Pomegranates are my grandma Cobain. This is the other story. Where I live I am surrounded by the fruit trees I remember from childhood. This includes the scent of blossoms (orange and lemon sweetness inhaled as deep sweet night fragrances outside my bedroom window); the shocking fire color of persimmon leaves in fall (for someone from a mild climate this happens on a so few trees they startle me like the flock of wild parrots which feed in them); and the sticky, sharp, red-orange-yellow harvest and preparation of such abundant fruits. At our house it rains lemons, Ume plums, persimmons and loquats each season. There is lemon juice squeezing, freezing, and lemonade making, waiting for plums to ripen, and loquats in such abundance, I can’t give enough away.
I haven’t mentioned grandma yet have I? Well, it is hard. I look and the plum blossoms line the driveway today like popcorn and drift down like some big petals of snow. But, I can hardly get near the memory still without my own tears making their way down. It is January, the month she died. Passed away sounds so much softer. To say she stopped gasping for air like a fish out of water is so much more accurate.
“Have you ever seen anyone die?’ my father asked me as we drove together to grandma’s house, over the meadow and through the wood… I mean hospital, where she waited for us after breaking her leg in a fall the first day of the new year. Of course, I hadn’t ever seen anyone die, and I was in deep denial that I knew we weren’t going for that reason, we were going to help her “get back on her feet,” make it home, rehabilitate.
Which explains why I wanted to cold clock the Doctor who told us that “50 percent of patients who break their leg at this age don’t survive.” Don’t tell me her time is up- you don’t know her, this is my grandmother you are talking about you self-absorbed, pretentious…. Dad may have taken me away at that point kicking and screaming. Perhaps someone had to take us both away.
Grama was fine. Sharp as a tack, quick as a whip and all that hooey. She knew what was going on, she knew what she wanted her body to do, it just was having trouble cooperating. Eating, sleeping and having a BM. I learned a lot about those- in the hospital, emergency room, rehabilitation center. BM, my grandmother’s very polite way of saying bowel movement. Oh… maybe things aren’t going so fine. She had another word for the color of the brown walls that closed her in with stuffy hot bad food smelly place. I will give you a hint, it comes from a BM.
She wasn’t getting better, contracted more bacteria in her colon, her lungs and her heart. Then, someone stole her hearing aides. I wanted to scream but she wouldn’t hear me. My brother and I took her to the hospital. It was more like breaking out of prison really. Nice clean white sheets, a window with a view of the mountains, caring nurses and staff. But that damn Doctor was still tapping his foot with I told you so. He actually said, “if you don’t eat, you might as well just dig yourself a hole and lie down in it.” I wanted him to try drinking Boost, if he though it was that easy. Then I would dig him the hole… My brother might have had to take me away at that point.
Why did they change the color of the blanket on her bed to pink? Did they know it was her favorite color? Or did it somehow signal that this patient is near the end, the light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know. I took a walk while they hooked her up to an oxygen therapy mask, filled with some crazy airway opening drug to help her breathe with pneumonia.
In the parking lot of the hospital, there were silver leaved olive trees and my feet curled in my shoes remembering the feel of the branches in her front yard, under my feet- I reached up a picked while she stood below me with a little tin bucket. The olives pinged and rung on the metal, and the silver shone like the leaves. I plucked a branch from the tree in the parking lot and brought it to her.
“Is this a peace offering?” She said.
“Sure Grama, please forgive me for not eating your homemade beef jerky anymore.”
Maybe things like Durable Power of Attorney and DNR, are nightmares. But when someone’s last wish is “don’t let them put me on a machine” and the next thing they do is put her on a machine, the game is up and Dad and I have the get out of this free card.
So they made her “comfortable” which means enough morphine drip to keep a drowning person from freaking out that one’s lungs are actually filling up with fluids. And we sat, and watched, and held her hand, and cried and tried to let her go.
I think of her red table in the kitchen, her yellow gloves stained red with pomegranate juice and her laughing, “I looks like someone died in here!” The red plate hung on the wall reads, “You are special today you are special today you are special today” around in a circle and it never ends.