I cannot even make an intelligent post of all this, but when has that ever stopped me before?
Several weeks ago after a long car trip to see her lone surviving brother, my grandma had problems with her right leg, which was swollen and red. She is a thin person, delicate because of injuries and age, so it is hard to help her get around. We took her to the doctor. He sent her to the hospital. They said that she had blood clots in both legs. They wanted her to stay there overnight.
In case you haven't read much of my award-winning blog (it was voted Blog of the Year by iamaliar.com), you should know that my grandma and I have never gotten along. I could go into horror stories, but suffice it to say I have it on good authority that twice before I was born, she turned to people (once to my dad's sister, then later to my dad) and said, "I'm afraid it might be a girl." My aunt's response: "Well, we'll love it no matter what."
My dad's: "What do you mean afraid?"
I miss that man.
Anyway, in the elevator at the hospital when they told her they wanted her to stay the night, "Granny," whom my cousin calls "Critter," clutched at my hand and looked up at me. Her pitiful eyes--a deep gray/green/blue I was not fortunate enough to inherit--were pleading.
She has a childish, somewhat stacatto way of speaking, as if she is always nearing a tantrum, and a grating, nasal voice. "Can. you. stay. with me?" Previously she'd told me how "Granny" (yes, she speaks in third person at times) had stayed with this one and that one in the family while they were at the hospital, but no one ever stayed with Granny. I cursed myself and tried to free my hand from her clutches, but the woman has a vulture-like grip.
"Ok. I'll stay."
If you ever want to experience broken sleep, have a child or spend the night at the hospital. Or do both! But I digress.
She needed to go to the bathroom several times a night, and when she didn't, that was just the time they needed to check her. I had an article due, but that wasn't such a big deal. I did get it in. I had to learn how to give her subcutaneous injections in the belly, so the level of blood thinner could be brought up. (The doctor mulled it over with me--should we or shouldn't we put her on blood thinner? If we don't, she could have an embolism. If we did and she fell, she could bleed to death. He'd had a 50-year-old patient on blood thinner die when she fell while dancing. Even if we called for help, it may be too late.)
We decided to risk it but hope that they could get her off the blood thinner in a few months.
The nurses babied her in the beginning, saying how sweet and precious she was. I am not sure if I warned them or not, but when I left in the morning after staying overnight and came back in a couple of hours, a nurse told me Granny had been "very adamant" that she wouldn't take a certain medicine until noon. Just then I heard my mom trying to cox her into taking the medicine. "I'LL TAKE IT AT NOON!" she snarled, twitching on the last word. I stood back, waiting for her head to spin, projectile vomit to issue forth, and a big armoire to lurch across the room at me, but she must not have felt well enough to use the full extent of her black magic.
She got out the next day, because, of course, most hospitals won't keep you two days unless you are literally coughing up a lung. When she heard that I would have to give her injections, she volunteered to stay in the hospital so they could give them there. But they sent her home. And the fun began.
"Oh, I need some milk--NO, NOT THAT MUCH!" "Now git me somethin' to COVER THAT OVER!" "Oh, I need a heatin' pad!" "Oh, Lord, help me, JESUS!" "Oh, God, oh, God!" And always, always, the whining, "I don't know why things have to happen to me!"
My mom, who is in her 70s and has trembling hands and some other damage from years of psychotropic meds and shock treatments, does most of the gophering while I try to make it to tutoring appointments or work on articles I freelance for the local paper. I realize she has it worse, but the whole house is strained.
I had to keep taking Granny back to the doctor, because the level of blood thinner hasn't been right--first too low, then waaaay too high. Each time we go, there is an ordeal, but yesterday was worse than before. She can't walk much without tiring, and the doctor's office might as well be an Olympic level-obstacle course. Barely make it to the waiting room. Plop into a chair. Wait. Heave up to go back through the doors, climb on scale. Wait. Sit to have blood pressure. Heave back up to get to an examination room. Wait. Trudge down the hall, panting, to get blood drawn. Wait. You get the picture.
