My Beloved Grandma
I honestly had meant to be a more consistent blogger, but life keeps getting in the way. On February 22nd, we had a massive snowstorm here in the metropolitan Detroit area. The snow was super wet and heavy. And we all know what that means. A former co-worker (who took the buyout 2-3 years ago, but was working for a supplier) dropped dead of a heart attack. I had just seen him at the end of January at our Haitian Earthquake Relief Bake Sale and Craft Show. He had thrown $20 into the jar and took a scarf that I had made. I got the phone call Tuesday morning and I heard what Charles said but it wasn't computing, so I made him repeat everything. I couldn't deal with it so soon after Ed, so I made him go to our resident from that supplier and verify (he had gotten a phone call from a former supplier who was in Texas, of all places, so I was hoping he got his wires crossed or something). Harry verified it and I just put my head down on my desk and sobbed. My two cube-mates were quite taken aback and just gave me a hug.
Once again, I had a sympathy card at my desk and was collecting money for flowers and his 12-year-old daughter's education. Jim was truly one of the good guys – just like Ed – it seems so unfair. I can name three people off the top of my head who have proven by actions that they don't give a rat's ass about their children and they're still walking around while Ed & Jim who loved their children, as a father should, are now gone.
Turned out that Jim had stayed home from work that day because his daughter didn't have school and his wife had something going on at work that she couldn't miss. And even though they owned a snow blower, Jim decided to shovel. He had finished his property and was helping a neighbor lady. They had actually finished and the neighbor was putting the shovels away when she turned around and Jim was on the ground. At the funeral, there was a lady sitting in the third pew who just lost in when the priest talked about how Jim was always helping someone, whether it was his parents, siblings or the neighbors. I felt so sorry for her.
I was writing up something about Jim when I could do it without crying (still can't, for the record), but then last Monday (March 15th), I got a phone call from my Mom at work around 7:00 a.m. She was crying and could barely talk, but she said that Grandma was in the hospital (she had gone in Saturday) and was in respiratory distress and had signed a DNR (do not resuscitate). Now, I know Grandma's 91, but to me she's not old. She's still cute as a button and none of the nurses or hospital staff believed she was 91 and all commented on how beautiful her skin is (she swears by Estee Lauder).
You guys all know how much I love my Grandma as I wrote an entire post about her a few years ago. So, I called my boss in tears and he could barely understand me as I told him that I was heading to the hospital. By the time I got there, she was doing much better, although she was on a BiPap machine. It's similar to a C-Pap machine that people who have sleep apnea wear at night. There's a mask that sucks to her face and blows oxygen into her nose and mouth. Turns out that she had had a respiratory distress episode on Saturday morning (which is how she ended up in the hospital) and then again Sunday morning. The decision was made that she wear the BiPap machine at night since that's when her breathing is the worst.
Oh yeah, Grandma's problem is that she can't breathe properly because due to her osteoporosis she's lost a good 8" in height which leaves that much less room in her chest cavity for all her organs, and her lungs can't fully inflate. Essentially, as the doctor told us that morning, there is nothing they can do to cure her, all they can do is treat the symptoms. He suggested that we talk to the palliative care nurse. She came by a bit later and talked to Grandma, asking what Grandma's goals were. Grandma said, "I'm not ready to leave these people yet."
She spent most of the day telling us to go to work. We told her that work was getting along fine without us. Then when evening came she tried to tell us to go home. We out-voted her on that one.
By Wednesday, however, she was planning her funeral and had told the same nurse that she was tired and ready to go. Thursday she told us that she hadn't expected to still be here, because she felt so poorly on Wednesday. And while she was still planning her funeral, she was still planning on being here for my YS's wedding in May. She said, "YS, I don't think I'll be able to walk you down the aisle." YS is planning on my Mom and Grandma walking her down the aisle, since we all know the FF isn't even invited. I told her that that was okay because we had a contingency plan for that. The middle Terror Child would push her down the aisle in a wheelchair. Grandma was cool with that, and said, "Oh good."
