Monday, March 2, 2009

How can I keep from sneezing?



Ella just got time-out for biting Owen's arm. Instead of setting the timer for 2 minutes (her age appropriate time), I set it for 4. I felt a little guilty, but no, not really. I'm sure there was a pretty good bite in there I missed, so it was accumulating anyway.

I've been sick for 10 days now. I usually get sick once a year and it's a few days of inconvenience, but nothing more. This time, I can't shake it. Neither can my kids. So, the three shorter Liskey's have been stuck in the house for a week. We've got rolls of toilet paper at every turn and an entire trash can filled with "snot rags." So you see, I needed that extra 2 minutes.

Being held hostage by germs is an obnoxious and humbling experience. Obnoxious in that I haven't tasted or smelled in 6 days. Obnoxious in that I couldn't leave if I wanted to because walking to the car makes me need a nap. Humbling in that I have to ask for help. Humbling in that I'm not able to get anything at all done. Probably the most humbling thing is that while I was laying on the couch, shaking, with a fever, my dear friend, Sam, was having emergency surgery on an appendix that had already served it's purpose. I'm sick and miserable, but thank God I'm not losing organs (even if they are completely useless).

And then I think of my sweet Grandma, who moaned in pain as the cancer took over every cell in her body. She downplayed the pain every time I saw her. I would watch her sometimes and when she thought all eyes were off of her, she would wince and sometimes cry. She was always thinking of everyone else, even down to her last days.

I talked to my Mom a couple weeks ago about what had happened at that last doctors appointment when they knew there was nothing they could do. The PET Scan revealed that the cancer was in her neck and lungs and to the nerves in her shoulder. The cancer that was discovered in her pancreas over 2 years ago, took it's time, but eventually made its way to her liver. It seems that everyone knows what that means, when it finally makes home in this vital organ. People would say "it's not in her liver yet, is it?" And so the day she found out it was, she came home and took a five hour nap, while my Mom and aunt frantically tried to arrange for Hospice, Med-Alert bracelets and dinner that evening. We were asked to come to dinner to help cheer her up. No one said what was going through their mind, but we all knew.

Grandma was in the the best mood she was in for months. She walked around and smiled and laughed. She ate at the table and wanted to watch a movie. Of course, I was on the verge of tears all night and watcher her in awe. I wanted so bad to know why she was happy and peaceful and how I could have that too. I never asked her.

And so as I sat with my mom in the Chocolate Cafe, we talked about Grandma and her life and that entire strange day. Maybe Grandma felt peace that day because she knew that she didn't have to fight anymore. That it was time to rest- with a five hour nap to start, but forever, to rest. Or maybe it's my other theory-the theory that would be just the kind of thing that she would do. Maybe this is what she already knew, that it was nearing the end and she had to just be strong for us to help us get through. And after Dr. Jin told her that they'd done everything under the sun, she thanked him and hugged him and walked away. The nurses who have taken care of her all this time were sobbing and hugging her. She was strong for them, like a Grandma always is, and left in good spirits. It was like she already knew and she was just waiting for everyone else to know, too.

Her sleep that afternoon was sound. And when she awoke, she didn't have to be scared anymore. She still had actual death to face, but the part of the journey she had just endured, that was the hard part. So, that night, she didn't pretend that she didn't know the cancer had spread to all those aching body parts. How freeing it felt, as we saw in her that night.

Five days later she started her first radiation treatment and never had another. Seven days later she died. It still pains me how fast this all happened. I needed more time. It's been a month that's felt like a year and it could have all been a dream. On the other hand, would more time have been better? Would months of suffering broken us all beyond immediate repair? Probably.

And life goes on, kind of, in this new altered weird state. We still have to sleep and work and buy groceries and call friends. But there is this piece missing from my day, and my Papa's day, I'm sure. A month has gone by, but I feel like everyone needs me to be past it. And so I don't cry until I write or Owen says "Did Grandma die?" like he did about 10 minutes ago. "Is she in Heaven with Grandma Betty's cat?" Yes Owen, I think she is. "Are they friends?" Yes, of course they are friends. (I don't have the heart to tell him that my Grandma HATED cats. If cats go to Heaven, you can be sure that Grandma's got rules about cats their, too!)

No doubt, germs are too blame for this mess of sickness we find ourselves in. But, I wouldn't doubt a connection between my weakened immune system and a broken heart. Just seems like the germs knew the right time to strike. And I'm sure that as the sun comes out for good and the snow stays away, our bodies will start to recover slowly, along with our hearts. And as the grass grows and flowers start to escape from their bulbs, we will too see new life spring up in our lives. If you didn't already know, my brother and Elisa will become parents in July as a beautiful little boy will come in to our lives. They think they are just having a baby, but I know what babies do: they help us heal in all our broken places.

There is so much joy in my life and so many miracles that we have seen, how can I keep from singing? But until then, I'll leave the toilet paper within reach.

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