Thursday, May 28, 2015

Outliving Our Nanas

Today’s is Tami’s first day without her Nana.

Today she’ll blink into the sunlight as it seems extra bright to tear-filled eyes. She’ll take deeper breaths than yesterday remembering how Patsy struggled to breathe. She’ll wonder about a future that Nana will not witness.


Today she’ll begin the inevitable journey of loss.

On my first day with my Nana, I was in Hawaii.

My Nana waited until I was so far away I couldn’t possibly be there to go through the rituals of mourning.  I missed the visiting, the casseroles, the flowers, the graveside.

I missed the talking. For the first time, I was very, very quiet with my Nana.

Tami’s Nana had the same thing mine did, pulmonary fibrosis, which is a hardening of the lungs. It steals breath away until the body can no longer turn oxygen into life. It’s a slow way to deteriorate and in my Nana’s case it took several years of her withering on the vine.

Patsy’s decline was much faster, a few months only, but just as devastating.

We know we’re meant to outlive our Nanas. 

We’re meant to carry on without them, to take what they’ve given us and live a well-organized life.

We’ll cheer for the Tigers and the Midshipmen, like they taught us to.

We’ll have happy hour with crown and gingers and champagne like they did.

We’ll love our husbands and raise our families with grace and dignity.

They had their time for all of that and when it was over, they watched our mothers. 

Lately they’ve been watching us. Just watching. Neither of our Nanas was very fond of being a passenger. They both hated giving up their car keys more than any other indignity pulmonary fibrosis had for them.

They were spunky, independent women who told us to stand up for ourselves, believe in ourselves, and keep trying even when the odds were against us.

About a month ago I completed Day 730. Two full years since my Nana passed. On Day 365 I’d traveled home from Maine. As a temporary refugee in Philadelphia, I awoke early on Day 365 and realized it was my last first day.

The last first of anything that Nana wouldn’t be around. 

We’d made the year and done weddings and birthdays and graduations and Christmas and football season. We’d done July 4th her favorite holiday and Mother’s Day. We’d laid flowers over her stone and turned our faces to the sky wondering.

Today is Tami’s first day. The only comfort I can offer her is that the days will keep coming, whether she’s struggling or soaring. So do the best you can and if it’s too much, just wait it out. Tomorrow is another day.

Eventually Day 365 will come around and you’ll realize you’ve been living your life without Nana witnessing it. And you’ll feel only gratitude for the time you had together.

We are meant to outlive our Nanas. And so we have.

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