Saturday, November 22, 2014

Big Girl Panties

I had the most wonderful, southern grandmother anyone on earth could ever ask for. Growing up, my Granny Zola was always there for me. She helped my mother and my Aunt Joyce raise me and we even lived with her for several years when I was very young. I will never forget her hands - long, boney fingers and smooth, silky skin draped over blue and purple veins. I remember them being cold - like mine often are - and she would say, "cold hands, warm heart," as she would hug me tight to her chest, smooth my bangs away from my eyes, or wipe away a tear. When she watched her "stories" on television, she'd become so immersed that her dentures would fall out of place and she'd have to pop them back in. I remember the click. I would giggle as she wiped the corners of her mouth with a folded paper towel, which she always had on hand. She'd bellow "Oooowoooo" when Beau, Hope, or Marlena incited another dramatic scandal that she did not approve of, but secretly loved! On long nights, when my mother would be out working, Granny Zola would let me curl up next to her in bed. Her sheets smelled of Nivea face cream, mentholatum vapor rub, mothballs, and my Papa's lingering cologne - the perfect combination. With her dentures removed, she'd sing me to sleep - usually an old gospel hymn - Will the Circle Be Unbroken was always a favorite. And with her soft blue eyes, brought to life by her long, silky nightgown in the faintest of street light shining in the window off Pine Street, she'd give me a kiss and tell me everything was going to be alright.

Granny Zola was a wonderful person and I am thankful for the time I spent with her. She once was a nurse and delivered many babies into the world. She also raised four children of her own and she was an amazing cook! There will never be anything like her sweet tea ever again in this world - the best! One saying from Granny Z that I remember very clearly is when she told me to put on my "big girl panties." I would usually be crying about something or another - maybe I wanted my mama, possibly my Aunt "Doyce," maybe my cousins were picking on me - like they always do, or maybe I was just upset because Lassie wasn't on - but she'd get that stern, southern glare in her eye, one brow cocked up high, and she'd tell me directly - it was time to be a big girl! I can hear it like it was yesterday.

Thursday night I was lying in bed, anxious with nerves, Jon's brain scan was scheduled for the next day. Cancer has brought us together in so many ways. For one, we know we can't both fall apart at the same time. Sometimes we do, and these make for miserable days. But, in general, we know that when one person is down, the other needs to do all they can to bring them up. He had a bad week and felt depressed with the oncoming appointment. I held it together. I had finals to complete - which I'll talk about later - and had to keep strong when little things didn't go our way. A flat tire? Let me handle it! Dinner? I'll whip it up! Bank account low? I'll find a job! It broke my heart to watch him sit around all week and I knew he was worried, but I chugged along, trying to put Friday in the back of my mind and focus on our daily needs as a family. Once Thursday night came and my final class had come and gone, I couldn't hold it together any longer. We talked for a while and he told me his fears and worries. I listened, but then the stress became too much and I broke down in tears. Now, it was his turn to take care of me. And he did. He held my little head while I cried and cried into his chest. He swept my bangs from my eyes, wiped my tears, and told me everything was going to be alright. Granny Zola was by our side guiding him to say the right thing. I just know she was.

After my outburst, I popped a sleeping pill, and drifted off. You gotta do what you gotta do to get through nights like these. Before I fell into a deep slumber, I thought to myself, "When did I become such a big girl?" I have always thought of myself as an independent. I was raised by a single mother, I moved away from home on my own at the first chance, and I've had to grow up fast in many ways. But laying there, feeling so vulnerable and helpless, I wondered how in the world I was going to put on my "big girl panties" the next day and walk into that doctor's office and get these results. Jon and I met when we were babies in college. How did we get old enough for cancer?

The next day came and I almost overslept (thanks xanax!). We went through all the motions and marched into that hospital right by ourselves, like big kids do. I waited as he got the scan. I watched people around me. I became overwhelmed with emotion as a daughter wheeled her father (about 90 years old) into the waiting room. His body was deteriorating, but his eyes were bright and all he wanted was a cold cup of water. He couldn't wait to get out of there because they had a lunch date with gumbo at their favorite restaurant. They do it every time they come into the city for an appointment. With giant smiles on their faces they exclaimed, "It's our thing!" I watched a young girl, probably around my age, as a nurse wheeled her in and she plugged her phone in the wall next to me. She was kind and asked me sweetly if she was blocking my view of the television. "Not at all," I replied. Behind thick glasses her eyes danced as she watched videos on her phone. I wondered why she was alone. Did she not have family to come with her? How serious is her condition? I wanted to speak to her more, but they soon came to get her and take her back. Then, I was left all alone. Sitting there, just waiting.

Being surrounded by these people breaks my heart. We are these people. We are all these people at some point in our life. The child waiting on the parent. The spouse waiting on their partner. And even, eventually, the one going at it all alone. I can't help but wonder where God is in this world of suffering. I ask this question to myself often and I am perplexed. At my worst, I am angry and pissed off. At my best, I sit in awe of life, breathe, and smile. I certainly do not have the answers - but, perhaps, the answer is simple. Perhaps God can be found in the small things. The kiss of my dog, the smile on Jon's face, or even that bowl of gumbo waiting on you after a long, hard day.

We got "okay" news. Not what we wanted to hear, but not bad. One stubborn brain met has grown a little bit. The radiologist believes it, being the largest of all of them originally, was just not effected strong enough with whole brain radiation - as that is a light amount of radiation in general. So, Jon will have targeted radiation therapy to that one spot the week after Thanksgiving. We also have CT scans that week where we find out what is going on in the lungs. I hope and pray they are stable and that we can zap this one met and have a joyous Christmas. But, hey, every day is Christmas when you spend it with the one you love.

This was a long post, if you made it all the way down here...thank you! I'll wait til next time to post all about my first quarter in grad school! I'll even share a couple projects that I am really proud of!!!



  1. Not always sure how to help out in the day to day (though we are always glad to) but know that our souls share this burden with you and John.

  2. That statement is beautiful. And means the world to us. Thank you so much!

  3. Beautiful and meaningful post, Robyn. "Not what we wanted to hear, but not bad." In our world (lung cancer) that's a pretty good report, right? And how nice it is that today we have the Plan B of targeted radiation to burn up that stubborn one. I'm proud as I can be of both you and Jon, but be advised that I'm also expecting a lot out of y'all.