I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. Normally, I visit my two granddaughters and come home energized from their joyful exuberance. This summer, instead of just visiting them, I pair each visit with a trip to the hospital, just a few miles from their home, to see my best friend, Marilyn. She has been in the ICU since June 27.
I keep replaying the time line in my head, hoping maybe I got one of the details wrong.
May 25: Marilyn and I are running around the playground chasing our two six-year old granddaughters from one swing to another. The girls are the same age Marilyn and I were when we met in Mrs. Biggs’ first grade class. We’ve been best friends ever since and have been there for each other through every one of life’s milestones.
May 31: Marilyn is out for a walk with her neighbor and gets so dizzy she can barely lift her feet, which feel like they’re in quicksand. Her neighbor drives her to the ER and she has a CT scan. The results show she has hydrocephalus, also known as “water on the brain,” an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles or cavities of the brain. Over the next 3 weeks further tests and an MRI reveal a tumor on her pineal gland located in the center of the brain.
June 27: Marilyn has surgery to drain the fluid from her brain. I visit the next day and she is sitting in a chair looking as beautiful as ever with just a tiny tube coming out of the top of her scalp. The first thing she asks is how I enjoyed the “Wizard of Oz” performance with my granddaughters. It’s so like her to be more interested in me than focusing on herself. She is scheduled for her second surgery to remove the tumor and apprehensive about the outcome. I give her lots of hugs before I say good bye and remind her how strong she is.
July 3: The second surgery to remove the tumor lasts 9 hours, but the surgeon is confident he got it all and that it’s most likely benign.
July 5: An email update from Marilyn’s 3 daughters explains that her vital signs are strong but she has developed swelling in her brain which is causing her to remain asleep.
August 15: Day 48 in the ICU. I’ve visited her every week as she experienced setback after setback. On each visit I bring Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook, my songbook with so many of the Brownie and Girl Scout songs we sang together at summer camp. Sometimes she has been asleep and I sang with tears streaming down my cheeks. But during one memorable visit, Marilyn was able to lip sync along with me even though she couldn’t use her voice yet.
The waiting and uncertainty of whether Marilyn can survive this trauma has taken an enormous toll on her three devoted daughters and all her friends. I’m so grateful that I can soothe my grief after these visits by escaping into the world of my granddaughters.
I wonder if Marilyn and I will ever be able to run on the beach with our grandchildren the way we did just 2 months ago. I grieve for my friend, her three daughters, and for myself. I pray for a miracle so that my beloved confidante will survive and we will laugh together again over our grandchildren’s hilarious antics.