More Lessons from Lilli Diamond: good for what ails you.

I hear my grandmother’s voice almost daily. And some days multiple times.

This day I am standing at the kitchen counter on a winter Sunday, just past noon. She is not yet two months gone.

I’m in my bathrobe, showered, after my ritual Sunday cardio-funk dance class. Dance class is usually good medicine. I usually feel happy with the first bar of music blasting from the speakers, the first stretch, the beginning of movement, and downright exultant by the last breathless bow. But not today. Today it didn’t work. I am a little depressed.

I am at the kitchen counter, and I have just sliced a mango into a white bowl with a tiny chip at its rim. When did I get these? Post-engagement, pre-marriage? Twenty-plus years? I used to remember details like these. I have cut open a pomegranate and sprinkled pomegranate seeds onto the mango. It is beautiful, orange and red. I pierce the fruit with a silver-plated fork embossed with an elaborate script H. H for Heisen, for Selma & Aaron, my husband’s grandparents. I rescued them from a hidden box of silver last week, rather than let them continue to sit, tarnished and untouched.

I take a bite of my fruit, and it is a sweetness like no sugar, no cookie, no cake any human could make. A ripe mango is proof of divinity, if nothing else. The pomegranate seeds burst with juice, and yet more sweetness. I give gratitude for this deliciousness. I congratulate myself for buying them, for not forgetting about them until they are brown, for not being too lazy this time to cut into the pomegranate and confront its greedy, intricate design, trying to keep its seeds prisoner.

And I think, how can anyone be depressed eating mango and pomegranate, on a sunny winter afternoon, while wearing a bathrobe? It can’t be sustained.

And then, like a reward, I hear my grandmother’s voice. As I slip my fork again and again into the chipped white bowl, putting bite after bite of sweetness into my mouth, my redheaded guardian extols the health benefits of my snack in her distinctive style: “Pomegranates have lots of antioxidants, they are SO GOOD FOR YOU!” It’s a voice that could be saying, “You just won tickets to Disneyland!” This is a celebration.

I exhale, and try to release the dregs of whatever has its teeth in me. It’s always the little things that bring me back. I wrap my soft robe tightly around me. I appreciate the counters I’ve decluttered and wiped clean, my transparent effort to bring similar order to my mind and soul, and I nod to myself, thinking, “Grandma, you are so right.”


Seeing the Big (3-D Mammogram and Ultrasound) Picture

I brought a good book with me to the follow-up mammogram. Follow-up mammograms by definition are more worry-making than regular ones. You are there because something funky was going on, something needed a closer look. (FYI, the book I just had to keep reading was the forthcoming Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson (February 2016).)

I was doing a very good job of not freaking out. I had had a 3-D mammogram for the first time last week, and although my doctor had said they usually necessitate fewer follow ups, this one did. So what? I always think I’m special. So why should my breast tissue be common? Besides, I knew that whatever was or wasn’t there would be there or not there regardless if I freaked out in advance. If there was trouble brewing, I’d do plenty of freaking once I knew.

A nice technician named Fuschia led me to the changing room. It was the first cold Fall day, naturally, but the gown was a soft flannel. Nice touch. The facilities at St. John’s could almost be mistaken for a spa.

Almost, but not quite. She led me to the exam room. Brace yourself. At a follow-up mammogram they really really really squeeze the breast tissue as flat as they can to make sure that whatever they might have seen in the first picture is just breast tissue, or something that cannot be squeezed out of the picture. The spa feeling was gone. (I take that back — I once had a sports massage that was much more painful, and lasted longer).

After the mammogram they did an ultrasound, just to be extra sure. I hadn’t had one since I was pregnant. “Is it a boy or a girl?” I asked. “Everything looks good,” Fuschia replied. The doctor came in and looked, too. They said “see you next year” and I got dressed, paid for parking, and left. I had a day.

Last night my son awoke me with “I had the worst nightmare. You and Dad died.” He climbed into bed and we had the rarest kind of hug: one that he needed.

Here I am, a day later, yesterday’s appointment almost forgotten. And I stop myself, say “Pay attention.” Today could feel quite different. That mammogram could have set me on a different future. So I look at what I normally forget to see: Today, with all its potential for petty aggravations, for mindless running, for holding grudges, is a gift that I do not “deserve.” No day is earned.

Every day is bonus.

Life — even the longest — is too short. Love deeply. Forgive freely. Hug often. Savor mundane details. Play your music loud.