Grandma Where's Your Hair, and The Christmas Angel

by Sarah Woods

Grandma, where’s your hair?
Sun was beaming through the window,
Lighting up her lifeless face
She’s hanging on by her love for us,
But, yet, it’s not enough.
We count how many times she breathes;
Her chest going up and down slowly
Her hair was cut off and now lies in a Ziploc bag.
While a lavender turban covers her head.
Knuckles are all bent,
Lips are all chapped,
Mouth is wide open,
And she’s gasping for air.
That grandmother smell of cookies has faded.
Now, medicine and cancer hang on her clothes.
That sickly sweet smell sickens me
And the IV keeps on dripping.
Memories and stories are being shared,
Tales of old and yellowing pictures that lie under the bed.
I haven’t heard her voice in so long,
Remembering Sundays when she sang at the top of her lungs.
That paper thin gown hangs from her fragile body,
But I can only remember her in that floral print sundress.
A nurse comes in, carrying more pills
In that tiny plastic cup,
But Grandma can’t swallow them, her tongue is too swollen.
Grief hangs thick in the air
Waiting and waiting.
Grandpa clears his throat to talk, choking on the words.
Tears come
We are all told to tell her that she can now let go.
I can’t manage to speak,
My heart breaks
And I ask cancer, “Why?”
Why would you take my Grandma away from me?
I walk out of that room
With crisp linen sheets
And children watching the hospital T.V.
Long white hallways seem to carry on,
Fearing that if I walk down them, she’ll be gone
That day rewinds back in my head,
To the words the doctor said;
“Christine, you have cancer,
There’s a few things we can do,
And, hopefully, you’ll pull through.”
2 years were spent in waiting rooms
For this radiation to come through.
Chemicals tore her body apart,
And for me, I had to watch.
I went back to when we would bake for Christmas,
But those scents don’t follow me anymore,
The flavors have left my tongue.
And I remember the tears in her eyes when I said,
“Grandma, where’s your hair?”

The Christmas Angel

Her hands would trace every ornament carefully
Placing them gently on the Fir we bought three days ago.
Frail; its how those busy hands have become.
A sunken face smiles,
Gray eyes have lost their twinkle,
Her curly hair is gone,
She’s lost her spirit.
That Christmas Eve kiss now has the scent of cancer lingering on it,
Marking my cheek with pain,
Laughing in my face when the tears swell up
I don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore,
Or even Frosty the Snowman,
But I still believe in Christmas magic.
And yet, these tears are still coming.
We wake up and rush to the tree,
Grandma is sitting there.
A lavender turban is wrapped around her head,
Her hands are clasped together.
Don’t squeeze too hard, Grandma, you might break…
That wheelchair turns around,
Swollen legs and boney hands,
Sunken eyes and tissue paper skin.
My Christmas Angel still learns to smile.
We open our presents carefully,
Grandma opens hers.
A new red robe, to keep her warm
And old lace bundles that are patterned like snow.
The windows are frosted, a snowman in the back,
Even he’s lost the smile that he once had.
Cinnamon and sugar lie in the air,
Now the scent of cancer even lies there.
But, for just a moment, it disappears
As grandma’s voice is heard loud and clear
She sings those Christmas songs gracefully.
She smiles and then looks at me.
Those notes get trapped into the dust,
The words linger on the wall.
I look at our piano, its old yellow keys,
I remember when Grandma used to play her songs for me.
Cancer has now turned her eyes bad,
Taking away all energy she once had.
Today, she isn’t here, but gone far away.
But I still remember that Christmas,
Where I didn’t believe in Santa or even Frosty the Snowman,
But in my Grandma I did believe
When I watched her trace over those ornaments carefully.