They found a sizable mass on my grandma’s lung a couple weeks ago that doesn’t look all that promising. It’s a substantial ailment in a line of pretty serious diseases and conditions this petite but mighty woman has endured in her day.
Yet, despite the laundry list of maladies and losses, she somehow still lives independently and thinks she’s the luckiest person in the world.
I’ve had more self-pity over a hangnail than she’s probably experienced in her entire lifetime. Dang!
How empowering it must be to have chosen contentment over resentment for 87 years. And perhaps it’s all been to prepare her for this moment — the one where she’s choosing to let the contents of that mass go unnoticed. Untested. Untreated.
She says she feels good right now, and prefers that to all the poking and prodding.
For the past 20 years we’ve called her Bounce Back Betty, because she’s lived through more than her fair share of hardships.
This woman has rebounded with grace every single time she’s been knocked down, and I think that’s maybe why her choice has been hard to reconcile for me. My Grandma Betty is a warrior. An endlessly optimistic, scrappy and fashionable fighter who loves a glass of wine (or two) and who laughs like a bear when you get her going.
So, while I know it isn’t about me… what about me?!
For the better part of my life, I’ve relied on her humor and compassion. She lives in Indiana, but even over the phone, she somehow manages to feel like she’s by my side. From time to time, I’ve even had the pleasure of cheering her up on a bad day, and I’ve always liked how she describes it: that it’s like I held her hand and walked her from the valley to the top of the mountain. How could I go on without her in my world?
But the truth is, despite my aptitude at catastrophizing things, nothing has actually changed about my Grandma. No age or ailment can strip her of her dignity, perseverance or presence in my life. I’ve just been thinking about this wrong — like she’s acquiescing or something. But no.
And, while I’d like to think that she’s metaphorically saying, “hold my beer” and making come-at-me-bro hands to cancer, I don’t think it’s quite that either. I think she showing her mastery of grace and resilience.
If there is one thing my Grandma Betty has nailed in her lifetime, it’s the simple but sometimes hard-to-achieve task of choosing happiness.
This lung mass isn’t going to bring her to her knees. Neither did losing her own mom at age 10 and two of her three children. Or a divorce, an aortic bypass surgery and two different car accidents (neither her fault) that were so severe, her brain hemorrhage required surgery.
Life has been a gauntlet of challenges, and while she’s not immune to sadness, she’s been able to find ways through the muck rather than ever staying mired in it. And this time, that path involves not trying to overstay her body’s welcome, but to appreciate its functionality while it lasts.
So, all I can do is cheer her on, and hope that if her perspective on life isn’t something that’s genetic, it’s something that can be learned. Because if there’s ever anything I’d want to know and teach my son, Harvey, it’s the power of bouncing back.
Marina Gomberg’s lifestyle columns appear on sltrib.com. She is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at firstname.lastname@example.org.