It was such a scare, though, that all the out-of-towners flew in and we had a mini-family reunion at the hospital. The YS and AP flew in Monday. The LB and AC arrived on Tuesday. BE was supposed to come in the same day but she was flying stand-by and got stuck in Chicago. Thankfully, I have cousins in Chicago, so BE stayed with her nieces, nephew-in-law and grand-niece, and she finally arrived on Wednesday. AK wasn't going to come in because she had bronchitis and a sinus infection, but UJ called her on Wednesday after the second meeting with the palliative care nurse and told her that she should think about coming. AK had talked to Grandma on Monday and explained that she couldn't come, but if Grandma was ready to go that she could go. Well, Grandma kept counting her children and coming up one short and she really wanted AK there.
Of course, trying to get an airline ticket at that short of notice was impossible unless AK and UD wanted to pay around $2000 apiece. Someone finally called Southwest (at my urging, because I love Southwest) and the Southwest agent was able to get them here via a most circuitous route for less than $700 apiece. They flew all day Thursday and got in late Thursday night. I managed to get the bronchitis I had been fighting all winter by this point and felt pretty rotten on Friday. I went to work for three hours (I had a few things to do), then went home to an hour nap before going to my 1:45 dr.'s appt. which was conveniently just a few miles from the hospital where Grandma was. I had to wear a mask, so that I wouldn't get her any sicker.
She's so cute that she was constantly yelling at my brother to go home (he's been suffering from some mysterious lung ailment for the past two months and just feels awful all the time) and when I came down with bronchitis, she kept telling me to go home.
We had Mass in her room on Saturday morning with Fr. Bob. He was a boy in the neighborhood where my Mom and the older siblings lived when growing up. He's kind of the family priest. He said a lovely Mass including an anointing of the sick and Grandma was very moved by it and thanked us all.
I spent all last week Monday through Sunday at the hospital whenever I wasn't at work. Monday she went home to hospice care and I stopped by. I called on Tuesday but she was sleeping and I needed to spend some time at home. I'm, of course, regretting that right now. I went by yesterday after work and spent the majority of my time there rubbing her legs and feet gently. She liked it and said it helped her to relax. When I got there she was talking to AC and while AC is usually the talker, it was Grandma who kept her on the phone. She snoozed a little bit and then the YS called and she woke up so she talked to the YS for awhile and when Grandma handed the phone back to me, the YS was sobbing and said, "She sounds so weak." I didn't know what to say to make her stop crying and since I didn't want to cry around Grandma I passed the phone to AJ and had AJ calm her down.
I'm afraid that if I start crying, I won't stop. I told Grandma yesterday that I loved her (as I do anyway) and that I always appreciated her, because I knew she loved me (unlike my paternal grandparents who couldn't stand me and let it be known, although every member of my immediate family would argue the point, but I know what I know). She mentioned to me that whenever we would go to the paternal grandparents' house they'd always give us a cookie. Now, they moved to Arizona when I was 6 or 7 and don't remember that, but Grandma said how she didn't believe in that. She just treated us like kids (her youngest is only a couple years older than my brother) and didn't think we needed a cookie. I finally had the alone time with her yesterday that I never got last week and then didn't know what to tell her, other than that I loved her and I knew that she loved me, even when she'd come upstairs at her house and tell me to put the book down and come downstairs and join the family party. She laughed. I teased that even though she never gave us cookies like I knew she gave UJ's kids cookies, that I still knew she loved us. I think they were more real as grandchildren to her as they weren't the same age as her youngest. When I called yesterday to see if Grandma were awake and wanted visitors, I could hear her in the background when AP told her that I was on the phone "That Kathleen is a character." I'm sure that's a compliment. ;-)
So, in case you thought I was just being a slacker about blogging, now you know that this time I had a valid reason. And please pray, send good thoughts, etc. to my Grandma and family. We really could use it. And if you want, I'll try to keep you updated. I'm wondering if I pissed off the gods when I said that I was having a rotten 2010…and they're now showing me how horrible it can get.