It is Friday afternoon and I am staring at a blank screen. I have my iTunes on shuffle now. A New Game is Playing. It is good music for a football game, not so good for the topic. I click the button and up comes Golden Slumbers and The End by The Beatles. It is more appropriate.
I just finished speaking with my father about my grandmother and my mother. Grandma is slipping away. Slowly pieces are being taken off of the table and it is becoming more evident that slips of the tongue are not exactly accidental anymore.
My mother is tough as is her mom. But tough doesn’t prepare you for watching your parents lose their invulnerability. Strength may help you deal with it, but it doesn’t really make it easier to watch them become less than they once were.
Grandma is 95, almost 95.5. Her great grandchildren are rooting for her and grandpa to hit 100. Truth is that her children and grandchildren are too, but we’re sadly skeptical about this.
When I think of people who love life I always think of grandma. She has always been among the happiest, most optimistic people I know. Until a few years ago you would have described her as a powerhouse of energy. She exercised every day well into her eighties.
That energy has been the stuff of family legend. It makes me sad to say that to her great grandchildren legend will be all that it is. Unfortunately the last few years have seen various parts of her body lose interest in operating as part of a team.
Macular degeneration robbed stole her ability to see bright colors and sunny days.Now she lives in a world of shadow, but I have never heard her complain about that. A few years ago her heart decided that it would refuse to operate at peak condition and that incredibly energy dissipated.
Her daughters and family did ok with those things. No one was happy about it, but it is life. And since grandma wasn’t complaining about it we weren’t going to either.
But the memory issues and the demential are a different story.
I watch my mother. I watch her reactions to her mother and I see. Most of the time mom is o.k. She is strong. She handles stress well, but there are moments. Those moments that we all feel, the ones in which it is one thing too many. I see the look on her face and wish that I could do more.
It is not easy. We have all been very lucky. Grandma just wasn’t sick, not beyond the normal run of the mill stuff. She was just this powerhouse. This is one experience that I had before my mother. When my father had his heart attack I flew cross country not knowing whether he would still be alive when I landed.
I stood at his bedside when he was on a ventilator and watched the machines help keep him alive. I had to face the immediate questions of mortality right there. And I am so thankful that we rolled a seven.
It is not easy for anyone. But it is harder for a child.
I think that within the last three months there have been some dramatic changes with my grandmother. She never used to be nervous, but now she often is. She talks about dying with great regularity. I think she is preparing herself.
This isn’t to say that I or anyone else is giving up. I remember a conversation I had with her cardiologist about her.
My parents were back east visiting my sister. Grandma didn’t feel well. She got checked out and was admitted to the hospital. The docs gave me the usual medical speak with a strong emphasis that anything could happen. But the bottom line was that they didn’t expect the discussion to still be going five years later.
So here we are now. Grandma surprised them all and may do so again. I wouldn’t put it past her.
But on my mother’s behalf I’ll say that I am praying that the dementia doesn’t get any worse. Mom will take whatever comes and she’ll never give up on grandma. It just won’t happen. But there is only so much that can be done and so I am hopeful that whatever comes is as easy as can be for her.