Posts Tagged ‘grandmother’

early morning

It’s just after 7am and the house is quiet.  This is everyone’s day to sleep in (at least a little bit), but I found myself awake early, staring at the ceiling.

I woke suddenly, opening my eyes and not really knowing why or when or where; disoriented in my own bed.

Then I remembered it’s Saturday – and I really don’t need to be awake yet.

Then I remembered it’s my birthday.

And then I remembered she’s gone.

We got the call yesterday evening, my grandfather (as is his way) waiting until after dinnertime to call with the news.  Little does he know we had just sat down to eat, our schedule and timing pushed later than his standard 5:30 meal time.  The phone rang and hubby said to ignore it – 90% of the time it’s about duct cleaning.

I looked across the table at my mom and we both stopped.

We knew what it could be.

I knew I had to answer.

I saw his name on the screen and knew – in the way that you can know these things without ever really knowing.

I answered and he asked to speak to my mom.  I found it kind of funny he couldn’t tell me, but understood.  There’s a pre-defined pecking order when it comes to death and grief.  The daughter trumps the granddaughter.

I get it.

We knew it was coming, tried to resign ourselves to the fact that, in reality, she’s been gone for a long time.  Her, the grandmother, mother, wife that she really was – back when she was still who she really was.  We tried to tell ourselves we’ve really been saying goodbye for years.  It worked for a little while; it made sense in our heads but not so much in our hearts.

So now it’s 7 in the morning and I’m sitting in the basement, tears streaming down my face, the doors of an old cabinet open beside me.

Years ago my grandfather wanted to get rid of the dozens of old photo albums my grandmother put together over the years.  He, not the overly sentimental type and she no longer able to recognize any of the faces staring back from the pages.  Me, a lover of all photos, family ones especially, carted box after box of them to my house, refusing to let them go anywhere else.  And for years they’ve sat in a cabinet, stacked haphazardly, just waiting – for what I’m not sure.

Waiting for this morning, apparently.

Laying there in bed, tears in my eyes, it came to me that this is where I wanted and needed to be, even if only for a few minutes.  A few precious minutes before the rest of the house wakes and it’s time for breakfast and hockey practice and celebrating a birthday that I don’t like celebrating even at the best of times, and definitely not today.

For right now I’m here with her.

The her that she was when she was still her.

Flipping through pages of vacations and weddings and Christmases and birthdays and barbecues in the backyard and regular moments captured for all time.  Most are labeled with her neat printing – the who, the where, the when, the what they ate.

It’s all so very her, and I know this is where I will always be able to find her.

And so I sit, for just a few more minutes.

Saying goodbye.

I love you Nannie.

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Apparently the call came on Monday morning. I say apparently because, as is often the case with these family things, the news took some time to make its way down the tangled branches of the family tree to where I am.

They got the call Monday morning and I got my call on Monday night. The news traveled to the west coast and back, predetermined by some kind of family hierarchy which still alludes me.

No matter. I knew it would come eventually.

“They have a room available for her,” my mom said. “She moves on Thursday.”

And there it was. Ready or not; the time had come. The day that we had all been anxiously awaiting with equal parts anticipation and dread for the last year or so had now arrived. We knew in our heads it was the right thing, the practical thing, the smart thing. But now, faced with the reality of an actual date and a definite time, it didn’t seem quite so right, quite so smart.

I managed to hold it together for the rest of that night and most of the following day. In the arguments that took place between my head and my heart, my head was most often the victor. It’s time. There are no other options. This is for the best. And for the 24 hours after the call I even almost convinced myself that I believed it.

I believed it until it occurred to me that after more than 61 years together, my grandparents would soon be spending their last night in the same bed. They would no longer brush their teeth together at the same sink, pull up the same blankets around their chins, wake up in the same room, looking out the same window.

Ready or not.

I believed it until I started to wonder what will go through each of their minds as they lay down that first night apart, now miles away from each other? Will my grandfather question the decision that ultimately was his to make? Will my grandmother’s disease finally become more of a blessing than a burden, the fog under which she now lives blissfully shielding her from the new reality?

And then I couldn’t hold it together any longer. I sought refuge in the shower, thankful for the water pouring out of the shower head, disguising my tears; grateful for the sound of the water drowning out my sobs. As sad as I was for them, I knew that selfishly, the tears were actually for me. The reality finally sinking in that we could never go back. Never go back to a time when my grandmother ruled that house, aware of all that went on within its four walls, so capable, so loving, so everything a grandmother should be.

Never will we go back to a time when I would stumble out of my bed each morning of my summer vacation and find her sitting quietly at the kitchen table writing in her diary, as she did each day for as long as I can remember. I would sit beside her and we would plan our day – a movie, some shopping, a walk “down street” to pick up lottery tickets.

The adult in me knows we can’t go back; that she hasn’t been able to do those things for many years. But the child inside still clung to the hope that maybe she would come back, be her old self again, return to what she once was just as quickly as she had slipped away. That as long as she stayed in that house it would be possible, not likely, but possible.

Ready or not.

Tonight she will spend what is most likely her last night in her house, the only home she has known for the past 40 years. She will have a little bag packed for her and make her way slowly down the two steps and out the front door and that will be that.

Ready or not.

She will come back from time to time, but more as a visitor than the woman of the house. If there is any kindness at all in her disease I hope she doesn’t understand, doesn’t realize, doesn’t grasp the reality of what is happening, of the decision that has been made for her.

I don’t know what it will be like to visit her somewhere other than that house, to form memories of her in a new place, separate from the things that I associate with her, apart from my grandfather, still a couple but perhaps no longer the team they always seemed to be.

I will try to be strong, put on a smile and say things like “you seem to be settling in well” and “here’s some flowers to brighten up your room.” I will try to make the words come out, to not get stuck in my throat, tangled with all the words that I really want to say – that she doesn’t belong there, that it’s not her home, that there must be some other option.

But I know there isn’t another option, just like I know she’s not ever going to go back to being the grandmother that I remember. We all just have to try and make the best of things as they are. Time will continue to move on, and we will each have to adapt to things as they are now, not as they used to be.

Whether we’re ready to, or not.

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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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