They have said she needs to walk, so I try to be patient and help her, thinking--until yesterday--that it is good exercise since she sits all day except for brief bouts of movement.
But after yesterday's appointment, we finally had to admit that she needed a wheelchair.
I park at the front doors of the doctor's office, get out, and walk her in. She is desperate to sit down as soon as possible. I don't remember it ever being this bad before, but I know the medicine she is on is supposed to make her weaker.
I go back out and park the car. I come in and see a woman who is there with a 10-year-old girl and a man on oxygen. I notice that she is picking up something brown and peanut-shaped from the floor, holding it with a paper towel and taking it to the bathroom. I try not to look too hard at the poor man on oxygen, who can barely manage a toiling walk, but I don't see him eating peanuts.
Granny barely manages several brief stints of walking that are required for the visit. We finally come to the checkout counter, where I am having to explain (again) that she wants to change doctors. (She was polite in front of her old doctor last week when she told him that she wanted to see a different one in the practice, but behind his back, she's called him "an old cuss!") While we are setting up her next appointment, I notice that Granny is holding on to the counter, but sinking. Her legs are beginning to buckle, and she has a look in her eyes that is near-fainting. I grab her, someone gets a chair for her to collapse into, then they get a wheelchair to put her in, so I can get her to the car.
But, the worst hasn't even happened yet. Remember how I said that she is on blood thinners, and a fall could kill her because she could quickly lose so much blood? When we got back to the house, she thought she needed to hurry into the bathroom. She calls out for my mom to help her with this and that as she makes her way back there.
My mom is nearest her in the bathroom, and I am behind my mom, worrying, probably telling my mom to get her hands out to steady my grandma. Everything happens so fast. Granny is making demands. I am barking orders. My mom is inching forward. CRASH! My grandma is on her back, her head having hit the tile. A broken glass is scattered about.
What had been chaos is now dead silence. My grandma is mum, unmoving, her eyes staring at the ceiling. My eyes widen. I can't get to her with my mom between us, but I am trying to make my mom move, so, frightened and frustrated, I say something dumb:
"I think she's dead!"
(There is a reason I could never be a nurse.)
My mom still stands there, silent as the grave.
(There is a reason she could never be a nurse.)
Surely this all happens in a few seconds, but it feels much longer. Finally my grandma, still looking up at the ceiling, drawls, "Where did I fall?"
Miraculously, Granny does not even have a bruise. We help her up. She seems fine....well....as good has she has been.
I kick myself for not having gotten her a wheelchair before, but she never seemed this bad before and, when you commit someone to a wheelchair....I don't know, it seems like they go downhill even faster because they don't make a point of walking. We will have to make her walk more in the house. Since Medicare won't cover unskilled nursing, I am checking into getting everyone to chip in to help get someone here to relieve my mom a few hours a week. I help when I can. We are trying.
Everything I have gone through these last few years--caring for my mom and grandma--has changed my perspective. Overfamiliarity with the end of life can make its beginnings seem suspicious. The time when we are independent adults seems so fleeting. If I let myself think too much about the brevity of life, it seems we move out of diapers, then right back into them. My mind lights on a memory of my uncle whispering to me as my mom, then locked in her own world, was experiencing one of her many hospitalizations. "If people could see how their baby would end up," he said, "you know, while they was making it, I 'spect most wouldn't have it."
But people do. The rich, the poor all over the world continue to make babies, who may now reach 100. But what are they reaching for? Last week at the doctor's, I saw a 95-year-old man, still chatty and funny, very positive, who had driven himself there. So much is happening to me lately. The girl involved in my dad's murder was considered for house arrest. I wasn't expecting it and almost had a heart attack. A recent death has rocked my family ties. But I guess I should strive to be more like the old man. He kept saying he had a lot to be thankful for. I do, too.