Give to charity. Get gifts. Everybody wins (except two lousy diseases).
Today I want to tell you about a couple of things. They’re a bit personal. I’m talking about cancer and Alzheimer’s and how they affected my life.
Back when I was a wee little reader, most of my time was spent with my grandmother. This woman had a huge impact on me because if it wasn’t for her I’d have been raised by wolves.
Grandma Estelle was a mercurial woman with warm hazel eyes and a sense of humor as sudden and endearing as the dawn. She’d burst into song at the drop of a hat, but often rewrote the lyrics into something more fun than the original and always with a story. She bought me my first Weird Al album.
No matter how awkward, weird, or clumsy I was (and sometimes it seemed I was practically extraterrestrial), Grandma Estelle loved me anyway. At one point, she was the only person who said that out loud for an entire year. I learned familial affection from her example when everybody else just assumed I knew it already. I didn’t. She saved my life this way, and in too many more for me to count.
Over the years, Grandma Estelle lost pieces of herself. “That one just fell off and I forgot to pick it up,” she’d say when asked to tell a story from a few years back. Well no. She didn’t really lose them. The snippets and shards vanishing from my beloved grandmother’s psyche were stolen. By Alzheimer’s. I swear, that disease squatted in shadowy corners, snatching up scraps every time her back was turned.
But Grandma Estelle’s heart was too big for that blasted disease to grasp. She remained touchingly devoted to Grandpa Ray who crossed the Atlantic to meet and eventually marry her, until he passed away. She continued losing her memory but not her heart. My grandmother cared too much so she carried on for ten more years, a star lighting the sunset days of all her neighbors at her assisted living apartment complex.
Until the other thief struck her in the gut. I got a call from my sister and her husband. Grandma Estelle had colon cancer. If I could have sprouted wings and fly to her side, I would have. But a ticket on Southwest had to suffice because she was right all along. I’m just plain human.
She passed just days after my visit. At her funeral, the Rabbi told us to honor Grandma Estelle by remembering her light and letting ours shine. Shortly after that was when I started writing again.
I contributed to the above anthologies in her memory, with dedications in her name. Each is like a sampling of work from other authors like me, who have lost loved ones to either or both of these diseases.
They’re called Stardust, Always and The Longest Night Watch. Proceeds from both the ebook and paperback versions go to Saint Jude’s Research and The Alzheimer’s Association, respectively. They make great gifts and do some good.
Thank you for reading. Let your own light shine, too.