Monday, November 20, 2006
When I stopped by my grandparent's house a week and a half ago, it seemed it would be the last time I would see Aunt Teresa. She was very lethargic, difficult to wake up, now completely bedbound. She was barely eating or drinking. She woke up long enough for me to show her a picture of Dani in her wedding dress (Teresa has always loved, loved, loved bridal magazines and anything wedding related). She smiled and held my hand. As we were sitting together she looked at me and said, "I like you." Teresa has never been sentimental or seemed to understand the power of her words before this. My heart just melted and I had to blink away tears. I left the house ready to leave for Ireland but certain I would be getting a message stating Teresa had died once I returned. I never got that message. Instead, Teresa has done something typical of many hospice patients before their deaths: she has rallied. She is still not eating much but she is staying awake more and is somewhat more interactive with guests. I stopped by yesterday afternoon to check in on my grandparents. Teresa's birthday was Saturday and her room was filled with balloons, flowers, and cards. She was like a queen with her constituents filing through her bedroom. I was the fifth visitor that afternoon but, as I like to remind her, I am her favorite great-niece. Never mind that there are only 2 other contenders for that title and they have lived out of state and rarely visit. Teresa lives and breathes for her birthday every year. She lights up with all the attention. She is the subject for many pictures (she has a collection of at least 50 photo albums from across the years). She eats her favorite cake. And best of all, the presents! She is now 79 but a 79 year old with child like enthusiasm. Her body has aged but her mind has stayed the same. My grandpa says that Teresa has lived a life without sin because of her mental limitations but I know that isn't true. There are times she has scowled for being told no or resented not being able to participate in something. Maybe her sins are less external than ours but she is still human. I would rather think that she is able to see the best in people, she comes before them with an open and vulnerable heart even though she has been hurt in the past. I have seen the hurt on her face when someone has called her retarded, or even just said that something is retarded. I have also seen her move past the hurt. She's not able to hold onto bitterness the way that I can. I can learn a lot from Aunt Teresa, even now. She is unaware of her condition, probably not thrilled to be stuck in bed but she has accepted it. She enjoys whoever comes to visit and still takes pride in her appearance, choosing different sparkly hair bows and lacy nightgowns. She is limited but she is still making the most of her life. I am blessed to know her. I can't imagine life without Teresa. My grandparents took her and my great-grandma into their home the year I was born. She has been a fixture in my life. I will miss her. I am glad she was able to enjoy another birthday. I don't think she will be with us much longer but she will never be forgotten.