The Week I had an Abortion and my Grandmother got Cancer

by Agate

November 17, 2022

The Week I had an Abortion and my Grandmother got Cancer


There is a glangly leg of highway between Wyoming and I.

It takes me to the high desert country, to my rocking chair grandmother who leans forward on her knees. Even in all the hours that no one is around, she practices good listening.


I come, I sit. She curses that my once beloved soft spokenness is what keeps her from hearing me. I enunciate the most necessary: “That’s beautiful”, “Dinner is ready”, “It’s raining outside now”, “I love you”.


Her stories are a long sentence, orbiting the memories that make her laugh stutter for breath: the time she made a car insurance claim for a mountain goat who tumbled through the windshield, bellowing like a birth and making a labrador exit through the passenger side door. Her whiskey breath uncles, whose adoring hands sent her tumbling into heaps of sheeps wool and blood bowled ticks. In a hand that waves around the living room, she shows me the handsome Salt Lake outlaw who crawled the gullies of sage before locking him in a tack shed.


I ask about my grandfather who died when I was young; back then he was trembling, squeezing hershey’s syrup into his decaf and organizing screws by size in the garage. Her voice speaks with 17 years of death’s distance, a different throat. I watch her eyes escape to the bluest edge of bluff country. Swallows are sewn there to high crags.

She tells me about a time he walked into the bank from the bar, slurring to know from the teller what she was taking out a loan for. The teller abandoned good business to defend his only obligation— be a man in a man’s world. She never did get the loan, which meant my Uncle Fred never got a saxophone. It was the 80’s in a town with no stop lights: saxophones were gay.


“Was he hard to love?” I asked. “You mean, was he a chauvinist pig?”, she wrings tension with laughter, “I knew how to survive”, she tells me.




Two weeks earlier I was in buffalo country. Grandmother had called to tell me there was cancer stretched to miles coiled in her belly. The land around me laid like a carcass; monuments of grief. Gold, gold rain drops from way up implicated themselves in this moment of blade edge highway. Inside me reached a child who won’t walk this earth. She was pulling meadowlarks through light holes in the sky, directing us all to the going-of-home south where grandmothers rest.


Its weaved across my belly button, everything I need to know about being a house for someone else,

and for who goes before they come:

This is the crest of a mare’s back, this is how her mane tangles in the warm wind.


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