Rosie

One Woman Rising, Freedom Park, Atlanta, GA, 18 April 2013; Commissioned by: The Chelko Foundation, Sculptor: Phil Proctor, Geo Brenick/Geo4Design/, Painters: Scott Fray and Madelyn Greco.

 
Rosalind Worthy sits in the waiting room at the Granger Cancer Facility, in Seattle, where she’s been receiving treatment for more than six months. Her mother, Abigail, sits beside her, and her little sister, Rhiannon is across from her, looking through a copy of Highlights magazine. Rosalind is wearing a large, floppy hat to conceal her hair loss, and dark glasses to protect her eyes from the sun, but nothing can disguise the weight loss. Her clothes hang off her like she’s a stick figure. Regan got out easy, she thinks, and immediately regrets thinking it. 

Rosalind was diagnosed with ovarian cancer just a few months after her sister, Regan, twenty-two, and two years Rosalind’s senior, had been laid to rest in the family’s plot, beside their father who had lost his battle with lung cancer several years before. Rosalind’s doctor found the cancer during her yearly checkup, when she complained of stomach cramps and general listlessness, which seemed more than she normally experienced as a driven college sophomore. Regan’s death had hit Rosalind hard, but rather than take time to deal with it, she had returned to MIT and dived right back into her studies relentlessly, hoping this would give her little time to contemplate life without Regan. There was, still, Rhiannon, the surprise child, who came along when Rosalind was fourteen, but Rosalind had little time for a baby in the house. Besides, she’d had enough trouble on her hands trying to keep her older sister out of trouble as Regan’s schizophrenia worsened. Receiving her diagnosis, and the news that the cancer had spread to her uterus, Rosalind wondered if, perhaps, she’d soon be reunited with her sister. 

Rosalind sits up in her chair and fidgets with the gold watch on her left wrist. She isn’t used to wearing jewelry, but this was the only thing Regan left behind for her, and Rosalind hasn’t taken it off since Regan’s funeral. Today, she’s here to learn the results of her latest course of chemotherapy. Early in her treatment, she underwent a hysterectomy and removal of the cancerous ovaries, as well as quite a bit of surrounding tissue. This was followed by several months of chemotherapy, administered twice a month. She’s hoping today she’ll learn that’s no longer necessary.

“Rosie, look,” Rhiannon says, holding up her magazine showing a crossword puzzle. “Let’s do the puzzle together.”

“They’re going to be calling me back, shortly,” Rosalind says. “I’ll help you with it when we get home.”

In the months since Regan’s death, particularly since she’s been receiving treatment, Rosalind has used the time to forge a relationship with her remaining sister. Now the only big sister Rhiannon has left, Rosalind is determined to be as good a sister to Rhiannon as Regan had been to her, before Regan’s schizophrenia put a strain on their relationship.

Naomi, a young black woman in a nurse’s uniform, appears from the direction of the treatment rooms. Rosalind has gotten to know her well over the months she’s been here receiving treatment from Dr. Renshaw, the oncologist. “Miss Worthy?”

Rosalind acknowledges her and struggles to get to her feet. Abigail starts to get up, and Naomi moves to help, but Rosalind waves her off. “I’m fine”. She gets to her feet unaided and slowly follows Naomi back to an exam room. 

“How are you today, Miss Worthy?” the nurse says as they walk.

“Other than probably dying, I’m doing okay,” Rosalind says, then catches herself. “Sorry. That just kind of slipped out.”

“Totally understandable,” Naomi says. “Hopefully, the doctor will have some good news today.”

As Naomi takes Rosalind’s vital signs, Rosalind notes that the name on Naomi’s badge has changed from “Naomi Grant” to “Naomi Caine”. 

“Did you get married, finally?” Rosalind asks. 

“Yes, ma’am,” Naomi says. “Just after your last visit.”

“No honeymoon?”

“No, ma’am,” Naomi says. “Neither of us can afford to be away right now. We’re going to take some time when Gerald finishes his degree in a few months.”

“Well, congratulations,” Rosalind says. “I never thought I’d be around to see you married.”

“You promised, Miss Worthy,” Naomi says. “When I told you I was getting married, you said you’d stick around long enough to congratulate me, and here you are.”

“I guess miracles happen after all,” Rosalind says. 

“You’re a fighter,” Naomi says. “I’m always rooting for you.”

“That’s very kind of you to say, Naomi,” Rosalind says. 

Naomi leaves and Rosalind leans on her hands on the exam table. She looks at herself in the mirror over the sink. Her hair has grown back to the consistency of a crew cut, and she’s pleased to see it’s still her usual dark brown. She also notes she’s gained a bit of weight and hopes the doctor won’t tell her she needs any more chemo, which makes her sick for days.

Dr. Renshaw enters with Rosalind’s chart in his hand, closes the door behind him, and looks her over. 

“Vitals look good, Rosalind,” he says, “and I’m pleased to report, your cancer appears to be in remission.”

These are the words she’s wanted to hear since her initial diagnosis. “Really? Does this mean I’m cancer-free?”

“I’m not ready to make that call just yet,” he says. “For now, I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’m not scheduling another round of chemo just now.”

“That’s almost as good to hear,” Rosalind says.

“I want to see you back here in two weeks,” he says, “then we’ll monitor you for a few more months, just to be sure. If you keep doing this well, I don’t think we’ll be seeing each other much longer.”

“We’ll always have Granger,” she says. 

Worthy, Part 29

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Rosalind dies in early January, 2013.

