Thursday, August 29, 2013
Wine, Cheese, Conversation and Caring
My step-mom Nan died last week of cancer, at the age of 84. This wasn't unexpected (cancer deaths are rarely a surprise in this day and age). I had been dreading that call telling me she was gone for several months. What does surprise me is how strongly I still feel that she's here. I look at the clock, calculating the time on the East Coast, and think about picking up the phone, before I remember that she won't answer any more. I see something interesting on the street, and make a mental note to share it with her the next time we talk. I especially remember her when I'm cooking - she loved to cook and we often exchanged recipes, or tackled a family dinner together.
Even when she'd been hospitalized for weeks, she'd always begin our phone calls by asking how I was doing. That's just the sort of person she was. Honestly interested in others. And supremely sociable. Before she got sick, it was often difficult to reach her by telephone, because her line was always busy. She could chat for half an hour with a friend or family member and never notice.
Although she was not a blood relative, I was at least as close to her as I'd been to my own mother (who died when I was in my twenties). Nan was married to my dad for nearly forty years, and they loved to hang out with my husband and me. One of Nan's favorite activities was to bring out a cheese and cracker plate and a bottle of wine, say five or six in the afternoon, and just sit around sharing great conversations. More than once we ate so much cheese that we decided to skip dinner altogether.
I have so many happy memories of our times together. She had three children of her own, but she always gave my siblings and me as much love and support as she did her own kids. She made us all one family.
Nan wasn't a flashy person. You might not have picked her out in the crowd. She had several successful careers but she always deferred to my father intellectually (which annoyed the heck out of me). Aside from food, books were one of the many things that drew us together. There was never any problem figuring out what she'd like for Christmas or her birthday.
I guess I'm rambling - wandering through my recollections of our years together. I loved her so much - it hurts to realize I'll never tell her that again. And yet, the fact of that love has tremendous value by itself. When I learned she had been put on hospice, I felt as though someone had stabbed me in the chest. I had hoped to spend more time with her, to say goodbye, but at that point, although I made reservations to return to the U.S. as quickly as I could, I had a sinking conviction I'd never see her again. And then it hit me - I should be grateful for a love so powerful that it could generate such pain. Far better to know the hurt that comes from caring, than to remain untouched and alone.
I never told her about my writing. She wasn't a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but I had a suspicion that my work would embarrass her, and even worse, make her feel guilty for being embarrassed. Sure, I wanted to brag, to show her the books with my name on the cover. That would have made me happy. However, it would have put her in conflict, I think.
I've decided that I'm going to dedicate my current WIP to her. Of course she'll never know, but it's particularly appropriate since my main character is a chef. And every time I see the cover, or reread the tale, I'll remember her smile as she raised her glass of chardonnay, and the warm glow of basking in her love.
I'm not going to broadcast or announce this. However, if you read this post and have a story of your own to share, about love or about loss, please leave a comment. For every comment I receive, .
I plan to donate $1 to the American Cancer Society, in Nan's memory
Thanks for reading.