Mr ToadJust after Christmas 2010, my grandma was diagnosed with breast cancer.  In a whirlwind of just two weeks, she had a biopsy, a consultation, and a lumpectomy.  It was a tumultuous journey but, at this point, the doctors feel that she is cancer-free.  As I’ve watched my grandma go through so much, especially at 94 (!), I’ve often stopped to reflect on the great memories I have of my mom and my grandma taking me on Disneyland vacations as a child.

My grandma is a hoot at Disneyland. :-)  She was always very clear that she intended to stay mostly in the hotel room.  For Nana, reading at the Disneyland Hotel is far superior to reading at home.  Apart from that, we always had to hit her favorites… the Jungle Cruise, Small World, Storybook Land, and the Mark Twain.  Once those were accomplished, she was content to sit in the California sunshine on a bench in the park, or to zip back to the Disneyland Hotel on the Monorail.

Sometimes, I have a hard time comprehending the fact that my Nana won’t ever see a reinvented California Adventure, a new Disneyland parade, or another Carnation Cafe breakfast. We were particularly blessed, however, to have made one last trip with her about six years ago.  She got to watch the magical Parade of Dreams and see the festivities toward the end of Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary.  It was a fitting end to her Disney vacations as our first trip had occurred during the 35th Anniversary celebration.  She got to see an “older version” of California Adventure, and we made some great memories to keep with us for a long time.

That trip, however, also resulted in one of my greatest disappointments.  I absolutely adore the Remember… Dreams Come True fireworks display and I couldn’t wait for my grandma to see it and fall in love with it as well.  We visited the resort for a long weekend over Mother’s Day.  Unfortunately, our first two days were rainy and the fireworks were cancelled.  Our last night in Disneyland was chilly but clear, so we packed into Main Street, near the Hub, well before the 9:25 start of the fireworks to make sure we had prime viewing.  We bundled Nana up in her wheelchair with loads of coats and blankets and waited for the moment when Remember would begin.  About 20 minutes before the show that blasted announcement came over the speakers… you know the one… “Ladies and gentlemen, due to winds at higher elevations, tonight’s performance of Remember… Dreams Come True may be cancelled.”  My heart sank, but I held out hope that the show would go on – 20 minutes later the worst was confirmed, “…tonight’s performance is cancelled.”

I would imagine that if you asked my grandma about that night today she wouldn’t remember that she missed the show.  But, I remember standing there in the Hub – crowds passing me by, the frenzy of the park moving in slow motion – and I cried.  My family moved onto the sidewalk to avoid the trampling masses leaving the viewing area, but I stood there, right in the middle of the street, and sobbed.  How could Nana miss out on something that meant so much to me?  Would we ever have the opportunity to make that trip again?

Unfortunately, the answer was no.  Not long after that trip she was diagnosed with a lung disease and congestive heart failure, and while she is still spry for her age, the limitations caused by traveling with an oxygen tank, among other things, make it relatively impossible for her to travel very far.  I think somehow, in that moment, I knew that would be the answer and it was like accepting the fact all we had left were the memories.

Thankfully, not all of my memories of my grandma at Disneyland are so sobering.  Those are the ones I keep close to my heart and those are the ones that helped me through her bout with cancer.  I vividly remember how much she loved looking at the flowers in the parks and watching the Main Street Electrical Parade.  In fact, one of my much happier memories is of sitting on the curb, just in front of the Penny Arcade, when my grandma and I looked down and saw that one of the light covers had fallen off one of the floats and landed at our feet.  It is still a treasured keepsake.

© 2011, Rays of Disneyland. All rights reserved.

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