Monday, September 21, 2009
phantasmagoria, noun, what happened next was a phantasmagoria of horror and mystery.
-a sequence of real or imaginary images like that seen in a dream.
It's been nearly a month since my last post. I have no excuse for that, except to say that I go through intense cycles of obsessing over and then hiding from this thing. I'm finding that I'm a lot lazier than I ever imagined.
A lot has changed over the course of a month, and from where I sit today, I honestly wish I had written earlier. I wish--per Emily's request-- that I had a blog entry for every day since I got engaged. I GOT ENGAGED! I have dreamed about marrying David forever, and it's all coming true. Each day that I make small decisions or big ones, or look at wedding photography, I close my eyes and envision our day--envision myself as Lia Dangelico--and it's such a beautiful, powerful feeling. There is no one I would rather grow old and wrinkly with. There is no one who makes me feel more beautiful and intelligent. There is no one who makes me feel more safe. September 4, 2010 we'll be married down on the Carolina coast. :-)
I wish I had written sooner because this sort of thing deserves no damper. No overshadowing. But a thin gray cloud has inched its way across the sky overhead. My sweet Grandmother Grace has been diagnosed with cancer. Last night I sat on the couch talking to her and her voice sounded the same. It was smooth and strong, sing-songy as it always is. In my perpetually 10-year-old mind I was shocked that she sounded the same. Shouldn't she sound weak, sick? I thought.
No matter how much you study cancer, or wear the pink ribbon or run for "the cause," you can never be prepared enough to hear that word attached to someone you love. Cancer belongs to your co-worker's mother. Cancer belongs to the girl who sat in front of you in poetry class with all that pain. Cancer is ugly, tacky and my Grandmother is the picture of beauty and elegance. My Grandmother can separate one classical composer from the next. My Grandmother can tell you which flowers bloom along the George Washington Parkway and when. My Grandmother can carry out a conversation in French with the most remarkable accent. My Grandmother says words like "phantasmagorical." Her house is filled with stunning glass birds in every color that catch the sunlight when it pours in the windows and send rainbows dancing around her living room. When we were young, she would gather my sisters and I together on the couch or in bed and tell us enchanting stories of Herkimer, the boisterous mouse who lived under her steps. In her tales, Herkimer only emerged at night to go rummaging through her kitchen cupboards scavenging for snacks. But he was everywhere. Anytime there was a spill or one of her precious birds turned up missing a beak or a wing, she would smile kindly and whisper down to us. "Herkimer, that rascal! He must have taken a bit of Ruby's wing to give to his wife for their anniversary!" And she would dry our premature tears and rub our backs until we had forgotten the moment of fear.
I am trying to breathe deeply and patiently wait to hear what the doctor says on Thursday about treatment and a plan of action. But I am anxious at the thought of losing her. Anxious at the thought of eyeing an empty seat next to my Grandaddy Bill on my wedding day. Scared to imagine my own mother without a mother anymore. I know this is moving too quickly, but even she has said, "if this is my time to go and be with the Lord, I couldn't be happier." I guess, as always, my only fear with death is for who is left behind. Grandmother Grace and Grandaddy Bill are a package deal. She flutters from place to place, singing her praises on each person she talks to, her eyes twinkling, her voice just above a whisper, while Grandaddy Bill plops into a chair in the corner, one eye squinting to look into the viewfinder of his camera, his nose and mouth hidden as he bellows out "One, two, three" and snaps one of a million pictures. There is no one without the other in my mind. And yes, despite their fussing and his grumpiness, the idea of him standing alone just makes my heart ache. Would one still exisit without the other? Will Grandaddy Bill still take pictures? Will Granddadyy Bill still crack stupid jokes just to make us giggle? I know God brings the joy in his heart, but I also know that my Grandmother has brought him more wonder and happiness than one man deserves.
I'm getting ahead of myself, but I know no other way. I'm afraid of an attacker so strong, one that has taken so many lives. I'm trying to find rest in God, find my center, my peace in him. I know he has the power to move any mountain. One far bigger than this one. In the meantime, I'm planning to be by her side often, smooth the soft creases on her hands with my fingertips, listen to her fingers dance up and down the piano. And when I think of her there in her livingroom, in their home of so many warm memories of first borns and holiday meals, playing her piano, I imagine her face tilted up toward the window, completely aglow with early-morning sunlight. Her whole body is singing, from her eyes to her fingers. And as she gazes out into the day unfolding, up, up into the sky, I know her ears are piqued to hear that Voice--whether calling her name, reaching out for her, or fading a bit and gently easing her onward. I know no matter what, the music will remain, playing over and over again, and we will always feel her there.