Her birthday is on October 3; mine is on October 4. She loves candy cane cookies and potatoes – of every kind; so do I. She has a unique perspective on life, strong opinions, and a tender heart; so do I. She likes playing with the boys; so did I. She loves words; so do I. She hates dressing up; it’s just not “her look;” Clothes are meant to be comfortable, she says. I totally agree. She’s 10 and I’m 73. She’s my granddaughter, and we have a lot to talk about.
When she came over a few days ago, I complimented her on her matching pink fuzzy socks (she often chooses mis-matched pairs) and the new shoes that finally have replaced her beloved, scuffed up old pair. She has come over to color with me in my new”adult” coloring book. But first we made blueberry muffins so Grandpa would have something delish to eat.
My coloring book is a treasure of complicated designs. It’s billed as a tool for meditation, but it also works super well to foster communication. While we color, she talks and talks. It’s hard being the youngest child in the family because you always get things that are handed down. There’s this boy who calls me by a nickname. I don’t like it because he’s only known me for two years and he hasn’t known me long enough to call me that. My mom wants me to wear the new jeans she bought, but they’re not comfortable when I play indoor hockey, so I told her to let me pick out my own clothes. I can’t wait till my sister (who turns 16 in January) gets her car. I hope she will take me with her sometimes. My teacher says I’m really good at math, but I hate math. I love to cook! I wish I could cook more.
When there is a lull in the conversation, I say “I know that your mom and dad have told you that I’m sick. And I’d like to explain what’s going on to you. Okay?”
She nods apprehensively. So we talk about good blood cells and bad blood cells. I explain that I have a cancer of the blood, called multiple myeloma. I tell her about my chemo injections on Thursdays and show her the two dozen pills I take before I get the injection. I also show her my diabetes testing materials and my insulin pens and tell her that the steroids I take mess up my blood sugar. She says that when she was in third grade, her teacher told them that steroids are bad for you and that boys sometimes take too many. I agree with her assessment, but say that I hope to stop taking them in another 12 weeks. I show her the full-page charts of blood test results and doses that the doctor and I have worked out. I explain that I get tired easily and that I have to stay away from crowds because it is harder for my body to fight off infections. “That’s why I couldn’t go to your games or to your play. It makes me sad that I can’t be there.”
“Oh, that’s okay, Grandma, my sister doesn’t even come to my games.” Regret is obvious in her voice and on her face. “Pretty soon she’ll be going to college. I don’t want her to go to college. I want her to stay with us.” We talk about how her sister might invite her to visit her when that time comes and stay overnight in the dorm. She’s not easily consoled.
Soon we re-focus on the coloring and the brush that turns the water-soluble pencil work into a water-color look-alike painting She is thrilled. “Can I pick out another page to do when we come on Christmas? We tear the page out and she asks me to put it somewhere safe. She finishes her candy cane cookie and warns me that I shouldn’t tell her mother that she had two. I say, “It’s Christmas. Plus I almost never give you sweet treats. I think it will be fine.” When she comes to pick her up, I give her mother a candy cane cookie that’s broken and say, “My mother used to say that if a cookie’s broken, it’s okay to eat it. Of course, she always managed to break quite a few.”
And then she is gone. The rest of the day is a busy one. Take my husband to the doctor. Drive him to get his prescription filled. Drop him off and get the week’s groceries. Lug the groceries in the house and put them away. Sit in the recliner in complete exhaustion. But it all is made tolerable by the memory of a 10- year – old girl who is just like her grandma and who thinks being with her is a great way to spend a morning.
image of coloring book page by decaturarthouse.com
image of grandma quote by esty.com