Happy Birthday, Gram.

Today would be my grandmother's 98th birthday.  No, I wrote that wrong.  Today IS my grandmother's 98th birthday.

My family and I have done the math.  We believe she was 33 years old.

As I heard it, second hand, my grandmother had a nurse for a neighbor.  My grandparents were living in Royal Oak, MI.  Again, be it lore, or fact, my grandmother shared with her neighbor her lump.  Days, months later?, none of my father or his siblings truly knows, my grandmother woke in the hospital without her breast.

And that was that.  Life in the '50's.  They took her breast and gave her life.

As I've heard it, and family keeps secrets, no one knew except my grandfather.  My father, the oldest, and his three younger sisters never knew until sometime in the 80's or 90's when one of those sisters had a mastectomy after years of numerous, questionable biopsies.  I've done the math.  While my aunt's mastectomy may have been in her 40's, her bad biopsies were most definitely in her 30's.

I know what you're all thinking.  Our family must have the BRCA gene.  Nope.  We have a gene.  That much is clear.  It's just not a gene that has been discovered yet.  And in the scheme of things, it's a good gene. 

My grandmother died less than two months after her 90th birthday.  She was living independently in her own apartment in an assisted living facility.  Up until the day she died she was still taking people's money in penny poker, drinking her shitty pink wine from a box, watching the Flyers and bitching that my dad had FINALLY taken away her car keys. 

She had some back pain and called my aunt and they decided to go the hospital.  They were there a few hours and my aunt grew concerned and called family.  Everyone started to make their way to PA.  Then we got the reverse call.  She was doing well, things looked okay, she was probably headed home.  My grandmother asked my aunt when they could go, she wanted to get home for happy hour.  Her heart exploded and she passed away.

She went to happy hour with my grandfather...somewhere none of us has ever been.

I've done the math.  And my grandmother LOVED the math. 

Gram, you had four children.  Ten grandchildren.  At your death, your twelfth and thirteenth great grandchildren were on the way.  Van was thirteenth.  Our lucky number.  Truth be told, I love all my cousins but I can't recall if you have 20 great grandchildren now or 21 or 22.  But the math is good.

My grandmother died and it wasn't from breast cancer.  My aunt has now had both breasts removed.  She's happy, healthy and has some number of those great grandchildren.  She's 66.  When you've had a deadly disease you say your age with pride (sort of.  I celebrate each year but the number still sucks).

I have done the math.  My grandmother gave us all a most splendid existence.  But for that, there is no equation. 

Today is my grandmother's 98th birthday.  I still see and talk to her.  She comes to me in my dreams.  I don't miss her, cause she's with us.  I am proud to share the bond of breast cancer with her, even though my first diagnosis was after she left earth.  I draw strength from her.  I ALWAYS have happy hour with her.  And damn, she loved me so much. 

I've done the math.  It adds up to good.

Happy 98th birthday, Gram.




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