Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Beautiful Cousin Nancy

When I finish writing here, I will finish packing my car and take off for California. It is time to go say good-bye to my beautiful Cousin Nancy. She’s throwing in the towel after four years of fighting cancer. She’s been through surgery, radiation, and several kinds of chemotherapy. She’s lost her hair, and now it’s growing back in a curly frizz unlike the wavy-straight hair she used to have. She has laughed and cried and thrown up and put as positive a spin on everything as she could, which is how she’s lived her life. She lived to attend her son Jeff’s wedding on Maui, possibly the happiest day of her life if the pictures are anything to go by, and to have a warm relationship with her daughter-in-law Ariel. She lived to watch the first year and a half of her grandson’s life, and he has been her heart’s delight. She has loyal friends and family down there in California, and she has me up here. When she lived in Soap Lake for three years (long story), she and I made some trips to beaches and casinos – Nancy loves to gamble – and one year she and I and her sister Charlotte drove to Montana to visit their relatives in Kalispell and go to Glacier Park. She got me to see the Grand Coulee Dam and the dry falls created by ice age floods that broke through natural dams in Montana. I never would have seen all those things if it hadn’t been for Nancy. I never go anywhere. Except California, which is where I’m going now, to tell Nancy I love her, to tell her she is beautiful, to have some more inappropriate laughs together if possible, to say good-bye for the final time in this life, to ask her to give my love to Rick on the other side. We’ve been buddies since before I can remember. We were born 10 months apart. Her mom, Chick, was my father’s sister. Chick had multiple sclerosis and was in a wheelchair for most of our childhoods, and Nancy spent a lot of time taking care of her, coming home after school to take care of Mom and make dinner for her Dad, who would be angry if it wasn’t ready when he got home. Nancy went to work when she was eighteen, and she was married for fifteen years. The marriage broke down and she ended up a single mother, working a full-time job and a nighttime job during the week, and cleaning houses on the weekends when her son was with his dad. When I visited her in those days, we’d be in the middle of a conversation and she’d nod off. I include here a picture of Nancy and me, taken in front of my family home in 1964. After her mom died in the spring her dad bought one of the first Mustangs, and on this day she drove it down to the ranch to visit us, wearing an outfit she made herself that matched the Mustang. I didn’t know until last year that she had taken the Mustang while her dad was at work to make the trip, and when she got back, he was furious, and she didn’t care that he was furious. She’d had enough of being bullied by him. So I’m off for one last good-bye. If she’s gone by the time I get there, I won’t hold it against her. I know she’s ready to rest. It is the last day of Lent and tomorrow is Easter. I started trying to derive deep significance and symbolism out of starting a trip on the last day of Lent and literally driving into the resurrection because that’s how I roll, but then I thought, oh Mary, give it a rest. What it is, is enough. Save your energy for the drive. I wish you all a blessed season of resurrection. I’m sure I’ll tell you all about the trip when I get back. Maybe even with pictures.

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