These past couple weeks have been rough. Some of it I have documented here – like our plumbing leak and Stella’s foot. Those were kind of the “highlight” bad things – but there have been a lot of other things that I haven’t mentioned.
For instance, about a week ago, I was out on my morning walk with Stella, when I suddenly felt a sharp stabbing pain, like a needle had gone deep into the skin of my left glute – a literal “pain in my ass.” I couldn’t figure out what had happened, so I turned around and started limping home, when suddenly I looked down and saw a couple yellow jackets crawling insidiously on Stella’s head. That’s when I realized I had been stung. I was wearing yoga pants and one had flown up my pant leg and stung me. In a panic, I frantically clawed the yellow jackets off of Stella’s head, getting stung again on the base of my palm in the process. But happily Stella escaped unscathed.
Less than a week later, I was on a film set in a house that had a big apple tree out front, with lots of rotting fruit on the ground. Yellow jackets kept getting into the house, and one of them almost stung the actress playing my mom in the face during a shot. A few minutes later, she and I were talking, when I felt something crawling on my wrist. I flipped up the cuff of my shirt, and sure enough, there was a yellow jacket, who either stung or bit me twice before I crushed him into a pulp – it didn’t hurt as bad as the sting I’d gotten a week earlier, but it left two little swollen puncture marks on my wrist. The crew brought me some first aid cream and ice and outside of feeling like I’d been punched really hard in the wrist, I was fine.
The next day, there was no visible swelling, but my wrist itched like fire, and like an idiot I scratched it with abandon. By that evening, my hand, wrist, and lower arm were totally red, swollen, and hot to the touch. Awesome.
But the real sting came later that night, when my Dad called to tell me that on Monday, my grandmother, whose 100th birthday we celebrated last month, had a massive stroke that was deemed “terminal and unsurvivable.”
It’s not that I’m shocked to hear that my grandmother is dying. She’s 100 years old, so I’ve been kind of braced for that type of news. It’s just that less than 30 days ago, I watched her zip around with her walker at her birthday party, laughing and chatting with family and friends and having a great time. Her mind was sharp as a tack, she knew who everyone was even if it had been a while since she’d seen them. She was alert and focused and completely present to everything that was happening. Outside of needing the walker, her health has been remarkably good over the past few years, and talking to her felt no different than it had when I was a little girl. So even though in the back of my mind I knew this would happen someday, her outward show of health and vitality made it seem so much further away.
I’m overwhelmed with sadness, but I’m grateful for the life she’s had for the past century. I’m happy that she was surrounded by so many people who loved her on her birthday, and that she was aware of them all. I’m glad she has not suffered from debilitating health issues in the last few years. I’m particularly thankful for my two aunts, who she has alternated living with so she never had to go into a care facility, or be alone. I’m sure a large part of how healthy and strong she has been can be attributed to the companionship and care she received from them. She has children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who will always carry on her stories and memories. My cousin and I both inherited her middle name – Faye. We will miss her, but I have to admit we were blessed with her presence for a good long run. I’m comforted to think she’ll see my grandfather again, who died when I was in high school, who she loved so much.
And I love that my last memory of her will be of sitting by her at her birthday dinner, listening to her recount with delight and awe all the people that came to her party (“All the dental assistants from my Dentist’s office even came! And the man who bags my groceries at the grocery store!”). She was as happy and vibrant as ever. In my mind, that is how she will always be. It helps take away some of the sting.