I have been thinking about my grandmother, who is lying in a hospital bed for the most bizarre and unreal malady I have ever heard of, a tear in the esophagus.

Grandma has a hole in her throat, which means that food was going down the hole and lodging in other cavities of the body, then decomposing and poisoning her. There was a pocket of foods that was built up under her lung, which was cutting off her breath and causing much pain. This has been going on for a long time and she did not tell anyone that there was anything wrong, however, there were signs like choking at mealtime. She told my sister, “This diabetes is killing me” at my sister’s wedding shower two weeks ago, so apparently Grandma just thought this was all a part of getting older, and never said anything about the pain. . She is eighty, so this did not raise the proper alarms. She has been getting more and more forgetful lately, has to be reminded who I am, who other family members are. So sad to say, “It’s me Grandma, and these are my children…” My aunts and cousin and sister are really freaked out. Before the operation the doctor told my Grandfather to get the whole family there to say goodbye since she might not make it. It is strange how much we learn about each other when we deal with crisis.

It is hard to imagine Grandma in intensive care, tubes running into places that tubes should not be, with monitors and wires and her hands looking very old above the covers. My cousin tells me she went in the early morning and sat with her, rubbing tea tree lotion into her hands and this strikes me as a particularly thoughtful thing to do. My grandmother is the Christmas tree of Christmas. Even though I know live in another state and I am busy with my own family I miss her. Especially on Christmas. She is a huge fan of garage sales. She calls it “gragin”. She goes gragin as often as she can. And she has a box in her closet for all of her children and their children. And when ever she finds special things that remind her of that person she puts the stuff in their box and wraps it all up at Christmas time. She always remembered that I am a giant fan of silver jewelry and every year she had some great new find that no one else really understood the value of, but I loved it. Last time I saw her she gave my daughter a stuffed bunny and a teddy bear. I can not tell you how many times I have hugged these things today.

I know that she will be ok. She is a strong woman. She had seven kids. She will make it through this. And the optimist in me says that not only is it a miracle that she survived the four hour, incredibly invasive surgery to remove all the rotten food, but I think she will certainly be better off. I am hoping that her “senility” is not really that at all, rather a symptom of reduced lung space and really poor nutrition and built up gasses. My Grandma can not go to heaven yet, and I am sure that is just where she will go when the time comes, to the exact heaven she has conjured up, but that time is not now (DO YOU HEAR ME!?). Not yet.

I wait for the day when she sneaks me cookies and slaps her knee and laughs, “heh HA”, with her low gravelly voice and a twinkle in her eye. I long for denture clicking and her way of calling me Kath-Anj-Sarah, combining my name with all her other grandkids until she hits on the correct one. I can’t wait to hear her Vegas stories, how she always wins because she keeps the proceeds pinned to a special compartment of her “Vegas bra”. And although she is eighty now, she was once a young and gorgeous woman who posed on her front porch in a two piece bathing suit just long enough to get her picture taken. And she is two years older that my grandfather. And she does her rosary every single day. Her fifty-year marriage was even recognized by the pope. She is certainly watched over.