I wish my Nana were still here to make me laugh at the week I've had so far.
My grandmother, Edna Jane Farmer, often said, "Oh Christine! You are so earthy!"
In mock horror, she'd clutch her chest and roll her eyes whenever I uttered my honest-yet-scratch-the-surface-off-her-pearls opinions on life -- and it happened a lot -- but then she'd just laugh and wink as she sipped her Sanka, shaking her head.
"Nana, last week was filled with boobs," I'd say, sitting next to her on her well-worn couch.
"Oh, Christine!" she'd say, getting up to click off the TV. "Dolly, I swear, you are so --"
"I'm serious, Nana," I'd say, and that's all it would take.
She'd stroke my hair and say, "Is this about Angelina Julie?"
"Angelina Jolie," I'd smile. "Sort of." I'd take a big swig of Tab, look into her blue, milky eyes, and know I had a captive audience for as long as it took.
"So Monday," I'd say, "Everyone found out about her double mastectomy, right?"
I wouldn't broach the fact that Brad Pitt's on the cover of this month's Vanity Fair -- too tangential (though definitely worth circling back to another time; after all, he's got a new movie out and she's saved her life AND her nipples! Their agents and publicists must be high-fiving each other to the bank, right?).
Nana would nod and I'd still be able to smell the burnt toast from her breakfast -- even as the setting sun streams through her living room window.
"On Tuesday," I'd continue, "I went on Henry's field trip with his biology class."
"Is this about that sexting thing at the high school? God help them. I don't understand where the parents were when --"
"No, it's not about that," I'd laugh. "I was at the Field Museum with them..."
"With high schoolers?!" she'd ask, suspicious. "Henry let you go on a field trip with him?"
"The teacher asked for help!" I'd say defensively -- purposely omitting Henry's comments about how he couldn't believe I'd actually go on the biology field trip with him.
Nana would shrug and motion for me to continue.
"They had a scavenger hunt," I'd say, "and one of the boys was having trouble finding an item. So he asked me for help..."
"Oh, Dolly," she'd say, putting her hand on mine, "that's sweet."
"I know, he was this timid little freshman boy. He called me Mrs. Wolf."
"Ha! And to me, you're just little Chrissy."
"I know! It's always weird to hear Mrs. Wolf. But then, this shy little boy...he couldn't find the blue footed booby," I'd say.
"The what, Dolly?" she'd say, straightening her brooch.
"They're birds," I'd say. "They were supposed to find the photo of the blue footed booby in the DNA exhibit, then write down what it was doing..."
"Well," she'd say, picking up her china cup, "what was it doing?"
"Mating." I'd say.
Sanka would dribble onto her polyester top as she'd shake with laughter. She'd dab at it with a napkin. I'd apologize profusely, but she'd wave me away.
"I'll Shout it out later," she'd say. "Go on with this week of boobs and boobies."
"Okay, so then on Wednesday, I wasn't feeling too good. I was tired from the field trip and --"
"Dolly," she'd say, "when I was your age, I was already going through the change..."
"Oh, God, Nana," I'd say, embarrassed yet relieved. "Yes, I think I'm in peri-menopause."
She'd give me a blank stare.
"Not Perry Mason," I'd clarify. "Peri-menopause. The time before menopause."
"Oh, Chris," she'd say, laughing. "You girls and all your fancy terms." She'd twirl her fingers in the air, hoo-ha style.
"Anyhow," I'd say, smiling. "I was feeling so guilty for lying around on Wednesday. I think I watched 4 old episodes of Sex & the City --"
"WHAT??" she'd cackle. Edna Jane Farmer was a cackler.
"It's a TV show," I'd say.
"About sex... in a city? Which city?" she'd ask.
"Fictional women in New York. But they were talking about --"
"Don't tell me!" she'd howl, laughing until she'd stop.
Covering her mouth.
"Oh, Dolly," she'd say, tears streaming down her face. "I'm so sorry. I just..."
"It's okay, Nana," I'd say, knowing she'd just farted.
It happened a lot. She was earthy, too.
"God love you, Dolly," she'd say, readjusting on the couch. And then I'd continue.
"Oh," she'd say, serious now, folding her hands across her ample lap.
