My grandma came to live with us shortly before I turned 8. She had been diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer, had surgery to help prolong her life, and no longer could live in her house, on her own.
Because I was so young, I didn’t know the truth behind her condition. Just that she was sick and my mom was going to take care of her.
My mom is an only child. My grandfather passed away nearly 2 years before I was born, so when my grandma was dying, my mom carried that burden alone.
We had a spare room on the main floor of our house, which my brother and I used as our “play room”. In preparation for my grandma’s arrival, my parents transformed that tiny room into one that accommodated the needs of a terminal cancer patient.
At the beginning of her stay, my grandma was rarely in her room during the day. School was in session, so my brother and I only really saw her at night and on the weekends, but I remember her spending time in the family room, talking with my mom and watching TV.
As time passed, I noticed she was weaker. I have one distinct memory of her lying on the couch in our family room while I sat on the floor, in front of the television. My mom had gone upstairs and my grandma was very uncomfortable with how she was positioned. She called me over to her and asked if I could help scoot her up to a higher spot on the arm rest of the couch.
I dug my 8 year old arms under her chest and locked them around her back. Then I steadied myself for some heavy lifting.
I was shocked at how easily she moved.
* * * * *
We had a veggie garden in our backyard that my mom planted and tended each summer. Our favorites to grow were the tomatoes. Oh, there is nothing more scrumptious than eating slices of a juicy, salted tomato, still warm from the sun’s rays!
My mom used to make me tomato salads with the tomatoes grown in our backyard. Sharing a bowl of tomato salad with some crusty Italian bread is a tradition she always enjoyed with her mom, too.
As my grandma grew weaker, spring was changing into summer. My mom had her garden started, and one warm spring day, I stood at the back door looking out onto the garden. My grandma walked up and stood next to me, both of us enjoying the fresh air coming in through the screen.
I don’t remember what we were talking about – or if we were talking at all – but I will never forget the precise moment in time when my grandma, staring out at the yard, said to me, “I won’t be here to enjoy the tomatoes.”
Her words cut my 8 year old self to the core.
I stood there for a few moments, unable to move or speak or breath.
I calmly turned around and walked through the kitchen, climbed the stairs, and hid in my room to cry. I emerged a short while later, never uttering even a word of our conversation to my mother.
My grandma died that summer, right after school let out.
She never did get to see the tomatoes ripen.
Prompt 1.) A lecture you still remember.