Saturday, November 07, 2015

BTW

My grandma is dying, my very last grandparent. She has cancer throughout her body and doctors have given her weeks (potentially months) to live. On the whole, I'm rather excited for her. She's been ready to die for a long time. She went downhill fast after my grandpa died. Her memory has gotten so bad and she doesn't seem to enjoy much of anything. Death will be a sweet release. For her, I mean. Not necessarily for us, but for her.

So, I gave this lecture about family history at Relief Society meeting on Thursday.

Look at me using the word "lecture." Really I put some slides up and blathered on and on and on about nothing in particular. Well, family history, specifically personal history, specifically on journalling. Anyway, I spoke briefly about an article in the New York Times about a study done on the relationship between knowing your family history and your overall psychological well-being called The Stories that Bind Us.

On my slide I used the final quote, "The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones." I told about my Hancock side of the family—about how they are really good at creating, refining, and retelling their stories and how it's easy for me to identify as a Hancock even though I never carried that name and my mom never carried that name. It's my grandma's maiden name and hasn't been in the family for three generations now; my children never met my grandma, yet my children know her name. They know they are Hancocks. The Hancocks recorded their narrative so well that it's easy to tell and retell and retell again.

Now that my other grandma is dying, I'm realizing what a big hole there is in family history work. There are few memories posted on my dad's side of the family tree. My mom's side of the tree, on the other hand, has so many "memories" shared by various relatives that it's not even funny.

I suppose it's my job to strengthen that narrative.


My grandma's brother, Uncle Tom, is still alive. He's pretty good at sharing memories but I think I need to convince him to put everything up on Family Search.

I have a CD that my dad gave to me that apparently had the speeches given at my grandpa's funeral on them...but it was empty when I went to play it...and I emailed him about that but he didn't ever respond. So I can't even transcribe that (though I would love to).

Anyway, my mom sent a message out to me and my siblings the other day, saying that her cousin Nola's cancer had come back with a vengeance; she had mere weeks to live. This was sad news because she's still so young—her daughter Dylan just had her first baby! She's right around my mom's age. They grew up together.

So I've been feeling a little bit sad about Nola.

But then yesterday I got a message from my mom just as we'd hopped into the car to head to ukulele.

It basically said, "Oh, btw. I don't know if I mentioned this to you (or David or Josie) but I know I've talked to Kelli, Abbi, and Patrick. Grandma's dying. Uncle Bob called to say she's got cancer throughout her body and has weeks, maybe months, left to live."

I actually laughed out loud when I read her text.

Not because I'm happy my grandma's dying (though, honestly, I am a little; I just hope she goes quickly without a lot of pain because she's so, so ready) but because my mom forgot to tell half her kids about it! To her credit, she remembered eventually (and, really, she hadn't known about it very long, herself), but this isn't the first time she's forgotten to tell me such an important thing.

When I was in Russia (teaching English in 2004) my great-uncle Jerry passed away. He's the husband of my great-aunt Wanda, my grandpa's twin sister. Wayne and Wanda—cute, right? Anyway, Jerry died in February of 2004.

I came back from Russia in June and we were going to something at my grandma and grandpa's house and my mom mentioned that Wanda would be there.

"Oh, what about Jerry?" I asked.

Jerry's funny and fun to talk to; I always liked visiting with him when I saw him.

"Nancy," my mom said slowly. "Jerry is dead."

"WHAT?!" I blubbered. "But when? How? What? Really?"

"He passed away in February," my mom said.

"He passed away in February and no one told me!?" I said.

"Oh, I thought I had," she said.

"Nope. This is news to me!"

At least I found out about it before I went and asked Aunt Wanda where Jerry was. How awkward would that have been?!

I can't really blame my mom, though, because who wants to be the bearer of bad news, really?

5 comments:

  1. Wait is Nola the aunt we met this summer? That is sad. I understand on your grandma though. Jason's grandma has decided she is ready to go. She feel and hurt her back and refused to eat or drink for a few days last month and almost went then. Then she bounced back a bit but revised her health directive to say she didn't want fluids or antibiotics. His grandpa is distraught about the whole thing. They have been two peas in a pod for the last sixry years and he isn't ready to go and doesn't want her to go either. But she is like, I can't drive, I can't walk without falling down, I can't mow the lawn any more, I'm in pain, I'm done. From a practical point of view Jason totally supports his patients when they make this kind of decision but he was so distraught when she made it. My closest grandma died when I was 20. I miss her but she has now missed almost as much of my life as she was around for. Sad :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nola was not there this summer. She is my cousin. My sister, Arlene, who also is a cancer survivor, you did meet. Arlene is pretty upset about Nola's cancer coming back. If you look at my FB profile picture, you can see both Nola and Arlene in the picture. When we were small.

      Delete
    2. No, no. That's my Auntie Arlene you're thinking of. She's fine—though kind of freaking back at how fiercely/quickly Nola's cancer came back.

      Nola is my mom's cousin (who is like an aunt; it's that close of a cousin-ship).

      It's hard when people decide to die; but it's also hard to watch them suffer. My mom had an aunt who waited to die for years and years and years. She finally did, obviously, but sometimes waiting around to die is harder than it sounds (without a terminal diagnosis).

      Delete
    3. Freaking OUT. Not back. Yup.

      Delete
    4. My mom is a faster typer than I am... :)

      Delete