Despite Rhiannon and Abigail’s offers to take care of arrangements, Genevieve insists on handling these herself. She alerts the few friends Rosalind had in Seattle, and members of the family who live nearby. Rosalind’s wish was to be cremated and disposed of as Genevieve sees fit. She does not contact MIT because she doesn’t know who to contact or if anyone there would even remember Rosalind.

On the day of the funeral, Genevieve is the first to arrive with Abigail getting there soon afterward. Genevieve makes an unusual request.

“I want to contribute to your DNA study. All I have left of Mom is that part of her that’s in me. Maybe this will help me feel closer to her.”

Since Abigail does field research, she always has testing kits with her, so she goes ahead and takes a sample.

Once they’re done, Abigail accompanies Genevieve into the chapel where the service will be performed.

“I told them to leave out all the god stuff because I know Mom wouldn’t like all that. But I’m going to read that passage from Corinthians about love. It’s always been one of my favorites and it doesn’t even mention god.”

“That will be great.”

Rhiannon arrives and gives Genevieve an update on the relatives she’s heard from who’ll be attending.

“Might have a good crowd,” Abigail says.

Genevieve positions herself near the door to greet anyone who shows up and Abigail and Rhiannon stand nearby for support. The room is set up for forty people and Abigail is happy to see the staff has to bring in extra chairs. She counts fifty-four altogether, mostly relatives, and several people she doesn’t recognize who must have been friends.

Once everyone’s settled, the funeral director welcomes everyone then introduces Genevieve. She thanks everyone for coming and invites them back to Rhiannon’s house for a reception afterward.

“My mother and I aren’t very religious, but there’s one passage we both like a lot.”

Genevieve picks up Rosalind’s urn and holds it in her arms. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Watching her, Abigail sees the little girl she’s always cared for transform into a confident and well-spoken young woman, and can’t recall a time when she was more proud of Genevieve.

After Genevieve finishes, she invites others to share their memories of Rosalind and a few stand and say a little. Finally, Genevieve once again invites everyone to the reception, then concludes the service.

Abigail and Rhiannon both go to Genevieve and hug her simultaneously.

“That was beautiful, Genni,” Rhiannon says. “Rosie would be so proud of you right now.”

Abigail keeps her arm around Genevieve. “How are you holding up?”

“I’m doing okay. I’ll be better when I can get out of this dress.”

Genevieve says a few words to the funeral director, then thanks him for the service. Finished with all the formalities, the three of them head back to Rhiannon’s.

Worthy, Part 28

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Abigail receives a call from her aunt Rosalind, requesting a meeting that afternoon. Rosalind has just completed her latest treatment for cancer and sounds a bit subdued on the phone, but assures Abigail she’s doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Rhiannon has been keeping Abigail up-to-date on the course of treatment someone in Rosalind’s condition would be receiving and Genevieve, who’s the only one allowed to visit Rosalind at the treatment facility, has been updating Abigail on Rosalind’s progress. Still, Abigail isn’t quite prepared for how Rosalind has changed when she opens the door for Abigail at her house. Her weight has dropped considerably and all her hair has fallen out. Rosalind wears a Red Sox baseball cap to hide it. The once vibrant and robust woman Abigail is used to seeing now seems like a wisp of her former self. 

“Can I get you anything?” Rosalind asks as she leads Abigail down the hall to the living room. 

“Oh, I can get myself something. I know my way around the kitchen. 

“I may be a bit incapacitated, but I’m still capable of seeing to the needs of my guests. What’ll you have?”

“Water would be fine.”

Abigail sits on the couch as Rosalind disappears into the kitchen and returns a moment later with a tray containing a pitcher of water and a glass which she sets in front of Abigail.

“Is Genni here?” Abigail says.

“No,” Rosalind tells her. “I wanted to speak to you in private.”

She sits in an easy chair across from Abigail.

“Is everything okay?”

“No it isn’t. At my last checkup it was determined that the treatment isn’t having any effect. The cancer’s spread.”

Abigail covers her mouth. “No.”

“We’re focusing now on managing the pain. I’ve told Rhiannon but I think she already suspected it. She’s recommended a colleague of hers who specializes in what comes next.”

“I am so sorry to hear that, Rosie. Does Genni know?”

“Not yet. I’ll speak to her tonight when she gets home.”

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

“As a matter of fact, there is. If anything happens to me before Genni turns eighteen, I’d like you to be Genni’s guardian.”

Abigail has taken out a tissue and is dabbing her eyes with it. “I’d be honored to be. Why me and not Mom?”

“Rhiannon’s going to be my executor and that will be quite a job. I didn’t want to dump too much responsibility on her. But, more importantly, you and Genni have a great relationship. She trusts you, confides in you. I think you’ve always sort of looked out for her. Plus, you’re a very responsible young woman and I know you’ll make the right choices for her.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Please be sure that she knows that everything I’ve ever done for her, it’s because I care so much for her.”

“I think she knows that.”

“It’s possible she could hear things, or learn things that might make her question it. I want you to make sure she never doubts my love for her.”

“I don’t understand, Rosie. Is there something you’re trying to tell me?”

Rosalind smiles. “Of course not. If you ever need to, you can always count on your mother. She’s as good a sister as she’s been a mother.”

“Sure, no problem.”

“Promise me that you’ll always be there for Genevieve. She’s going to need a lot of guidance after I’m gone.”

“You don’t even need to ask, Rosie. Of course I will. She’s my little sister.”

“I’m so glad the two of you had the opportunity to get to know one another and bond like you have. It makes what comes next more bearable.”

Abigail goes to Rosalind and sits on the arm of her chair then puts her arms around her aunt, barely containing her emotions.

“You can count on me, Rosie. Always.”