Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. - Charlie Chaplin

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I've always loved talking about my family; both the stories from growing up and the genealogy.  I'm proud that one side of my family has roots in coal regions of Pennsylvania, that many of my family has served in the armed forces in war and peace, that one branch of my tree is PA German and stretches back to the mid-1700s, that another leads me back to Hungary, another to Poland, that I did indeed have at least one family member pass through Ellis Island.

This is all great stuff.  Dorthy Seroskie, "Dot", my Granny, my mom's mom, is many things to me, an especially ripe fruit on my tree, ready to burst.  I could write a post a day about her; retelling stories she's told me dozens of times over the years, in addition to just talking about her as person.

Her medical record is a story in itself, that she tells everyone who'll listen:   

Growing up she'd show me her scare from having her gallbladder removed. 

In her late 60s she had a triple bypass surgery, more scares to show the grand kids.

In her late 70s, while I was in college, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy and radiation and it hasn't been seen of since. 

In her early 80s she fell from a chair she was standing on to clean the blinds above her kitchen sink.  Fluid gathered on her brain.  The doctors said if it doesn't go away they'd have to relieve the pressure (IE surgery, drilling into her skull).  The fluid went away.  

A few years later her eye sight started to go, glaucoma was treated for via surgery.  But it got worse and was found out that was mascular degeneration, a way of saying she was slowly loosing her eye sight and there's isn't much of anything to do about it.

At 87, about a week ago, she was told she has a tumor on her esophagus.  Over the past few months her stout, round, Lithuanian figure shrank down to a skeleton.  She just wasn't hungry anymore and had pains in her abdomen and then her throat. 

 My mom had requested last Friday that we come to visit Sunday, she needed "(grandson) Ben time".  It was more a prescription than request.  That day Granny didn't get out of bed.  After eating a massive early dinner my parents, me, my wife and Ben walked down the stone driveway that linked to my grandmother's paved driveway, just like I did daily for many years, to go visit Granny next door. 

We spent a little under an hour with her.  We had to speak at practically a yell as her hearing started to fail over all this time.  My mom tried to get her to drink a high calorie "shake", Granny refused saying it made her too full.  "That's the point ma!", my mom shouted, sighing and heading back to the kitchen.  My dad was next, popping up from being on his knees examining the bed frame with me: "Dot, let me lower your bed so you can get in and out easier.  Matt's here and we'll get Tommy, it'll only take a minute.  Can you get up?  Here let's . . ."a quick interruption from Gran with, "No, no, no, you're not lowerin my bed!"  My dad huffed "fine!" and left the room mumbling in frustration. 

It hit me shortly after leaving.  My wife said, "Did you see Granny?  Her color changed, she totally lit up and had energy when she saw Ben."  My folks had left the room to talk with my uncle leaving me, my wife and Ben with Granny.  Gran would go on to say how nice a house we had and how cute Ben is, talking to him in a way only a great-grandmother can; lovingly hugging him with words after not being able to support his 21 pound body with her arms.  This was when her face changed from pale to a more life-like, healthy glow.  The question my wife asked confirmed that it wasn't just me imagining that Ben had a sort of moral healing power that day, with that glint of physical healing. 

I leaned over to hug her, feeling like a giant.  In our embrace I told her to get better, do whatever it takes.  In a near cry she said "I will for all of you".  Then I told her I loved her.  My wife followed me in the same manner and words, after which we stood and kept reiterating how my folks are here to help.  She'd then state as she did multiple times to everyone in the room, "I don't want you's fussin over me.  You shouldn't have to do all this.  I feel bad!". 

I hadn't notice until a year or so ago when my aunt, my mom's older sister passed away, that my family doesn't throw around "I love you" or "Love you!" when parting ways.  I don't recall it being shouted to me when getting on the bus, or at family gatherings, not much anyway.  It reminds me of when I first started saying it to my wife, when we were dating.  I remember telling her that the last girl friend I said it to broke my heart and that I don't throw "I love you" around anymore.  So, it took some time, but of course I said it to her and her to me and then she became my wife. 

That being said, I don't want you to think that my family waits until there is doom and gloom to begin telling each other we love one another.  I think we simply, unkowingly, put a lot of value in the statement.  The way I see it at gatherings we're saying "I love you" with good food, with laughs, with sharing stories, with hugs, by doing many, many things that are seen as normal family behavior. THAT, I believe, is as strong a way of showing of love as saying the words.  And Granny was a great cook, has wonderful, funny stories and is a great hugger.

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