The phone rang on Saturday evening, and when I answered, I heard my sister's voice. "Hey," she said, slightly hesitantly. "I need to let you know that Mimi is really fading." Mimi is our great-aunt, the youngest sister of my paternal grandfather. She's the last one left from that branch of the family. At eighty-eight, and no longer fighting against the terminal lung cancer she was diagnosed with a few years ago, the fact that the end was near was not a surprise to anyone. But I'd been managing to not make myself think about it. Mimi had called my parents' house on Friday night, in a lot of pain and somewhat disoriented. My mom went over, and contacted my sister, who got hold of my dad (he had turned off his cell phone while playing poker with his grammar school buddies). He spent the night at Mimi's, and at all times she had someone with her- my parents, my sister, a hospice worker. I asked Nic to call me later, or early on Sunday morning, to let me know the status. When she called, she told me that the literature from the hospice indicated that Mimi was firmly in the midst of the "one to two weeks" timeframe. "One to two weeks..." I said, feeling like a jerk for what was going through my head. "It's OK," she said. "Mom thinking about it, too." When my grandmother died in 1999, we had prepared ourselves for the end more times than I can count. Each mini-stroke, or trip to the hospital for one infection or another, every time her diabetes caused a complication to something that a stronger body would have bounced back from, I steeled myself for the loss. The last time I saw her, in her home, during a normal weekend visit instead of a crisis, she didn't know who I was. She looked at the blond haired toddler in her living room, and smiled. "Is that Andy's baby?" she asked. "No, Mom," my father answered her. He pointed to me. "This is my daughter, Karen. That's Karen's baby." She looked confused. She played a bit with Princess, but she never acknowledged me again. During the last hospital stay, I did not visit. My father said he understood, yet I somehow felt as though I'd failed him somehow. But I wanted the memories of my grandmother from my childhood, the sound of her whistling as she cooked dinner or relating the interactions she had with people as she volunteered at the hospital gift shop to be what was prominent in my mind. That was who I needed her to be. "I'll try to come see her tomorrow," I told my sister. "I don't know what time it will be, but I'll figure it out with Hubby." "You don't have to come," she told me. "Dad doesn't want you to feel like you need to do this." "I do need to do this. I didn't see her enough, didn't make enough effort to visit her and bring her pictures of the kids and all. I have to do this." And I said I would call before I left the house on Sunday, so everyone knew when I planned to arrive. And I prepared myself to say good-bye.


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Who's Who

    Hubby- aka DH My husband since 1995. He is the head of the band department at a college prep school, and dabbles as a wanna-be pop star.

    The Princess- aka DD. Third grader at the local parochial school. Loves butterlies, sparkly things, the color purple and has recently developed a crush on one of the twins from "The Suite Life of Zach and Cody". Is ready for her teenage years, having already perfected her exasperated sigh and dramatic eye-roll.

    Hoss- aka DS1. Kindergartener and resident spirited child. His aunt likes to call him "the evil genius" because of his penchant for letting a lack of intellectual stimulation lead him into mischief. Likes trucks, sports, building things and burping. His current favorite word is "underwear."

    Lil Joe- aka DS2. Born in 2003. Doesn't say much we can understand, but has mastered the important stuff ("eat!", "Wash hands!", "Want chocolate ones!", "Hockey game!") Likes to push buttons, much to the consternation of whoever is trying to watch a DVD. Firmly refuses to use the potty, despite evidence that he is physically ready to be out of diapers, indicating a level of stubborn that eclipses even that of his parents and siblings.

    Me? I'm the Mama. That's all you need to know.

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