On Saturday morning, three weeks ago, Duane, Jason, and I drove up to Oceanside to have breakfast with Duane's mother, Kay. We did that once or twice a month. With busy work schedules, we couldn't get up there too often, and we usually couldn't stay long, so we went out to breakfast.
This particular Saturday was unusual. We hadn't planned on going up to Oceanside. We were supposed to be in Palm Springs, a sort of last hurrah before school started. In fact, I ended up creating lesson plans and syllabus most of the time, but I set my books aside to go with Caitlin and Duane to the art museum on Thursday afternoon. It was free, and I wanted a break.
After spending an hour looking at uber-modern art exhibits, we walked down the main drag, going in and out of shops. We weren't looking for anything, but the stores were air conditioned and some of them had interesting, of not useless, merchandise. Caitlin and I walked into a very cute women's apparel store where even T-shirts cost more than $60. We oohed and aahed at little girls clothes on the rack and then perused the shoes. Caitlin thought I should buy a pair of very cute on-sale flip flops. I told her I needed to invest in real shoes since school was starting and I'm not really supposed to wear flip flops.
Duane stayed outside. He gets bored in stores, and I knew he wanted to check in with his mom. A few days before she told him she didn't feel good, wasn't eating much, and she was ready to die. She said she was tired and had lived a good life. Duane told her to go to the doctor, and so she did.
The doctor told her he saw liver cancer, but it was small, only grape-sized. In typical Kay fashion, she said she had seen some pretty big grapes in her life. Duane reassured her that it was good that they caught it early.
After Duane got done talking, he came inside and very flatly says, "Mom has liver cancer." Without another word, he walked out the door.
It didn't really hit me what he said, and so after a few minutes, Caitlin and I went out to talk to him. He didn't seem worried, but we decided to head home to San Diego early to have breakfast with Nana. On the way home, she called to say that a cancer blood test was negative. Whew. It was probably a close call, but we wanted to see her on Saturday anyway.
We called her on Saturday morning when we got close to where she lives, and she said she had never been to the Broken Yolk. I asked, "Do you want to meet us there?" She asked if we could pick her up.
Kay ordered a gigantic fruit plate and ate a few pieces of watermelon, a few bites of cantaloupe. She sent the rest of it home with us, and we had it with lunch the next day. She moved slowly, and she seemed frail. How did that happen so quickly? We hoped she would get well soon. We believed--or maybe we hoped--that the cancer diagnosis was a mistake. After all, she hadn't had a biopsy.
Six days later after the initial diagnosis, she was admitted to the hospital.
Six days after that, they told Duane and his sisters that she was terminal.
Two days later, two weeks after the initial diagnosis, she died.
Her final words were, "Jesus, I'm here."
We held the funeral three weeks from the day she learned she had liver cancer.
We're all a little dizzy.
We're wondering what happened.
Life and death are mysteries we cannot explain.
I watch the tribute video that tells the story of her life over and over, and I see the lonely little girl with the knobby knees, the one who pretends she has a twin sister, the one who clings to puppies and kittens because they are the only friends she has, and I wonder, "Where did all the time go?" "How do we change so quickly?" "Why do we take life for granted?" "Why are we so busy?"
The images tell the story of falling in love, of children, of grandchildren, or laughter and silliness. I know the story is more complicated than the images before me, that some of the smiles are forced and nobody's perfect, but none of the complications seem to matter anymore.
The only thing that matters is love.
It's hard to believe there are no more breakfasts with Nana.