I'm doing my best to keep a smile on my face. There have been easier times.
After my early morning Pilates, I drove over to the pod castle to check on G'ma. She was up in her chair, wearing a warm-up jacket and watching Law'n. It was my mom in that chair, although the body she is occupying bears little resemblance to the woman she once was. If I close my eyes when I hug her close, I recognize the soft skin and gentle pats on the back that have always felt like Mommy to me. It's only when I open my eyes and see the skin and bones human in the chair that I am reminded of how far she has come, and how far she has to go.
I spent some time calling social service agencies, looking for one which wanted to pick up her full-size bed. The mattress is comfy, the bed frame is sturdy, the box spring has no holes or dents, and still, no one wanted it. It was the wrong size, it was not appropriate for the facility, there was no answer at the agency.... after fifteen minutes of frustration I hung up the phone and rejoined G'ma in front of SVU. She's still able to follow the format, though the details of the stories elude her. No matter. We were together and sharing the moment. It was enough for us.
On the way to my second Pilates class, I put the second round of brownies in the parcel bin at the post office. The parking lot was filled with women carrying precarious loads of packages; holding doors open was a challenge I watched from afar as I gathered my own paper shopping bags filled with flat rate priority mail envelopes. I was in luck; someone was leaving as I was entering. The doors were not a problem. Sending love with each deposit, I loaded the bin and drove to class, filling my heart with memories of the recipients of the boxes of love I'd mailed. Receiving brownies may bring smiles to the faces of the recipients, but mailing them makes me grin even harder.
It is truly better to give than to receive.
After class and a quick chicken burrito to staunch my protein craving, I drove to Prince Elementary School to drop off the last of my Thanksgivukkah brownies. Some went to the miscreants sitting at "the homework table" in the front lobby; Grandma's are always available to offer succor to those in need, even those who've misbehaved. I shared stickers and commiserated with their plight until the principal opened his door. We decided to share the treats with the man in charge, discussing the relative merits of nuts or no nuts, wondering who would hand the brownie over. Such a serious discussion; it almost distracted me from G'ma's plight.
The rest of the brownies, in their brightly decorated container, went to the teachers' lounge. Sitting on the central table, with a Thanksgivukkah turkey and menorah on the card, they brought smiles to every adult who entered the room. I was smart. I showed up just before lunchtime. The teachers were coming to check their mailboxes and I was the lucky recipient of Thank You's and hugs. Again, I was almost distracted.
Almost, but not quite. I wanted to share the morning with my mom. I wanted to remember similar offices in which we'd shared time, offices with mimeograph machines she taught me to operate, with typewriters and carbon paper and large sheets of oak tag for poster making. Whether she was volunteering or working for pay, schools were where G'ma spent most of her days. She doesn't remember any of that. It's no fun to tell a story and have it fall on blank ears.
I took my misery outside to the playground. I would walk and I would sweat and I would work out my issues through exercise. It used to work quite well; I could exert myself and let my endorphins flow and somehow my sorrows turned to mush. But it's hard for me to create aerobic exercise with my damaged body these days and I miss the release.
Those were my thoughts as the door closed behind me. I took two steps out onto the pavement when I heard it first, high pitched, gleeful, and very very very loud. GRANDMA!!!! - the third grade was at recess and so was I. These are the children who were kindergarteners the year I was shot; they are the ones who were introduced to me when I was using a walker, when every step was an effort, when the memory of Christina-Taylor was still raw and omnipresent. Then and now, their love eases the pain.
GRANDMA! GRANDMA! YOU'RE HERE! YOU'RE HERE! YAY!
Suddenly, feeling sad was irrelevant. I concentrated on maintaining my balance as the hugs became more intense, arriving as they did from all points of the compass. We were a mass of hugging humanity, a gaggle of giggles, a lot of laughs. More and more eight and nine year olds came and joined us, grabbing onto the outside edges of their friends, grasping for a piece of my many colored cloak, everyone's eyes locked onto someone else, all of us trying our best to stay upright.
It was bliss.
We decided not to walk, but to sit and talk. Thanksgiving and siblings and sneakers and sunshine were considered as stickers were shared and hugs continued to be given. When the whistle blew, they didn't want to leave to join the line. They were happy. I was happy. I didn't want to let them go. The whistle blew again, and, slowly, they peeled away... all but two or three who refused to let go.
Was there a similar sorrow in the heart of the little girl who never released my waist? Her grip was powerful, her breathing was deep, her head was buried under my armpit. We stood like that for a moment, just we two, and drew strength from the connection. I leaned back and smiled as I told her she had to go or I would get into trouble for being a distraction. She hugged me one last time - a big, breath stealing, squeeze - and skipped to the end of the line.
I walked one lap all by myself, with good posture and wide strides and arms swinging, as I tried to put both pieces of my day together as one. I'm watching the end of life and the beginning, and I'm inexorably tied to each of them. They feed my soul in different ways, but feed it they do.
Once again, I proved that it's impossible to be sad when being hugged by little ones. Yes, they did it again. They soothed and smoothed my rougher edges. I know they think I am there for them, but the reality is clearly the opposite - they have been put on this earth to help me heal.
They are doing a great job.