Bet you thought I'd never come back, right? Shout out to the six readers who still care enough to read this, by the way. And that's not snark - it's genuine appreciation. Hello, six readers. Thank you for still reading after all this time. You are appreciated.
I could start at the beginning, but beginnings are slow and boring. So I'll start at the end, and work my way back, like an episode of Alias.
My aunt died on Wednesday.
Wednesday night, if we're going to be exact. The phone rang at 10 pm and I just knew. When I'd seen her, for the last time, that Sunday before, her shoulder bones were sticking out, her face was gaunt, her body racked with pain. Breast cancer was eating her from the inside out. She couldn't eat much anymore. She sobbed from the pain. The only thing I could do to help was massage her feet to give her body a momentary, new sensation to focus on.
She was in hell. So was I.
And it's hard to write when you're in hell. When you're in the thick of it, and you can see no way out, when you can't talk to anyone who will understand, because your aunt has chosen, unlike 90% of the rest of the population battling cancer, to opt out of chemo. There were no pink ribbons for her, no crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for medical bills. No one dropped off any meals, not that my aunt could have eaten them anyway. My family kept it a secret from most people, because we are staunch New Englanders with stiff upper lips and a long, proud line of people who make fun of going to therapy. I am the black sheep of the family for going to therapy, for having stellar communication skills, and for having a blog. And let's face it, the blog isn't going that well.
My aunt had nurses visit her at her home for a few months, helping bandage her breast because the cancer was so advanced already that it was bleeding, and then when she needed her bandage changed every few hours and was too weak to go to the bathroom by herself, she was transferred up to a nursing facility in Los Angeles, just a few miles from me. It was too far away for the rest of my family, so I visited her three or four times a week, helping any way I can, which was mostly by trying to make her laugh, or getting her to do a puzzle, which took her mind off the pain for a little while.
She was there for six months, and it was the worst six months of my life. I'm 100% certain it was the worst six months of her life too.
She came home February 1st, and in a spot of uncharacteristic optimism, I thought she was getting better. I was able to visit her twice - just twice - and then she was gone. I am trying to forgive myself for not seeing her more when she was moved further away from me. I am trying to forgive myself for a lot.
My aunt was my second mom. After my dad left, she helped my mom raise me when I was a teenager. My mom and my aunt are twins, closer sisters than any other siblings I've ever seen.
She was generous to a fault. If I showed interest in a book she was reading she would loan it to me without even finishing it first, waving me away when I said I could wait. She donated money to every charity known to mankind. And she spoiled people rotten at Christmastime.
She was smart as a whip - never missed a thing. She did the ultra hard "so difficult they'll make you cry" sudoku in like 2 hours and could finish a puzzle in about the same time. When talking became too difficult for her near the end, and we'd be working on a puzzle together, she'd select a piece and nod over to where she wanted me to place it, and I got better at guessing where. We worked out a system where she'd nod at a piece and I'd fit it in and everyone else at the nursing home thought we were more impressive than Cirque du Soleil.
She was a smartass. And a lover of sci-fi. And a terrible cook, and a driver that scared the crap out of me because she thought going 60 mph on surface streets was completely acceptable. I have known her since I was born, and I have seen her at least once a week every week since I was nine years old.
Her love was a huge part of my life, and now that she is gone, there is a huge hole. I am at a loss as to how I will ever find something or someone as lovely and wonderful and hilarious as my aunt to fill that gaping hole.
This is all I have the energy to write at the moment. But I'll be back soon.
Wishing you all well.
5 weeks ago