I walked into my parents’ bedroom and collapsed onto the duvet, underneath the flowered ketubah. My phone buzzed with the now too-familiar ringtone of a FaceTime call.
A couple of rings later, I saw Mom’s face, with dark bags clear under her eyes. I faintly made out the beeps and buzzes of the hospital waiting room in the background.
When we had received the first phone call from Florida about Grandma’s fall and her worsening livers, Mom rushed down south to be there for her mother. There had been a few brief visits back up to Massachusetts in between, but she had spent the majority of the past three weeks with Grandma.
For the previous few calls, I had started out in my own bed, but this time, I migrated
instead to my parents’ bed, perhaps seeking comfort in their space.
“How is she today?”
Mom hesitated before simply looking down and shaking her head. Grandma’s status had been on a rollercoaster for weeks, but now it was the final terrifying drop, and nobody was smiling.
Of course, we hoped and prayed that she would get better and go back to before the fall, but there was always the nagging voice. What good will thoughts and prayers do? Nothing you can do will ever cure your grandmother. Mom was the first to break the silence.
“Miriam, have I ever told you about when Grandma went to the hospital 40 years ago?” she asked.
“No, I don’t think so.” I responded. I knew about the multiple times Grandma was in the hospital in the past few years for cellulitis, having been there some of those times.
“Forty years ago, when I wasn’t even 10 yet, my mother went to the hospital for liver problems, which turned out to be hepatitis,” Mom recalled. “It got serious, similar to how it is…” she trailed off, swallowing. “Basically, how it is right now.
“Since it was the ’70s, the doctors couldn’t quite heal her, and they predicted that she would only live for a maximum of another year. One year. And then she defied everyone’s expectations, like always, and lived on for over 40 more years. One of the main things she had hoped for was to see her grandchildren grow up, and she got that.”
By then, we were both crying. They weren’t small, beautiful tears—we full-on sobbed from all the pent-up emotion from the past month. It may have seemed foolish, but I hugged the phone to my chest for comfort.
Even if our hopes and prayers couldn’t magically heal Grandma, they weren’t useless. We had to help each other in this troubling time and support each other.
After a few minutes more of small talk, I blew a kiss at the phone. “Love you, Mom,” I said before pressing “End Call.”