satin linings

June 27, 2017

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“Oh, Anna-I feel awful. Something’s wrong with me, I know …” She walked past me in her customary flurry, but this time on a mission to sink into her armchair. I followed her with a slightly panicked version of my usual (these days) concern over her increased aging ails. Worried that her insistence on going to the store had really done her in, I furrowed my brow and agreed with her stream of comments about how miserable this sickness was and how impossible it must be to imagine. “Do you feel this awful when you have malaria?,” she queried. Not sure exactly what I was comparing the feeling to, I decided to simply affirm that, sure, it must feel as awful. Still unsure what to actually do to help, though, I spontaneously put my hands on hers and closed my eyes. “Amen,” I breathed, after a few moments, adding Julian of Norwich ‘s All shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.

Looking up, I saw a calm smile and felt pleased with my decision. But then she spoke again. “My casket is out in the pantry – I mean den. I mean office. Do you know how hard it is to find good caskets anymore? They don’t make the satin-lined ones anymore. But we can’t afford those anyway. The last funeral we did cost us $8000 – can you believe that? I heard someone say they had found a good casket maker …” She paused for a moment and I thought perhaps I should chime in. “Oh-the kind lined with satin?” I tried, wondering if I was following her train of thought. “Oh no,” she responded. “You just put your own sheets and quilts in there.”
This time I just shook my head, done with trying to make sense of the conversation. “Grandma-you’re a nut.”

I hugged her goodbye and we headed on to Mom’s place, as planned. When we got to the house Mom was on the phone. Grandma had called to say that she thought she should go on to the hospital. Instantly I felt guilt for having left when I did, and for not lingering until the hospital trip had been decided upon. I should have anticipated it, right? I should have insisted on taking her myself …

The four of us sat down to dinner, with periodic calls coming in with updates. Once we had cleaned up, Mom announced that they needed to decide whether or not they should go as well. Quite frankly, it had not occurred to me to go join the waiting room party, but they said they’d head on over, expecting to be waiting till well into morning hours before she would be seen. We joked that Lou might as well bring his overnight bag so he’d be ready to start work in the morning (he works at the same hospital). Then Peter and I got back on the road to head to our place while they left for the hospital. “I feel really guilty,” I told him, as soon as we were in the car. “You want to go?” he asked. ” “No-but I feel like I should. In our family that’s what we do. If one person has a problem, everyone stops life in order to pitch in …or join the waiting party, as the case may be.”

And that is the way it stands as I write this. Grandma is waiting out another hospital visit, still with no idea what the actual problem might be. Is it natural aging aches and pains? Is there something more specific that needs treatment? I don’t know. But I do know that the angst -filled and agonizing waiting game that we reside in now is not a happy place. I flit about with random household tasks, unable to focus on Greek lessons—or on anything else that would require more than a 2-second attention span. Family. Life would be so much easier without such emotional entanglements, would it not? Without guilt . . . without conflict . . . without drama . . . without . . . love?

Postscript: All is well, for now. They spent 4 hours waiting and then, when the doctor saw her, he prescribed meds to treat an infection that she’d previously been aware of, but that had more symptoms than realized. Everyone went home around 11:00 that night and today things were normal . . . insomuch as a family is ever “normal” ;-)

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