Welcome to the Fairy Tale Magic Blog Hop! You can win a $100 Amazon gift card as a grand prize, and other bloggers will be offering individual prizes on their own blogs. Click on the image above to get all of the links.
Today, I will visit a hospice center to hold the hand of a woman I met nine short months ago. A woman who spoke three sentences to me before revealing herself as a kindred spirit, soul mate, friend I’d always known and loved before we even met. A woman (I’ll call her Sara) who helped me heal in ways I never knew possible.
The first time I lost a grandmother, no one allowed tears. Later, I would see my mother shed more tears over the family dog than her mother-in-law. “She’s lived a long life” and “What a way to go” were the refrains at her funeral.
The second time, it was after a protracted and complicated year of absence. While living overseas, I found a ridiculously cheap phone plan that allowed nearly unlimited minutes for $3 a month. No matter how many times I tried to convince her, however, she didn’t believe me. “This is too expensive,” she would say, and sometimes she would insist on hanging up after a minute or two. I’d coax her with questions about her favorite news shows (she watched all of them and had strong opinions about the female newscasters’ wardrobe and hairstyles), and sometimes she would forget until twenty or thirty minutes went by. Then she’d exclaim, “I’ll let you go. This costs too much!”
Even living overseas and making a home visit once a year, my aunts told me that I visited my grandmother more often than most of her seventeen grandchildren. I didn’t do it for her; I did it for me. I’d “discovered” my grandmother in college (while writing weekly letters, we formed a bond), and until that point I’d been the not-so-interesting youngest grandchild after a plethora of grandchildren on both sides of the family. For the first few years living overseas, phone options were too expensive for more than an occasional brief call. Once I discovered Skype Out, my world changed. I looked forward to our daily call, and I’d grown up and gotten better at drawing people into conversation. I’d always been unsure of myself as a child/adolescent, and overseas I found people who liked me and liked talking to me. When I brought this new, more confident self to my grandmother (via technology and separated by thousands of miles), I received the unexpected gift of someone who loved me and connected with me on a daily basis.
Then, it all changed. She got sick (pneumonia or a fall, I can’t remember which came first) and was brought to the hospital.
She never went home.
After all while, she was transferred to the local nursing home for recovery/rehab with the hope she might go home (with more frequent home health care visits, and/or one of the family staying with her at least part time). She never got better, and the days turned into weeks and months.
She never accepted that she wouldn’t go home, and she didn’t want a phone put in her room. The nursing home didn’t provide phones, and patients’ families had to bring one. I begged my family to put in a phone anyway so I could talk to her, but they said no. Things with my family were complicated enough that they didn’t place priority on her communication with me, and they would have read (and judged) any letters or cards I mailed to her.
After months of no contact, a nurse friend gave me an idea to call the nurse’s station, explain the situation, and ask them to bring my grandmother to the phone. I did, they did, and I had one last conversation with her. I’m not sure she heard or understood me, but the nurse said she seemed responsive. Perhaps it was a lie, but I am grateful to her for telling it.
Later, when I received the call that the end was near, a plane ticket home cost more money than I could pay. I never got a chance to sit next to her, hold her hand, or share memories with everyone else who loved her.
I didn’t cry when my second grandmother died, either.
When I met “Sara” less than a year ago, I’d volunteered to help with the church quilting circle. I know the basics of sewing, but I couldn’t keep up with women who’d sewed twice as many years as I’ve been alive. I drifted to a table where a petite white-haired woman tugged embroidery thread through pieced quilts to tie knots.
“Can I help?” I asked.
“Sit down!” she smiled.
As we chatted (she and I remember this conversation differently), she asked me, “Where are you from?” She grew up in the neighboring state (which considers itself the better state), and somewhere in our conversation she laughed, “Why would anyone go there?”
“Because I grew up there,” I answered, and at least once a month since then she has told others about our exchange.
“I was so embarrassed,” she says every time she brings it up. “I just thought…well, who does live there?”
Within minutes, we recognized each other as someone special. At the end of the day, she was a friend I’d known my entire life. I went back to the next quilting session specifically to spend time with her, and the next week I debated for ages whether to bring her cookies. I finally (reluctantly) decided against it, even though I wanted to. She was someone special from the first moment, but I didn’t dare assume more to the relationship than was there.
