When life gives you Ensure…

Mom is convinced that her mother-in-law–for however much longer we’re blessed to have her with us–is going to start eating healthy.

Good luck with that.

Today, my cousin Laura went over to visit–where my mom was trying to funnel a glass of Ensure down Gam’s throat under the guise of a strawberry milkshake.

Mom asked, “Do you like the strawberry?”

Gam nodded yes.

Then mom left the room.

As soon as the coast was clear, Gam handed the glass to Laura and said, “Quick! Take a few sips of this stuff for me so she’ll think I drank it!”

“Gam, you don’t like it?”

“I’ll never tell!”

Then she tried to get Laura to hide the cheese danish they gave her in her “bloomers.”

—-

“Even on the rough days,” Laura told me, “she still has me cracking up.”

This is a valuable life lesson.

When life gives you Ensure . . . make your granddaughter drink it for you.

Cancer’s a Bitch

“I’m so sorry,” Gam says to me one night.

“Why?”

“I’m sorry I’m a pain in the ass.”

“You are not a pain in the ass.”

She’s quiet for a moment–then hangs her head and sighs. “I have cancer.” 

——

The statement stops me in my pajama-putting tracks. She’s never actually come out and said that to me before. It’s always “this thing,” “this disease,” or “this silly thing that I’ve got”–as if not speaking it into existence would somehow make it all go away. I guess having someone dress and change you drives certain points home.

How do you even respond to that?

So I take her face in my hands and say, “Hey friend? I am so glad I get to be here with you and help you. It’s like a Christmas present.”

She gives me the Gam look. The “you are full of it and I’m going to smack you” look.

I laugh a little. And offer the only piece of wisdom I had in my back pocket.

“You know what my friends say, Gam?”

“No.”

“Cancer’s a bitch.” 

Her whole face perks up–like she’s received sort of divine, life-changing revelation.

“Yeah . . .” she nods. “Cancer is a bitch!”

She’s got a smile on her face now. I feel like I’ve done my good deed for the day.

“You should say it again,” I suggest. And she does–in every way possible.

“Cancer’s a bitch.”

Cancer’s a bitch.”

“Cancer is. A. Bitch.”

And finally, with a triumphant fist in the air–“Cancer is a GREAT BIG BITCH!”

She looks up at me for approval. And there, sitting on the side of the bed, shouting profanities to the universe with my grandma, there’s plenty to go around.

Yellow

“Jenny . . . what’s going to become of me?”

“You’re gonna go to Cancun.”

“Cancun?”

“Or Pompano Beach. To go dancing.”

“I’d like that very much.”

“What are you going to wear?”

” . . . a yellow dress.”

“With heels?”

She smiles big.

“A long dress or a short dress?”

“Very short.”

(Of course. Like I needed to ask that question.)

Why Sh*@#! is my Grandma’s Favorite Word

On a lighter note . . .

Even in the hospital, Gam is Gam.

My sweet cousin Becky gave me the run down on an awful (and awfully funny) evening in the hospital last night.

“Becky,” Gam asked. “Does Chad know that I like to say shit?”

“Um…yeah. He does.”

She turns to Chad–Becky’s husband.

“Chad, you know that I say shit?”

“Gam–come on. Everyone knows you say shit.”

Gam thinks for a moment.

“Well I just think it’s the most wonderful word. I mean think about it. There’s nothing that will get your point across quite like shit. ”

I imagine Becky and Chad looking at each other–half rolling their eyes, half laughing.

Gam keeps going.

“It fits every situation. Try it. Give me a situation where shit wouldn’t fit.”

“Ok,” Chad offers. “The nurses.”

Gam shakes her head. “No, something bad.”

“Ok. Your cancer.”

“Oh, shit!”

Apparently this went on for quite some time. Becky and Chad spouting off situations and circumstances; Gam demonstrating how shit can be perfectly applied and emphatically stated to get your point across just right. All of them laughing hysterically.

“There’s just something that happens when you say it,” she sighed. “It releases something–makes you feel better. I think it might be my favorite word.”

Then there was the bed.

They have beds in hospitals now that inflate and vibrate periodically to prevent hospice guests from getting bedsores. At one point, she leaned in close to Chad and whispered, “Heeeyyy…before you leave tonight, you might want to ask about taking one of these home for your house.”

Gam winked big.

Chad laughed.

“Gam–Becky and I don’t need one of those.”

“Oh that’s right. You’re young. You don’t need a fancy bed.”

And then there was the oxygen mask.

They had Gam hooked up to all kinds of breathing machines. She ended up separating the tube from the mask and “smoking it.”

“What?” she said in response to funny looks from the nurses. “It’s my peace pipe!”

Cricket Cricket Cricket

“Oh come on. Let me have a little fun here.”

Beck told me the nurses keep commenting on her–how much they love her, what a riot she is. “Oh everyone just loves your grandmother here.”

How could they not?

I doubt the nurses have ever seen someone with such spunk and such a cheerful attitude in such a shitty time.

(That’s right. I said it. I learn from the best. )

Leftovers

Last time I was in PA, Uncle Harry and Aunt D brought over dinner from Pinocchio’s, Gam’s favorite pizza place.

But she doesn’t get pizza. She gets a tuna hoagie (or sub for you Colorado people). She’s convinced that Pinocchio’s has special tuna. And never wants to hear it when I tell her that all tuna comes out of a can.

“Gam, it’s all the same. I could make you one of those.”

“No you couldn’t. This tuna is white, and sweet, and they’re the only people who have it.”

Anyway. She saved half of her hoagie for lunch the next day. And this is what she said as she unwrapped it.

“Did you happen to see your Uncle Harry eyin’ my sandwich last night?”

“No, why?”

She looks up snidely.

“Oh, he was. And I said to him, ‘up yours.’

“Gam!”

“I only said it with my eyes. And it’s the only reason I have this beautiful half a sandwhich here for my lunch. Chess.”

Sigh.

Optimism, Take 2

I wake up to a buzzing phone. It’s Gam. And it’s 6:30 a.m.

“Hello?”

“Jenny? It’s Gammy! And I’m just calling you to tell you that today is going to be a GOOD day, with the help of the Lord.”

“Oh yeah?” I roll over and squint at the clock. Yep. It’s 6:30.

“Chess! Because you’re going to pray it so, aren’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Ok. And we’re OFF! Talk to you tomorrow!”

[Click]

The cancer (never referred to as such . . . Gam always says “this thing” or “this disease,” or, my favorite, “this silly thing that they say I’ve got” . . . ) is a little unpredictable. It gives her good days where she feels like dancing and going on dates; and bad days where she can’t stay awake for more than a few moments at a time and wonders if “this is it.”  I hate those days.

But the Optimism keeps her going. Maybe it keeps me going, too. It’s her extra Ninja Trait, and by far my favorite.

If were a silly thing like cancer, I wouldn’t want to mess with Gam today. It’s going to be a good one.

"Holla!"