I believe in being able to say I love you.
In November 2004, I was watching the movie “Saved” with my mother. I had the flu for the past few days, but was starting to recover. Right at the climax of the movie, the phone rang. My mother saw that it was her mother calling, and decided she would call her back right after the movie ended. On that cold November day, I was starting to feel better from my illness, and my grandmother was just beginning to feel worse from hers.
She had been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. At first, I did not realize how terrible the news was. My other grandmother had had breast cancer, but she was fine now, so I didn’t think much of any kind of cancer. I later learned that Pancreatic Cancer was one of the least funded and known cancers, with an extremely high fatality rate. My beautiful grandma, who looked at least 20 years younger than she actually was, and who could beat any one of her seven daughters in tennis or golf, was given six months to live.
I wanted to spend every possible moment with my grandmother, and I did. Through chemotherapy when she was throwing up, to Christmas where there were somehow hundreds of presents under the tree, even though my grandmother was too sick to shop. She truly amazed me. And I loved her. She was a role model to every one of my cousins and I. She was one of the first female lifeguards in Minneapolis, MN. She modeled, she was a single working mother in the 1960’s, a time when mothers didn’t work, and when they especially did not divorce their husbands.
A few weeks after my grandmother was diagnosed I received a book about losing your loved ones from my mother. I was a very private person, and for a long time was even too embarrassed to open it. But one day I did. I flipped to a story about a teenage girl who wanted to tell her dying grandfather that she loved him. She was scared, and felt a little stupid saying it, but eventually she did. She said that she was thankful everyday that she told her grandpfather that she loved him, and would have regretted not saying it. I knew exactly how this girl felt. I had been debating telling my grandma I loved her for weeks. I decided to just suck it up and tell my amazing grandmother I loved her.
I’ll never forget her face when I told her. I was leaving after Thanksgiving dinner, and as I gave her a hug I said it. She seemed surprised, but pleased nonetheless. Then she gave me another hug and told me she loved me too. I never told my grandmother that I loved her again. I never needed to.
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