I am so lucky. I am one of the only people my age that I know who has all four grandparents still alive. Although I didn't grow up in the same town as my grandparents, both sets have always lived about 3 minutes away from each other, and a little over an hour from where I grew up. I was able to see them often - weekends, holidays, weeks in the summer, etc. They were able to come to birthday parties, graduations, weekend visits... some of my very fondest childhood memories involve my grandparents. As I got older, I was able to realize how to appreciate them each in their own way. They are four separate people, with different qualities and quirks. But they do share one common trait - they all love me... a LOT. I'm lucky for that, too.
My Mommom B. (pictured above, with me at Meghan's wedding rehearsal dinner) has always been someone I've looked at with admiration. We all grew up listening to her stories (so often, in fact, that now I could recite a few), eating her cooking (even Shadow Surprise), playing games with her (her favorite is Yahtzee), listening to her recite poems, sing old songs, and recount memories of The Great Depression. But, what I have always loved about my grandmother is that she has always just "known" some things about me (and I am sure her other grandchildren feel similarly). Now that I'm older, we end up having serious discussions and I find myself telling her things I'd never pictured myself telling someone so old. For the last few years, I usually call my Mommom about once a month just to chat. She always answers, and she is always excited to hear from me. Over the course of our usual 15 minute call, she thanks me throughout for calling. And that's what always makes me call the next time.
Our last few phone calls have been mostly talks of her coming down for my graduation in May. I honestly hadn't been so sure that she could have made the trip because I knew she'd been having some heart problems, and she's just getting pretty old (84, I think?) But after talking to my mom, who told me that my grandmother had made it clear to her that she had every intention of coming, I started to consider the fact that maybe she would make it down. For some reason, of all of my grandparents, my Mommom B. has been like a personal cheerleader when it has come to college. Perhaps it's because she is living somewhat vicariously through my academic accomplishments (and those of all of her grandchildren), since she never got to go to nursing school- something she has dreamed about her entire life. So, having her here would have been extremely special. I can even see the look on her face...
Unfortunately, Mommom just received some pretty bad news. I don't know the specific details... just that she is now in congestive heart failure. The way I'm understanding it, one of the valves in her heart is hardly working at all now. The doctors are unable to do surgery to fix the valve, because there is too much risk involve and she wouldn't make it out of surgery. So, what will happen is that the other valves in her heart will continue to work overtime to pump blood throughout her body. Those valves are going to overwork themselves and eventually become tired - too tired to work at all. It will get harder and harder for her heart to circulate blood to the rest of her body. And then, her heart will cease to pump at all.
Of course, upon hearing this, she claimed that she was going to "outsmart these doctors and live to be 100". She "shooed" the doctor who told her that she had probably 6 months to a year to live). If you'd ever met my grandmother, this statement wouldn't surprise you at all. She's outfoxed many illnesses and prognoses: cancer twice, emphysema, etc. I'm happy to report that she has decided to enjoy living the rest of her life. I expect nothing less of her. She is truly the rock of our family, and holds us together tighter than any glue or bond ever could. Our family has seen more than its fair share of trials and struggles, and while she has been ever present during those, she has also given us a huge gift. She has hugged each of us before we have left her house. She has answered each phone call with "Hey baby!" She has given everyone little pieces of herself and her life, whether it be a crocheted afghan, a camera from the 40s, the recipe for "muddin muddin", or a wise piece of advice that we may not have realized the value of until much later.
I cherish these gifts, and I look forward to spending as much time with Mommom as I can in the future. She has lived a truly exceptional life, and will continue to do so for as long as she wants. I love her more today than I ever have before.