She just bought two pairs of new shoes.
This is the refrain my brain keeps returning to, as if that will make the outcome any different. She hardly ever bought new shoes, or clothes, and especially furniture. Yet in the past year, as she decided she’d go on dialysis and stick around awhile, she purchased all of that. The shoes were just mere weeks ago. So she can’t really be gone.
My Grandma had been preparing for her death for literally decades. She’d occasionally show me things–knick knacks, collectibles, heirlooms, etc.–that she’d tagged with a sticker on the bottom bearing my name. She’d been methodically going through her belongings and identifying who should get what in order to minimize any issues after her passing. She and Grandpa bought their cemetery plots long ago, just a few blocks from their house, and joked that any other moves they made would be to their plots there.
She taught me how to bake, and made the best desserts ever. She was way more precise with her recipes than I am; I tend to dump flour and sugar and use “rounded” everything for measurements; she always meticulously scraped the extra flour off the top of a measuring cup, and laid down spoons as counting devices for large recipes to keep track of how many cups she’d already added. She knew where to go for the “best lard” in the area. She used to make her own strawberry jam and keep a garden; as kids, we’d snap beans at her house and watch the hummingbirds at her backyard feeders.
She was immensely patient. We stayed at her house quite a bit as children when my mom was in the hospital. One day she was making breakfast for myself and my siblings, including my younger brother, who was maybe 4 years old at the time. He wanted “dipping eggs”– basically made over-easy. Every egg she made, she cracked the yolk and he refused to eat it. Finally one came out unbroken–and she said she “could have killed him” when the first thing my brother did was take a piece of toast and break the yolk.
She was a fan of both sports and politics. She loved the Buckeyes and the Indians, and was disappointed when hometown hero Ben Roethlisberger kept screwing up his charmed life. Though she’d never gotten a driver’s license and had only been employed a few weeks out of her life, she was progressive and couldn’t stand the right-wing mouthpieces. She routinely clipped newspaper articles on MRSA and other infectious diseases to mail to me. She still used words like “oleo” and “davenport.” She would have been 86 in just a few weeks, and we were already planning a party for her and my Grandpa’s 65th wedding anniversary in June. Though she was also obsessive about sending everyone birthday and anniversary cards (always written in her neat, small cursive) but I didn’t know until just a few weeks ago that she’d never gotten a card for Grandpa. She figured 65 years was enough time to wait, and just bought him his first birthday card. It was on the mantle yesterday when my sister went over to visit.
She seemed, in many ways, both fragile and invincible. Over the past 20 years, she’d survived breast cancer, Clostridium difficile, a heart attack (and ~5 minutes of death in 2008), and “The E. Coli” as she called it, like it was a person rather than a bacterium. The E. Coli put her in the hospital with hemolytic uremic syndrome. It was this foe, with its subsequent reduction in kidney function, that necessitated her dialysis. She started the latter in late summer of 2011, after feeling incredibly tired for much of that season. Initially she fought it–she “didn’t want to trouble anyone” and there were no transportation options for seniors going to and from dialysis in her county–but after a family intervention (“you need this or you WILL die, and soon”) she decided she wanted to stick around for awhile. Indeed, she’d mentioned more than once that she felt better in the past 6 months than she had in quite awhile. She’d lost 50 pounds, some of it fluid due to the dialysis, and some due to better eating via a “meals on wheels” program she started with Grandpa–and was confident enough to make some purchases, like the shoes and a new sofa.
Two days ago, Grandma June was unable to do dialysis at her clinic as a clot was identified. Yesterday, my aunt took her to a hospital facility to have it checked out and receive dialysis there. I’m not yet sure of all the details; sounds like she had another heart attack (due to the clot?) but this time, there wasn’t any coming back, new shoes and sofa be damned.