Learning To Love You More




Assignment #31
Spend time with a dying person.

Tiffany Lee Brown
Portland, Oregon USA



Christine E. Brown a.k.a. "Graggy"
Leisure World, Laguna Woods, California
Diagnosis: Leukemia
My grandmother, at the time very close to age 94, decided not to get treatment when she was diagnosed. I flew to California almost immediately for a visit. She taught me to play bridge; rather, she tried, I'm a bit clueless and impatient. We hung out and drank martinis and went over her old photo albums, and I halfheartedly tape-recorded her when we were talking about her legendary trip on a freighter ship with Leila in the '70s, going to Morocco, Israel, Spain, Greece. She was freshly-diagnosed and didn't want anyone to visit her; she didn't want a fuss. "I don't want everyone descending on me!" she said. "I don't want you to see me like this." She didn't want to see the doctor, either. "I'm ready to go," Graggy said. Still, we had a great deal of fun, though I found it hard because she and my dad and her daughter, who were all there, are chin-up, smile-on, solid!
Protestant sorts of people, whereas I take after my mom's melodramatic Irish Catholic weeping-n-wailing ancestry. I did my best not to dissolve in tears all the time. Graggy expressed her excitement about my upcoming trip to Thailand and South India; she found it admirable that I, a woman, would be travelling alone. Despite her travels to China, Southeast Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Europe, she thought India sounded like too much. "I never wanted to see that much poverty," she told me quietly. After a few days, we had one last conversation, which we both knew was goodbye forever. She urged me to have a wonderful trip, and I sat down on her bed to hug her. Graggy reached around me and sort of nestled into my neck, clutching with a strong hand at at the flesh between my collarbone and shoulder. We exchanged "I love you's!" and I saw her eyes clouding up behind her thick glasses, so I fled the room. As I left, I heard her say about me to my aunt, "Boy, she does live quite a life, doesn't she?" I cried in the sunshine under the lime trees. Graggy lived long enough to see all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, celebrate her 94th birthday, receive my postcard from Sukhothai, and have one last Christmas with her children.