The Woman Who Went to Every Country


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There are two things you need to know right off the bat: Yesterday I ate a huge burrito for lunch, and my family is not very close. We're not unclose, I guess. It's just that we have better things to do, and I'd be willing to guess we all register somewhere in the Asperger's spectrum.

So when I got a text message from my mom today telling me not only that my grandmother was on life support, but that they were, in fact, removing it, please understand that it was not that outlandish. My mom got married a few years ago and didn't tell me until like a week later. 

"Bob and I got married on a boat last Thursday."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Oh, I didn't think you'd be interested."

My mom and I have a very odd relationship. We love each other, but it is odd.

I knew that my grandmother was in a serious car accident a few weeks ago, about which I had been told in a phone call. I was not really told the extent of the accident -- that she had been cut out of her car with the Jaws of Life, or that there was little to no chance of her fully recovering. My grandmother had also banned all of her grandchildren from visiting her in the ICU.

"You can come visit me once I'm better," she told me. "Once I've had some time to clean up."

She did not get better. In fact, her small 87-year-old body had put up a very good fight, considering the severity of the accident. But after two weeks of surgeries and pain and begging for it to be over, she finally got them to take out her breathing tube.

By the end she couldn't even talk, although she could type out messages to my mom and her brothers. The messages ranged from "I don't want to live like this," to "Give me control," to "SHOOT ME." She was a strong, dignified lady, and she never wanted to be a burden on anyone.

I drove an hour to the hospital, speeding all the way. Once they remove that tube, apparently the end can come at any time. My CD player is broken, leaving me only with the radio, and even though I had listened to "Call Me Maybe" at least three times on the drive down, instead of sprinting inside, I sat in my car long after I had parked in the hospital's massive structure to allow Carly Rae Jepsen to finish. And then I sat some more, watching a cat dart under parked cars.

The walk up to the front doors was pretty okay, and hugging my mom in the lobby felt fine, but once we got in that elevator, man. I wanted to pry open the doors and run out of there.

You know who didn't get well? Dinosaurs.

"She's not in any pain," my mom said. She had the tone of a woman talking to a small child, and I was totally fine with that. She held my hand as we walked into her room and there she was. My grandmother was named Lenora. She was an accountant, and later a teacher, and she could play piano and tap dance. She had a big funny laugh and was a genuinely kind person, and now she was in hospital bed; tiny and crumpled and connected to a million machines, all beeping.

I was already crying, but it was soft and delicate and ladylike until a nurse came over and asked, "Are you close with your grandmother?" Because, no. I'm not. We're just not that kind of family.

The nurse, whose name I've already forgotten, was one of those people who is warm and instantly feels like home. She gave me a big hug and led me over to the bed.

"She's not in any pain," she told me in that same tone my mom used. "You can hold her hand and talk to her." She put my hand in hers. It was surprisingly warm, and I just stood there and sobbed, feeling so sorry for every email forward she had sent me that I hadn't replied to, for my surly teen years, for stealing a bracelet from Claire's when I was 13 that she couldn't possibly know about. She was a good, good, good person; and I stood there with her warm hand, feeling sorry for being so inferior.

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Alison Agosti is a writer living in Los Angeles.

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