July 18, 2008

About My Aunt Polly

The news is not good.

If you've read my blog in the past, then you have read a couple of things about my Aunt Polly. She is my mom's sister-in-law, but she has always been like a big sister to me. When I was growing up, and especially in my teen years, I spent a lot of time at her house, and it was there that I had some of the best, and happiest, times of my life. There were bad times, too, as it is in most families, and some of the bad times I helped her to get through, as best I could.

There were times when she was there for me, when no one else was, or could be, like the time when, after a very difficult birth, when my son and I almost died, she trudged to the hospital several blocks away, in snow and rain, in a coat that was too thin to keep her warm, or dry-- every single day for the three weeks I was there. She sat there and held my hand, and told me that everything would come out all right. There has always been a bond between us, which may, or may not be unusual, but to me it is precious.

She taught me to make real fudge, using Hershey's Cocoa, and canned Pet Milk, which was always a treat for her family of seven children--of which, at least three of those children died tragic deaths. No matter how many miles between us, I was the one she always wanted to call first, when those tragedies happened, to pour her heart out to, to have pray with her. When Uncle Bo, her husband was on his death bed, I'm the one they called on..the one they wanted to offer words of comfort, which somehow, by God's grace, was comforting to them. It just always seemed right that I should do that, to be there for them.

Last year, Aunt Polly was diagnosed with Lymphoma, which spread to several parts of her body. She underwent chemo, and I, of course, talked to her on a regular basis, encouraged her, and loved her, and she did the same for me, and then, six months ago, she was declared cancer free. The PET scan which she had three months later, still showed her as being cancer free. Then, a few days ago, her daughter who was spending some time with her-- in her apartment which she had moved back into only weeks before--woke up in the middle of the night, and found Aunt Polly absent from the apartment, which is a high-rise. She searched everywhere, then went down to the lobby, and outside, and still, she was nowhere to be found. Finally, she found her on another floor of the building, and she didn't know where she was, nor even the number of her apartment. The next day, her doctor was contacted, and after hearing what had transpired, ordered another PET scan, which showed that her brain was filled with cancerous lesions. He said that there is nothing to be done, that trying to treat it would only hasten her death, and the prognosis is that she will survive no longer than two to four months. Ironically, her six months PET scan had been scheduled for that very day, and the same day, her son moved her back to his home. Aunt Polly's days of independence are over, but she made every effort to try to make the most of those days, after the chemo therapy.

Two days ago, when I heard the dreadful news, I was heartsick, but tonight I talked to my Aunt Polly on the phone, and I feel better. She is not experiencing any pain right now, but says that she is dizzy. She talked about the cancer coming back. "It came back in my head," she said. "Maybe, it won't kill me." She laughed. "I sure do love you, " she said.

"It's been a long time, since I've seen you. I asked Tony and Barbara, reckon Janice is mad at me?" That made me smile. As if I could ever be mad at this woman, whose heart and mind are totally without guile.

I am glad to know that, for the moment, she is not suffering, but I am not naive enough to think that it will continue to be so. I've seen what that terrible affliction can do, and it seems that it may progress rapidly.

I told her that we are going to try our very best to get down there by the end of this month. She laughed, and said, "Lord, I hope so." And again, "I sure do love you, baby." It was hard hanging up the phone, but she sounded happy.

Oh, Aunt Polly.. I love you, too, more , probably, than you will ever know. I will never be able to look at a can of Pet Milk, or Hershey's Cocoa without thinking of you--but I will try not to be sad, but only remember the good times when you were teaching me to drop spoons of liquid fudge into cold water, testing the doneness of it, and of how you laughed at how precise I tried to be, while doing it. "Just drop it, and let it go, baby..it will turn out alright."

I think maybe, in the end, that is just what she will do--drop it and let it go, knowing that it will turn out alright.