Later, while playing cards (our monthly card game, an event she never missed and therefore an event I never missed, either), I mentioned, “I wanted to bring you some cookies, but I didn’t want to bother you in case you were napping or tired.”
Her eyes lit up, and she looked both surprised and pleased. “I’m diabetic so I wouldn’t have been able to eat them, but I would have loved the visit.”
I wish I could have brought her cookies, but at that time and in that place the verbal interaction affirmed our connection.
The last time I saw Sara (at our monthly card game last week), she laughed, joked, and set the rest of us straight when we took too long to play, didn’t go in order, or confused her by going out of order. As I left, she stood in the entryway waving to me while standing on her own two feet and leaning on the walker her daughter insisted she use.
A friend of mine told me, “It’s not often we get second chance to go back and redo something. Go and say goodbye to Sara, and tell her about your grandmother.”
Today, I will hold the hand of a woman who became a grandmother in all the ways that mattered. I know the tears are for my sake and not hers (she told everyone she had lived a good life and was ready to go when it was her time), and I am grateful to get the chance to say good-bye. To me, that is an affirmation of our love and connection. Saying good-bye is not about death but about life. The saddest good-bye is when there’s no one to say good-bye to.
Taliasman, my upcoming release from Decadent Publishing’s Beyond Fairy Tales series, tells the story of Talia, a young woman who never got past her initial hurt. Unwanted by her parents and devalued for being a girl, she decides to shut out the entire world. When Queen Vina comes to her home and offers a sackful of gold in exchange for Talia, Talia is hell-bent on rejecting every possible sign of affection from the one who bought her.
Born to a destitute woodworker who wanted a son to carry on the family business, Talia grew up with one phrase on her lips: “If I had been born a boy.” If she had been born a boy, she would have been cherished, supported, and launched into the world with her father’s legacy. As only a worthless girl, she toils all day long to earn her handful of inferior grain.
Far away in the heavenly palace, Queen Vina receives a mysterious coin necklace from Nicodemus, teller of stories. Compelled by the throbbing heartbeat, she scours the earth to come across Talia, enslaved to a family who never wanted her. Rather than admit her motives, Vina purchases the girl with a sack full of gold. Furious, betrayed, and homesick, Talia endeavors to share her misery with the entire palace. Vina, afraid to confess her love, allows herself to become trapped in the role of brutal slave owner.
Talia, bred to expect nothing but misery, faces the first choice of her life. Will she accept love, even if it comes from an unlikely source? Or will she reject the one who offers her everything?
If I had been born a boy, I would have followed in my father’s footsteps and become a tradesman. Because I was a girl, he sold me instead.
“No,” Vina corrects me when I bring up the story, which is not often. She doesn’t like the facts, and I dislike her pretty lies. “Your mother agonized whether to let you go, but she knew you would be better off here. She wanted to give you a better life.”
I would call Vina on her mistruths, but she claims I still reason as a child. All of my protests to the contrary serve to prove her right, at least in her mind. Only when I agree with her does she admit I am a full-grown adult.
“You’re happy with me, aren’t you?” Vina makes me sit next to her at the formal dinners she hosts most nights, and she dresses me in rich silks with real lace. If I tell her no, she sends me to my room as punishment for what she calls my petulance. If I resist, she gives me one of her lessons in obedience. Some are painful, others pleasurable, and all serve to narrow my world and make me focus on her. How could I not, when she owns me?
“No,” Vina corrects me when I call her my owner. “I set you free, and I gave you the life you never could have had otherwise.”
When I turned nineteen, no one wanted to marry me. My mother fussed with my hope chest, if it could be called that, arranging the one cotton handkerchief as if it could attract a suitor.
“Let me stay with you,” I entreated my parents, and I won. I always did. The house needed new walls, and I wielded the power tools. Small of stature and still a child, I could carry them to the electric outlet on the neighbor’s property. As an adult, Father would have faced fines for stealing electricity.
“You’ve turned her into such a tomboy no one will want her,” Mother chided Father, and the truth stung. I could have cared for my parents into their old age, but they wanted me gone.
The artwork image is small, but this original drawing by the multi-talented Minelle Labraun depicts the talisman worn by Vina that calls her to Talia.
I will draw one random commenter to receive an ARC of Taliasman. Thank you for visiting, and may you have a blessed day filled with love.