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I was reminded today of my first (?) true publishing credit, Clean.  That essay about body and my Gram.  It was so soon after she died that I first drafted that, hmm.  I remember writing sections on that stupid vinyl corner couch that we had in our “E5” townhouse.  Seems like a forever or two ago. 

A few things bother me about that essay, though.  The first is that it’s not very good.  Sure, it has its moments as most legitimate writers can pull off in anything they write, but all things considered, it’s sort of amateur.  Which is fine, I guess, because I am (still).  But it bothers me to know I could have done better.  I could have handled the close friend connection better, but I remember being so stuck on the details of Whitney because my Gram always asked about her and my camp friends, but mostly about her.  The sentences are wordy, and I’ve learned a bit how to reign in my serious obsessions with description and detail since.  The focus could be more pinpointed, either the fear of cancer, or the time with Gram and the woman that she was, or my journey to learning beauty.  It just seems to spread a little bit thinly across too many things.  I digress…

I was surprised the have evoked a small cup of tears when I re-read the piece tonight.  The parts that tugged insistently on my memory were the descriptions of those 10 days between the Dr. O’Reilly visit and when she died in the sunflower room.  I remember everything the way I’d like to remember my dreams, vivid, in color, sequentially, and like it was literally last night.  The sitting in the too-small corner of the bed and listening to advice on how to live my life was a more valuable 15 minutes than anything I can think of.  I remember the move to the brown chair beside the bed – 30 minutes maybe to move less than 2 feet.  And the last day, when she hadn’t eaten for some time, the one bite of banana cream pie – not even able to try to key lime, though she insisted it was delicious.   That was our Christmas party, the pie day, can you believe that?  I still cannot believe the Lord gave us that week and a half.  I wonder why?  Because that wasn’t the regular Gram, loud and playing games, fixing things in the kitchen, telling jokes and using words like ‘bonnet’ and ‘carriage’ far past their time.  But it was also kind of eternal to see her so calm and peaceful, gentle and still making fun of her sons.

Plus, I’ll never stray from my understanding that it was all orchestrated to fit our family back together like puzzle pieces, having strayed far from the box.  Since I had been small, I was silently aching from violent severance in too many directions, as far as that family goes.  The Healer has such an orderly way about Him.  I wonder where my cousins are fitting in to that, even now?

Aside from latent memories and a few fresh tears, I read headlines like, “Report: Cancer to become world’s leading killer”, and “Antiperspirant Increases Risk of Breast Cancer” from this organization and that agency.  I guess the shocking facts and the ever-elusive cure for cancer don’t much phase me because if one thing in that essay were true without moving or twisting of the facts, it’d be that I think it’s probably already in me.  The stealth image of cancer lurking unknown inside my body is the scarier of this mess of feelings.  The suspense can handicap you if you let it.  But it hasn’t and I won’t.  It’ll be a pain, and I’ll cry a time or two, but a part of me hopes not get any gruelling treatment.  Another part wants to keep it secret, not tell anyone to avoid the pity that accompanies disease ,which I loathe.  Will my Mom undergo it all first, or don’t they say it skips a generation?  The lurking in her body might be a deeper pain than the idea of it living in me.  I’m still the little girl who can’t do a thing without her Mom, and…

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