September logo!) I’m flying to Maine on Saturday and staying for a week. My grandmother, who went into an assisted care facility last summer, has been failing. She has stomach cancer. It’s an estrogen-based cancer and they’ve been treating it with an estrogen prohibitor; there’s no way she would have survived the surgery to remove her stomach. The pain in her stomach has slowly gotten worse, and at the assisted care facility they were treating it with Tylenol with codeine. She turned 86 last Thursday. She’s the only grandparent I’ve ever really known. She’s fallen several times over the past year, the last time just last week. She hadn’t apparently hurt herself, but when my mother showed up later that day to have lunch with my grandmother, my grandmother couldn’t stand up. They took her to the hospital to try to figure out what was wrong, and couldn’t find anything – they thought it might be a stroke, but a brain scan showed that it wasn’t. Over the weekend, they moved her from the hospital to a nursing home. The nursing home called my mother on Sunday to tell her that my grandmother had been begging anyone who came near to kill her. My mother went to the nursing home and spent the day there, and while she was there, it became apparent that the nursing home was attempting to treat my grandmother’s pain with plain extra-strength Tylenol, which wasn’t helping in the slightest. When my mother asked if they could give her something stronger, the nurses apologetically said that they couldn’t, that the nursing home doctor had said to give her Tylenol. My mother spent quite some time trying to get in touch with someone who could help. My grandmother’s former doctor wasn’t available, her current doctor wasn’t available, and finally my mother was able to reach the doctor covering for my grandmother’s oncologist, who prescribed morphine, which seems to help. This morning my sister called, crying, because I think it’s one thing to know that your grandmother is dying, and another thing to actually see her dying slowly in front of you. I can’t tell you how hard it is to sit and listen to someone you love, 1500 miles away, crying like that. Debbie said that my grandmother’s knocked out on morphine most of the time, but when she’s awake, she just looks so sad. I think it’s talking about that sadness that made Debbie cry the hardest. I talked to my mother for a few minutes and she sounded sad, but resigned. I wish that you could all know my grandmother as she was when I was growing up. She was the sweetest woman I’ve ever known. She took meticulous care of herself, ate a raisin bran muffin for breakfast every morning, walked for exercise, kept her house clean and neat as a pin, was always sweet and sympathetic and active and independent. She would never have wanted her life to end like this, doped up on morphine, unable to get out of bed, so far from the house she loved. I ask you, what the fuck is the point of taking care of yourself so well for so many years when this is how it ends?

Gram and the spud, Summer 1997.