But when I was sixteen and lost my grandmother, I did not believe that. I didn’t think I had to be here. The pain was soul-crushing. And it almost was too much for me to bear.
When I was sixteen, my grandmother came to live out her final days with my family. She was diagnosed with cancer *again* and this time, she was terminal. There would be no going home for her. There would be no fucking around this time. She was dying. Period. This all came suddenly for me; she was in pain but was blown off for about a year as being arthritic. This had to be the worst case of arthritis anyone had ever seen because it wasn’t. It was cancer and had eaten the bones out of her spinal cord leading to her neck. If you can’t even fathom that, you’re not alone. I can’t either and I watched it. She had to get a halo screwed into her head (hey imagery). This was probably the most disturbing thing for me to bear, really. I could handle her sick. I could deal with her dying a rapid, painful death in my house. But the cage? That was too much…
We watched as she slipped away from us. She would forget things; dates were written on mirrors to remind her. She would forget who we were. Who was I anyway? She was losing all sense of space, time, and reality. She wanted her purse. She carried it around always like Queen Elizabeth and was not letting this cage get in her way. Or the fact that she could not get anywhere without assistance. Lipstick. Oh the red lipstick. It was everywhere. On her teeth. That was her specialty. I feel bad now thinking of that, but you have to take some of the bad with the good, and the funny with the serious. She was breaking down. Slowly. But not. It was fast. Damn white gardenia lotion would fill the house when my mom would bathe her. That smell I still can’t get out of my nose. I can’t handle it. I would see her smile when I walked into the room. She would say hello to me. And then look again; she had to be sure she said hello to the right person. Every day seemed to be different; no day was better than the previous. As time progressed, she digressed and her end became evident and inevitable. The hospital bed in my brother’s room was the final place she would truly rest. My mom knew she was dying, and she sent us kids out to an Indians’ game with my dad. And I was so angry. I remember going through the drive thru at Wendy’s on the way up to the game and being so filled with anger. Why did we have to leave? Why couldn’t we say goodbye? I was old enough. I wanted to be there. My hero and favorite person on the whole planet was being taken away from me, and I was being pulled away from her…
So I pulled away from everyone. Depression set in like a calming blanket, and I never wanted to let it go. I got worse. I presented a good front. I would talk to my friends, but no one understood. So I stopped talking. I started planning. The end. I wanted to be with her again so badly; childlike I was in my insistence. The pain… the pain is still with me as I write this. I do not believe it ever goes away; it’s been over 14 years now. There was no unlearning this feeling. There was nothing anyone could say.
My mother barely cried, and this was her mother. She cried, I am sure, but not that we could see. I could never figure out why she wanted to be strong for us, when I was dying inside. I don’t blame her; I don’t believe she had any clue. But the end was near. I was planning it. It wasn’t even a well thought out plan. But it was something. If anything, it would get people’s attention. I was so afraid of telling someone how I felt, so afraid of putting it into words. I thought maybe putting it into action would do it. When you’re sixteen, you don’t think of others and I was damn sure no one would give two shits if I were here or not. I didn’t care about them; I only felt. I was emoting like a fountain and had no choice. I was going to end it. It had to be done. So selfish I was in hindsight, but we all know what is said about hindsight. Selfish it was; selfish only takes and never gives without concern.
The night I wanted to get it over with, I sat in my sea foam green bedroom and cried. I tried to just do it. I tried to forget and stop feeling forever. I didn’t have the guts to do it. But I didn’t know what else to do. There would be no going back if I ended it. There would be no tomorrow. I needed so desperately to explain myself and how I felt. The words eluded my lips at every turn, but they could not elude my pen. Grabbing a notebook, I sat on my twin bed with the peach and sea foam comforter, and I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote. And I cried. The tears stained my words, but they didn’t slow my pace. I was a maniacal wordsmith writing for hours. And I fell asleep. With the pen in my hand. And you know what? There was a tomorrow…
Know that when I say that writing saved my life, I mean every word of it. I write to live. I don’t live to write. I don’t do it often enough to satisfy myself, but it is always here when I need it. I write to reflect, to deal, to emote, and to illustrate. I write to let go, to go back, to remember and forget. I write for everything. When I say writing is for life, I mean it.
I didn’t end it. It didn’t end me. And I am so thankful that I was able to get myself out of that without therapy (though I probably could have used some) and did it on my own. What in the world would have happened to my family if I wasn’t here? Look at ALL of this beautiful life I would be missing. I can’t imagine if tomorrow would not have ever come for me. And it’s all thanks to a pen and some paper. Who would listen without judgment.
My truth was on that paper.
And I am grateful to God for this gift everyday.
You never know who will take you up on it
And find an endless world of tomorrows.