Sunday, November 11, 2007
I am worried about my Grandmother. She has had two (at least) mini-strokes in the last year, maybe more. The last episode seemed like a cluster of attacks, really... on top of some other health issues she's got going on. I'm getting all her medical info through others, and so I'm not really understanding what's going on, but none of the information sounds like anything I want her to have to go through.
Getting old sucks.
Just a year ago, she was still living at home, working as a substitute teacher, going wherever she wanted in her car, and wearing out anybody silly enough to try to keep up with her. Just this week, my Dad had to take her home to have her utilities shut off for good, and to have her mail forwarded to his house. She's living with my parents, and misses her home and her freedom. She'll never drive again. She can't make her famous fried chicken anymore. On good days, she can go on short shopping trips with my Dad and come home so exhausted, she's asleep on the car ride home. On bad days, she can't even talk or put her slippers on.
She still hasn't lost her sense of humor, but I can tell that she knows this is the beginning of the end. I don't even want to type that -- to acknowledge that it's just going to get worse until it doesn't, anymore -- but the elephant is clearly in the middle of the room, now. Everybody in the family knows how this thing works and nobody wants to talk about it, but everyone has to answer the same, uncomfortable questions about what happens next, and then after that, and after that... what do we do when we can't lift her, or when we can no longer provide the care she needs at my parents' house. And then there's the guilt that comes along with even discussing the end of her life -- as if putting it into words will cause it to happen, despite the fact that she's very old and has all kinds of medical conditions; any one of which that could spell the end for her. (Come to think of it, I'm pretty impressed that she's held up this well through it all. She's a toughie!)
The worst part is just watching her fall apart. She's always been dignified, intelligent, opinionated and sassy. She could cause an entire room full of people to explode in laughter at one of her perfectly-timed one-liners. Just seeing her curled up in her chair (she's so tiny, now!) watching TV, unable to muster enough energy for her trademark laugh, much less a comical remark, just seems so wrong. How did this happen? It's too soon -- nobody's ready for this.
And then there are my children. They know she's not OK, and that this goes beyond having a headache or being tired. They just know. It's eerie, the things kids can pick up on. Especially Joseph -- he's having a really hard time with this. But even Jonathan (my two-year-old) knows. He kept returning to her side to stroke her arm or talk to her yesterday, and when she fell asleep, he covered her up with a blanket. I am worried about how they'll deal with her loss of ability and clarity... and worse. And how much do I allow them to see? What do I tell them? When do I stop letting them around her... or do I? She loves them so much -- it would be punishment not to let her see them, but then, this can get ugly... What's the right thing to do, as a mother, and as a granddaughter?
Maybe God made the deterioration of age so ugly so we can all accept the inevitable goodbyes to the people we love. Maybe this time we have left with her, however long we get, should be seen as a blessing. All I can do is cherish the good days and try to comfort her on the bad ones, for however long I have left with her, and not waste any time thinking about the end of it. I also hope I can shield the children from things they're too young to understand while still allowing them as many treasured moments as possible with her while she's here -- and providing them with compassionate guidance through some of the toughest lessons life can throw at them. This is when it gets hard, this "living," thing -- admitting that at some point, it all comes to an end.
I want to stop the clock.