Friday, September 16, 2011

What Gets Me

So here I am to try and put into words this whole thing with my Grandma dying.

It's not that big of an emotional deal, really because we weren't close. She was my dad's mom and there was some estrangement just because of life circumstances; my dad, who logically would have been our contact to her, lived out of town. It was awkward to call her on my own and ask to see her, stuff like that. I guess part of me feels a little hurt because she never made the effort either. Ever. But I am sure it was as uncomfortable for her as it was for me. And she was a busy lady!

It did not appear she lacked for things to do. In her younger years she was an accomplished golfer, I guess she played in a lot of tournaments. She was also a card shark. People were afraid of her card playing prowess. It was fun to hear about card groups that these ladies had played in since they were thirty years old, that they had continued to be friends well into their seventies and eighties. I can't imagine, but I would like to think that I will have some of the same friends in fifty years.

Which is probably one of the most poignant things that happened. Maybe I should tell my whole story?

In 2006 my grandma was hospitalized for quite awhile. She recovered, moved into an independent living facility and all was well until the past year or so. She was in and out of the hospital several times, her kidneys were failing, she had been diagnosed with COPD and a few other things (congestive heart failure, diabetes). I visited her in the hospital earlier this year, and learned she would have to go onto dialysis soon as her kidneys were not working. I remember her seeming not too thrilled. It's a pretty suck-you-dry process and she's an active lady. She has places to be and people to see! My understanding is that she had been on dialysis maybe a month or so when she ended up in the hospital for the final time (and that she had been in several times since starting the dialysis). The dialysis wasn't working as it should, once they stopped it would just be a matter of days or weeks until all her systems would shut down.

She was completely alert when her kids and doctor talked to her to tell her what was up. It was kind of surreal to go into see someone who had just been told "this is it" and ... and what? Talk? Cry? What is the proper thing to do? Worse, was when her friends started dropping by. I wasn't sure who knew and who didn't. What to say when they promised to hold her a seat at the card game on Wednesday. That kind of stuff. Awkward.

A couple days later she was released from the hospital and moved into assisted living. Within the next day or so she was put on hospice. It wasn't long before her systems started shutting down. She was unconscious for about three days I think until she passed away with her kids at her side.

As I sat with them one afternoon, a friend of my grandmas came to visit. I don't think the friend knew how bad grandma really was. She and my aunt stood in the doorway talking in hushed tones. (This is the incident that gets me.) The friend, obviously in her eighties or so, listened to my aunt as she explained the situation. At that time Grandma was unconscious and didn't seem to know people were around. I saw the friend crumble. I could see her grief and sadness, and here's what I thought; "she's in her 80's, don't they expect their friends to be dying?" I know that sounds harsh, but it was kind of shocking almost to see her weep for my Grandma. And then I realized that she has probably always been a tender hearted person and it warmed me to know that those tender hearts in my life will always be tender hearts.

I'm still not quite sure what to do with everything that I thought and felt and experienced. I'm sure slowly more of it will solidify and be easier to put into words. For now tho, I wanted to tell the story of that tender hearted lady. I admire her strength of character, to keep her tender ways and be faithful to her friends.

That was the other part, she dropped by in the worst of times. It made me think about how I react to my family and friends' worst of times ... as many of you know, I shut down, I avoid and ignore. With realization comes knowledge, right? The word "compassion" has been on my brain for the past month or so. Maybe it's my 2012 word?

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