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Posts Tagged ‘elderly’

I saw my grandmother last weekend and it was fine.

When we got there she was already at home; my grandfather had already picked her up and brought her home so it was just like it always was.  We sat around in the living room and chatted; we had drinks; we ate dinner.  The kids played in the other room.  We had dessert.  It was fine.

Then, after everyone was finished their dessert and we were just sitting around my grandfather said “well, I guess it’s time to take you back.”

It hung there in the room.  The knowledge that she doesn’t live in that house anymore, not really.  It was exactly what everyone had been tip-toeing around all evening and it couldn’t be ignored any longer.

She said, “I guess so” and everyone sighed a little.  She wasn’t putting up a fuss, we wouldn’t have to deal with a situation where she fought going back, fought leaving this house, fought the place where she now lives.  Whether she actually felt that way, we’ll never know.  Maybe she was just making things easier, easier for all of us, easier for her family which, in a way, is what she had done all of her life.  I like to think that’s what she was doing because that would mean she’s still in there.  The grandmother I know is still somewhere inside the woman that I recognize less and less each time I see her.

It was fine.

We all got up from the table and milled around, not really knowing what to do with ourselves.

It was fine until I stood in the hallway and watched her putting on her shoes and her jacket.

Then it wasn’t fine anymore.

I had to turn away; ashamed at myself for not being able to deal with it.  I had agreed with the decision that she needed to move into that place and now I had to deal with the reality of that decision.

We all gave her a hug and my grandfather helped her into the car; and she was gone.

It was fine. I was fine.  Or so I kept telling myself.

We cleaned up the kitchen, putting away the leftovers, making my grandfather up some dinners he could warm up.  I tried not to think about him sitting at the kitchen table eating them by himself.  He came back from dropping her, we chatted briefly and I wrestled up the kids and all of their toys that were now spread over three rooms of the house.  It was time to go.

It was fine.

I made it as far as the highway.  Then I lost it.

It wasn’t fine anymore.

I started sobbing, quietly, I didn’t want the kids to hear.  I didn’t want to have to explain why I was crying.  When I had spoken to them at the time my grandmother moved I tried to be upbeat, focusing on the positive.  That was last week.  There in the car, speeding down the dark highway I couldn’t focus on the positive.  It wasn’t fine.  I needed to be sad.  I needed to cry.

My husband took one hand off the steering wheel and reached over in the darkness to take my hand.  He knew it wasn’t fine.  He had been through the same thing with his grandparents and he got it.  He knew.  It was okay with him that I wasn’t fine.  I didn’t have to pretend with him.  I cried most of the way home and it felt good.  It felt good to get it out, to feel the tears drying on my cheeks.  It felt good to hurt.  But it still wasn’t fine.

I told myself I didn’t need to write about it.  That there, in the car on that highway I had gotten it all out.

Obviously I was wrong because here I sit, one week later, on a quiet Saturday morning and I’m writing about it. I guess the tears weren’t enough.  I should have known.  After all this time I should have known there would need to be words.

It’s still not fine; it’s the kind of situation that will never be fine.

But now that there are words, it feels a little bit better.

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I stood at the back of the line, juggling a handful of shopping bags while simultaneously attempting to get my walled out of my purse.”Can I have a donut Mama?”

I should say no. I should tell him to choose something healthier, some yogurt and fruit or something. I turned to look at him, jumping up and down excitedly.

“Pleeeaaaassssse?”

He had been so good all morning as I dragged him around the mall, running errand after errand, slowly crossing things off my back to school to-do list. I caved.

“Okay,” I said. “What kind do you want?”

“A sprinkle one!”

Photo courtesy of gypsy carnival

I turned to check the display case to make sure they had such a thing and spotted a bunch of them, in all their sprinkled glory, in the case behind the counter.

I smiled, and was instantly transported back to the summers I used to spend visiting my grandparents. Every Saturday night we would go out to a movie, or a musical, or some other type of show. And every Saturday we would stop at a coffee shop on our way home. My grandparents would have coffee and I would have a hot chocolate, and we would each pick a donut.

I always picked the sprinkle one.

I don’t know what made that memory come to me at that particular moment. The ways of the mind and memory remain a mystery to me, but right then I didn’t care about the why or the how, I just let the memory wash over me.

In that moment, I was 10 years old again, feeling so grown up and special to be out late on a Saturday night, getting to pick whichever donut I wanted. We would sit together at a small table, chatting about the show we had just seen or our plans for the next day; all was right in my world.

Almost 25 years later, I now know that everything is not right in the world. My grandmother is not well and my grandfather is no longer able to take care of her at home. Any day now the phone call will come telling us a room has been found for her and she will move out of the house she’s lived in for almost 40 years.

That’s the reality of being an adult; far from the concerns of a 10 year old sitting at a donut shop biting the sprinkles off the top of her donut. Sometimes being a grown-up sucks and I wish I could go back, if even just for a moment.

And so, when it was finally our turn at the counter I ordered two sprinkle donuts; one for my son, and one for the 10 year-old version of me that still exists somewhere deep inside.

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with a cup and a spoon

Lyrics – Jann Arden – Everybody’s Broken

85 years she’s been livin’ right here when they took her from her home
To a little white room with a cup and a spoon and the dress that she had on
Nobody came, they’d forgotten her name, it’s like she disappeared
She’s just Claire Anne Marie and that’s who she sees when she looks into the mirror

Jann Arden is my most favourite person in the entire world.  The fact that I’ve never met her doesn’t matter at all; nor does it make the above statement any less true.  Jann is the person I would most love to have over to my house for dinner, or drinks, or coffee, or whatever she wants.  I think if I ever did have her over though my tongue would tie itself in knots and I would embarrass myself horribly by sobbing and saying “I love you” over and over until she got scared and left.

Anyway, I digress.  I love Jann because she sings the things that seem to be going on in my life.  For almost every important moment that I’ve had throughout my 34 years, there is a Jann song that goes along with it.  And, as my family moves into a difficult chapter, this continues to be true.

We are in the process of moving my grandmother into a home.  It’s always struck me that we call them “homes” when they are actually the opposite of that.  I mean I get that they try to make them has “homey” as possible but really, who are we kidding?  My grandmother and grandfather have been married for 60 years and soon my grandmother will wake up alone in a bed in a strange place.  She’ll look over beside her, searching for my grandfather and he won’t be there.

She forgets things.  She came to visit our new house a couple of months ago but if you ask her, and she doesn’t remember coming here.  She gets disoriented finding the washroom and is so unsteady on her feet that we are all terribly afraid that she will fall, as she’s done before.

My grandfather takes care of her right now, all by himself.  We try to help but none of us can be there on a daily basis to help him out and he’s slowly realizing that it’s too much for him.  He’s never been a particularly emotional or sentimental man but he has struggled openly with the decision to “send her away” as he phrases it.  One day he told me that they were a team, that they’d always been a team, and now he was going to have to tell her she had to go somewhere without him.

It’s so awful; so, so, so horrible but there are so few other choices.  We’re all so afraid of what will happen if she stays at home but no one wants to imagine the other alternative, where she sits in a “little white room with a cup and a spoon.

Thank you Jann for once again putting into words the feelings that I couldn’t articulate, and I promise that I will do whatever I can to make sure my grandmother never feels like she’s disappeared.

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