November 4, 2011, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’d like to tell you about my family.

On my dad’s side, I am, by far, the baby of the family. My dad was in his 40s when I was born, the product of his 3rd marriage. My brother was 13; our two cousins were 15 (G) and 17 (D). My Grandma referred to me as her ‘favorite surprise’. My dad only has one sister. To say the least, we are a small family.

On my mom’s side, I was the first grandbaby. But it’s a small family there, too. My mom is 1 of 4, but she and her sister each only produced 1 daughter, and my uncles never married.

Thus, I only have 3 first cousins and 1 half brother. Teeny tiny. What we lack in numbers we make up for in volume, at least on my mom’s side.

My dad’s family has always been spread out. He and his sister grew up in Lancaster County, surrounded by Mennonites and cows. She married and they moved away, eventually landing down south. My dad moved one county north. My grandparents were close; my aunt, uncle and cousins were not.

But we tried. We were the only family we had, after all. We saw them a few times a year, less when my cousins and brother were in college. We all came together when my Grandpa died. My oldest cousin D was married by then. She and her husband drove me to the restaurant after the funeral in their tiny sports car. They played Prodigy on their fancy CD player in the car. I did not like Prodigy, but I thought they were totally cool and nice. I started accompanying my Grandma to the beach with my aunt, uncle and cousins. For about 4 or 5 summers, I spent the week with them down there. Again, I thought they were totally cool and awesome. D happened to be visiting PA around the time of my junior prom, and she stopped by to see me off and take pictures.

I left for college. I saw them a lot less then. It seemed like whenever they visited PA, I was unable to get across the state at the right time. D had a little girl, at last. G lived in Erie and came to Pittsburgh to take me to dinner. We all emailed occasionally. They came to my graduation party. They came to my bridal shower. They came to my wedding. They are good people. I wish we were all closer; I wish there were more of us.

D has stage 4 adenocarcinoma lung cancer. She’s in her 40’s. She has a little girl. Our grandma is 97 years old with nothing wrong with her but an aged body, and her very first grandbaby has stage 4 cancer. D’s birth was the reason Grandma got on an airplane for the first time in her life. She’s been healthy her whole life. She eats right, she exercises, she doesn’t smoke, she takes care of herself. And yet.

And yet.

I can’t tell you how much this sucks. I know it sucks terribly for her, her husband, her little girl, her parents, her brother. But it sucks for the whole family. My heart hurts for her, and for all of us. It feels like I’m in a bad dream. I know it’s cliche, but it does. I keep expecting to wake up. Except when I do wake up in the morning, the fact still remains.

I don’t know what else to do. What’s strange is I’m feeling this a lot more intensely than I remember feeling my dad’s illness 6 years ago. Perhaps I have blocked that out; perhaps I was blocking it out when it was happening. Perhaps it seemed less acutely unfair: he was, after all, in his 60’s, in poor health, after not taking care of himself very well his entire life, and both of his children were grown. She is young, in good health, takes very good care of herself, and her child is not grown.

This is unfair. I know life is unfair, I know cancer is particularly unfair. But damnit! This is really unfair!

I don’t know what else to do, so I’ve prayed about it. I’ve talked about it. Now I’ve written about it. I guess the next thing to do is knit her a shawl, and make some comfort food for myself.

I don’t know what else to do.



3 Comments so far
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You’re doing the only thing you can. You’re caring.

Comment by feuxdeforet

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Sometimes there isn’t really a whole lot you can do. Two years ago my 5 year old cousin passed away from complications of Leukemia. I was 6 mos. pregnant at the time. The whole family hurts from it and I often feel guilty for being so happy about my son’s birth and all the joy he brings me while knowing my aunt to be completely devastated.

But I feel like all I can do is pray for my aunt and be as sensitive and caring as possible.

Comment by Elisabeth

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