She was diagnosed in September 2007 at age 82 with breast cancer and decided to fight it. She was the oldest patient her oncologist had ever had. She was a yellow dog democrat, and told her oncologist during one of their initial meetings that he needed to keep her alive long enough to see a democrat in the White House. He did. She managed to live with the breast cancer through both good days and bad days for more than two years. A year ago, she even felt good enough to have my father drive her from Greensboro, NC, to Atlanta to visit me for the weekend.
She was diagnosed with lung cancer on Tuesday, October 20 and died peacefully on Saturday, October 24. Even the day before she died we were talking Flannery O’Connor and looking through my Savannah pictures in her hospital room. She loved hearing about all the literary trips I’ve been taking this year, and she was thrilled that I was three weeks away from visiting Rowan Oak. If she had lived until I had gotten back from that trip, no doubt she would have wanted all the details and to have a look at the pictures.
The real kicker to all of this is that my maternal grandfather passed away less than four weeks before my grandmother, so my family had experienced two deaths almost at the same time. Though their children, my parents, married in 1974, my four grandparents had been close friends for years before that, and it was an added bonus to have their children marry each other. My grandfather and grandmother lived their last months on the same hall of an assisted living facility and died in hospital rooms next door to each other. Here is a picture of me with these two grandparents on my third birthday in 1981:
I have many, many pictures of me at all ages with all my grandparents, but for the purposes of this blog, here is one of my favorites with Dot on our Italy trip. We’re in Juliet’s Garden in Verona with her statue. That year it was my Christmas card photo.
For lack of a better place to mention this, and while I’m on the topic of the Italy trip, while we were in Rome, I visited the Keats-Shelley House just to the right of the Spanish Steps (my grandmother checked out the Steps instead while I went in the House). Here are a couple of photos from that, and here is an excerpt from my travel journal from that day (March 10, 2004):
“After lunch we visited the famous Spanish Steps and had some time on our own. I broke away from the rest of my group members to visit the Keats-Shelley House, a small museum dedicated to the British and American poets, novelists and artists of the Romantic period who spend time in Rome during the first half of the 19th century. I actually stood in the room where Keats died from consumption at the young age of 26. It was thrilling!”
So my excuse for nearly abandoning my blog for the month of October is, I hope, warranted. I have a lot in store for the blog in the next few months, so please keep reading.