This last week, I've been basically on vacation. Not because I wanted to be.
I didn't go to France, England, Australia, Italy or any other awesome tourist spot that would have marked me immediately as an American by my wide grin and wildly unchecked excitement.
Instead, I spent the week walking a million miles, back and forth from a waiting room to a hospital intensive care unit. On Monday morning, exactly seven days ago, my grandmother called me. My family isn't one of those wildly close, talking-every-few-minutes kinds of families. We probably take each other for granted most of the time, not feeling the need to call or talk often because we just each know that the others are there. My cousin and I talk all day almost every day and we have very few secrets from each other - but the closeness sort of stops with us.
All that just to say that my grandmother and I don't talk often, though I love her to pieces and admire her greatly. For such a short, tiny little woman, she's amazingly strong and there isn't one person in the younger generation of my family who can imagine a time in the future where she might not be around. It's hard to watch her approach her 80's - and maybe that's part of why we don't talk often. We're both realists and neither of us much like the idea that she's getting older. I call her occasionally, though rarely.
She only calls me with bad news. I hear the phone ring and I look; her face is there on the screen and I immediately fill up with thick and heavy dread. My chest tightens; my breath quickens.
She always calls with bad news about my mom, who has been in ill health for most of my life. Sometimes it's just, "Have you talked to your mom? I can't get her on the phone," because my mom and my grandmother are like a future version of Dana (my cousin) and I. They talk all day almost every day. Other times, most usually within the last few years, it's more like, "Your mom's sick again and in the hospital." They live close together -- about fifteen minutes apart from each other whereas I'm maybe an hour away -- so when my mom is sick, it's generally her mother, my grandmother, that she calls first.
(last) Monday morning. The phone rings. And there's my grandmother's face.
"Hello?" I answer.
There's a pause, a horrible, terrifying pause. "Brandi?" she asks, and my heart drops to the floor. She sounds old, her voice is shaky, and I think she sounds ... tearful. Panic fills me as I try to remember a tearful vision of my grandmother and I can't. There simply isn't such a memory inside me. Or, well, there wasn't, until this past week.
I don't remember seeing her cry when her mother died, though I'm sure she did, privately. I don't remember seeing her cry when her husband died after many years of illness, though I'm sure she did, privately. I don't remember seeing her cry. Ever. She's strong, she's untouchable. She's immortal.
Except that on this phone call she's tearful. And I'm terrified.
The conversation goes on - and to protect my family's privacy I won't tell you everything, but I can tell you this was maybe the longest week of my life. This coming week will likely be just as long; we're still all running back and forth to the hospital to visit with my mom, but it seems that the worst is over ... for now. And with my mom's health, "for now" is all any of us are really asking for.
I haven't written much of anything. The other day I sat down and opened Selkie, trying to work through a new scene with Annie and Brenna, but I read it about three times and nothing made sense. I sighed, closed it out, and moved on with my day. Fighting For Freedom is still in my mind in a big way too, and now Harmony Kingsley is beginning to push herself to the forefront of my thoughts. She's trying to cheer me, distract me.
It isn't working.
But things are looking up and I am back to writing this week. And that's got to count for something. Doesn't it?