Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Dancing At My Wedding

I was bat mitzvah in 1986, and my grandparents--both my grandmothers and my grandpa--came to the ceremony and the party, and they were all in their sixties, and they drove themselves, and they danced. My Catholic grandma accidentally genuflected while she was getting into her seat. (This embarassed her no end, as she was convinced the rabbi would be mortally offended, but the faux pas, if faux pas it was, was wiped out a second later, as my Aunt Yocheved announced at top volume "My! What a YOUNG rabbi!")

Twenty years later, we're going back for my wedding, and my grandparents aren't in their sixties any more. (I guess I thought they'd be spry and salt-and-pepper forever.) My grandpa died three years ago. My mother's mother suffered a stroke not long after that, and is in a long, slow recovery, thank God. My father's mother is fragile, and had been increasingly suffering from dementia.

Late last week we got a series of calls that seemed to indicate that things were really wrong with my dad's mother. She called in hysterics saying that my aunt and uncle, who she lives with, had kidnapped her, and asking my father to send the San Francisco PD to save her. (They live in San Diego. In the background of her SOS call, the kidnappers could be heard offering cardigans, and asking if she wanted to sit down somewhere more comfortable with the phone). Shortly after, we got news that her doctor has found a number of almost-certainly-cancerous growths in several places, and that the dementia was kicking up. My aunt told us that if we wanted to see her, we had better come quickly.

My father and I took off, and spent the weekend and most of Monday in San Diego. We're going to go back over Mother's Day weekend.

I'm really glad that we went. She actually was doing better by the time we got there, and we talked for quite a long time. She's frail, tiny--she's never liked to eat, and has always been slight, and now she's like a little bird. Ankles I could put my fist around. And her short-term memory is shot, and her long-term memory fades in and out randomly, and sometimes when we're talking I'm me, and sometimes I'm my mother, and sometimes I'm a total stranger and she looks confused when people call me by my name, because it was also her mother's name. But her sense of herself is still strong, and her unmistakable personality is intact. And I'm dealing.

"We can't plan as far ahead as August," my uncle told me. "We're living day to day right now." "Look," I told him. "If she's well enough to travel in August, and wants to come, it will be a huge blessing, and if not, we'll still be all right." And I told my aunt on the other side of the family something similar when I wrote about the wedding. My mother's mother is going in for cataract surgery and is still fragile. I don't know if travel is in the cards. But I'm dealing. My three grandparents between them have given me so much. I would love for them to dance at my wedding, or at least be there. (And typing this is making me cry.) But we'll have to see, and I will have them all in my heart, (and the grandmas on the phone), if that's what we can manage.

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