if it's a little like poetry.


Lisa B. said...

That "this might be the last time" feeling--the loss of a dear one really brings that home. Thank you for sharing these memories of your grandma. xoxo

What Now? said...

Oh, Nik, I'm so sorry. I'm glad you had just talked with her on the phone -- a loving relationship until the end. I hope that poetry helps.