"Samantha finds out she has breast cancer," I'd say, pausing. "And then, on Thursday morning..."
"Does she get chemo?" Nana would interject.
Nana was a nurse before she retired.
"I...yes...in another episode, I think," I say, reaching for my Tab and scratching my head.
"Dolly, I'm sorry. Continue," she'd say, rubbing my arm.
"Okay," I'd say. "On Thursday morning, I got an offer to be on a local access cable TV program called The Reporters."
"I TOLD your mother you were dramatic!" she'd say, sitting straight up.
"It's not acting, though," I'd clarify. "It's interviewing local community members. I'm excited... I think," I'd say. I'd refrain from describing my secret fear of local access cable and becoming a character from Wayne's World.
"You'll be just like a young Barbara Walters!" she'd say, wide-eyed and teary. "You know, she's retiring?"
"I heard," I'd say, taking her hand, now. "Like Barbara Walters...And I'll be working on the BOOB TUBE. Get it?"
"The BOOB TUBE!" she'd cackle, throwing her head back and laughing. "This has been your week of boobs!"
"Exactly!" I'd say with my best jazz hands. "Little Chrissy on the boob tube!"
"Oh, Dolly!" she'd snort and we'd both laugh, covering our mouths.
"Okay," I'd say, clearing my throat. "But here's the hard part."
"You'll do great," she'd say, frowning away my insecurities.
"No, it's not that," I'd say.
"You've always been hard on yourself, Dolly," she'd say in her soothing voice.
"I know, Nana," I'd say. "But after I got the job offer today, I had a mammogram."
In the moment of silence, I'd hear a train rumble in the distance.
"And they want me to come back for another look."
She'd blink. I'd stare at the fluffy halo of her translucent hair, knowing that breast cancer wasn't part of the funny, earthy conversation we started. I'd feel terrible burdening her with my worries and fears.
"And so," I'd say, filling the silence and forcing a smile, "this truly has been my week of boobs."
"Well," she'd say, looking deep into my eyes.
"I can't help but feel like the universe is trying to tell me something, you know?"
"Don't worry, Dolly."
"I know," I'd say. "I'm getting another round of pictures and an ultrasound on the questionable spot next week."
"What does Mr. Smoothy think?" she'd say, dipping her face down to coax a smile from me.
"He said not to worry," I'd say, referring to my always-steady husband.
"You know he's right," she'd say, putting down her nail file and wrapping me in her arms. She'd smell of Estee Lauder's White Linen and decaf and alcohol wipes from her morning insulin injection.
She smelled of love.
"God love ya, Dolly," she'd say, patting my back. I knew she'd wait this out with me, knowing I'd lose sleep while trying not to imagine what my kids and Mr. Smoothy would do if I died of breast cancer, worrying about all the stupid little projects around the house that need to be finished and the unfinished business of my 45 years. She'd remind me of all the other women who've had breast cancer and survived, like
"I'm sure it's nothing," I'd lie, pulling away.
"I know it's nothing," she'd say. "And just look at Angelina Julie."
"Sorry," I'd say. "But she didn't have breast cancer...she did a pre-emptive thing..."
"Doesn't matter," she'd say. "You're pre-emptive, too. Remember, I didn't have mammograms when I was 45."
"If this is something, you're on top of it already."
"If it's something, you're catching it."
"I am," I'd say, grateful for the repetition; she'd know I'd need to hear it again and again.
"And if it's nothing, then you can write about this and say, 'Whew. My Nana told me not to worry.'"
"Because I've always told you you're a good writer," she'd say.
"Just leave out the part when I--"
"Oh, Nana," I'd say. "Everybody farts."
She'd roll her eyes and smooth her pants, then take my face in her hands.
"You don't believe me, do you? About the writing?"
"I try to," I'd say. "I don't know if I'm that good...I just love to write. And it definitely helps me when I need to figure things out, you know? It helps me work through stuff, especially when I'm scared, you know?"
I sit up straight, cracking my back a bit, and as I look away from the computer monitor toward the empty couch in my living room, strewn with evidence of the messy, beautiful life I've built with Mr. Smoothy and three kids and a dog, I blink hard.
I miss my Nana so much.
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