Yesterday, on May 21st, I turned 45. Officially at 4:35am.
My Birthday is a mixture of happiness and sadness. Happiness because I’m still here despite living with a terminal illness and sadness because I share this day with the passing of my Grandmother and the infant daughter of a high school friend. It’s bittersweet.
My Grandmother and I were very close and not just because I was her only granddaughter. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my Grandparents. Most weekends actually, because both my folks worked at our family business. I learned a lot from my Grandmother: the finer points of gardening, how to play the latest card games, why it’s important to go to three different stores to buy 6 different items and how to iron.
My Grandmother often said we were a lot alike because we shared the same astrological sign of Gemini. We were ‘twins’. I was always able to confide in Nonnie. She listened without judgement and never betrayed my comfidence.
I would argue that I inherited her stubbornness and compassion for others. When she was insistent on something there was no changing her mind. However, her naivety was all her own. She always saw the good in everyone….e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. You could ask her about Charles Manson and she would insist he didn’t really mean to hurt anyone. This was frustrating as it was amusing.
As Nonnie got up in years it was clear she shouldn’t be living alone. She was becoming forgetful and she would occasionally fall. She was very proud of her independence. She had spent 60+ years married to my Grandfather who took care of her completely. After he passed away, Nonnie became self sufficient for the next 20 yrs. It was difficult for her to admit she needed help. Not to mention dementia was taking hold.
Nonnie lived with my folks for as long as they could care for her. In early 2013, the hard decision was made to seek out a facility that could give Nonnie the care she needed. I spent many afternoons with her once she got settled into her new digs.
It was difficult to watch her decline over the next 4 months and in May it was clear she was transitioning and preparing to be with my Grandfather. That day, my birthday, she hung on until we arrived but didn’t pass until I had left the room. It was her final gift to me.
If I had to choose between having her here today and her passing on my birthday, I’d definitely choose the way things happened. I’m thankful she never knew of my diagnosis and at the time of her passing she knew I was the happiest I’d been in a very long time.
That was MY last gift to her.