There is a planet made of diamonds
- Scott R. Garceau (The Philippine Star) - October 28, 2012 - 12:00am

There is a planet mostly made of diamond, five trillion miles from Earth. It’s twice the size of our planet. A year there lasts 18 hours. No one you know will ever go there, or glimpse it, or seize it, or mine it. But it exists, and that possibility feels like some kind of page turning outward to all other possibilities.

Today, my grandmother lies dying in a hospital bed. Is she dying? We are all dying. She is in a hospice; they have given her last rites. She went in for pneumonia, at age 99, and the family members, circling me with their Facebook updates and elsewhere, predicted this was to be her last stop. Me, 8,000 miles away, I wanted to make a connection to that possibility. I got the number of the hospital and room she was staying in. I rehearsed in front of the phone. I thought about what to say to my grandmother, who looked after me for years when I was three, four, five, when my mother would drop me off in the morning and go to work, until I started attending school and saw her less often.

My grandmother I pictured in a room with avocado-green walls (or possibly baby blue); a simple room with Venetian blinds slanting against fresh, useless sunlight; machines that are quiet, metallic and dark, with tubes feeding into her at various places. I had to invent these details, just as I would have to imagine what a planet made of diamond looks like, building it up from the knowledge I had.

In my grandmother’s case, it was a nurse’s assistant who answered the phone and helped place a headset piece in her ear. I imagined the headset to be black and plastic. I began to speak, having been warned that she might not recognize me or my voice, and urging me to shout because her hearing had grown worse.

I explained who I was; tried to be cheery as I asked how she was doing. And all I could hear were gurgles, question marks blurting out into the air. She could not speak; I tried talking louder. The connection was not bad; I could actually hear the air circulating in the room. But the distance felt vast.

I thought about the many times my grandmother had prepared lunch and dinner for me and her husband, my Pépère, before he headed off to a paper mill for a nightly shift around 7 p.m. I remembered sitting in front of her TV most days, after the afternoon soap operas were done — watching Batman, usually, and sometimes the early CBS Evening News — before my mom would pick me up. I remember watching the moon landing in 1969 on that TV, and the Beatles in Help!

It occurred to me that this person’s, my grandmother’s, actual connection with my life would soon be flickering out. Yes, we still have our memories, but then we always had those, didn’t we? It’s a pedestrian observation, perhaps, to those who have experienced greater, more immediate loss in their lives — parents, friends, etc. But loss is loss. We experience it on a personal level, feeling the people orbiting our lives slowly lifting off and drifting out into the darkness. We begin to realize it will happen to everybody we know, ending with ourselves.

I decided to just go for it, blurting out “MEMERE, I LOVE YOU! I’M NOT SURE I’LL SEE YOU AGAIN! BUT YOU TOOK CARE OF ME WHEN I WAS A KID, AND I WISH THAT YOU FEEL AT PEACE, WHATEVER HAPPENS! WE LOVE YOU!”

I was shouting into the phone then, on my feet, barreling my voice into a cradle of plastic, hoping it would be understood some 8,000 miles away. It was like speaking into a deep well, calling to the depths of space, looking for signs of life, expecting a comforting response. If we can believe in a planet made of diamonds — a place we’ll never see with our own eyes — we should be able to believe in that much, at least.

 

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