Tuesday, February 14, 2012

losing grandma, part 1

I was awake at 3 a.m. and beyond this morning.  I was sick, I've got a cold and an ear infection.  First thing this morning I rescheduled the cats' vet appointment so I could stay home all day and just be sick in bed.  (And I called the doctor about my ear.)  Moments later, my mom called me.  She said she had "bad news" and I knew it was death but I thought it was the dog or cat or some distant relative (last summer, for instance, one of my second cousins went on a "vision quest" and was found dead under a tree three weeks later with an uneaten banana and a bottle of water, and a few years ago my mom's cousin was a Memorial Day weekend motorcycle fatality statistic).
But no, not so distant. Apparently around 3:30 (as I was lying awake plotting my sick day), my mom was woken up by "a god-awful noise" coming from my grandmother's room, like a rattling gasping for breath.  When she went in, my grandmother was unresponsive with fixed eyes.  She called 911 and the fire department intubated (sp?) her and brought her to the hospital.
Grandma had a "massive stroke"--the one the doctors had been warning her would happen if she didn't take her blood pressure medicine.  Of course she always laughed them off and went right on taking 1/4 of a pill instead of whatever her real dosage was.  She'd had a minor stroke a while back and my mom called me out of work and it ended up being nothing that serious (that was when she moved in with my mom, 4 1/2 years ago, right before my dad died).
But this one, yeah, this is it.  My mom told me right out at 8 this morning "she's not going to make it this time."  She's on a respirator.  If the EMTs hadn't put the tube in her she'd be dead already.  They did a  scan of her brain and it's massive bleeding everywhere (like my dad after he hit his head) no chance of recovery. I don't want a vegetable for a grandma.  I had one for a dad and I didn't like it one bit.
I called the funeral home and had them pull the paperwork for my grandma's prepaid funeral (from 1987 when her husband died)--why my mom couldn't think to do that, I don't know, but they appreciated the heads-up.  I don't know if my mom has called my grandma's brother or sister-in-law.  I told my godmother (my grandma's niece).
I just never know what to do while in death limbo.  Call everyone and say "she's gonna die" and then tomorrow or the next day call and say "she died"?  Wait until she's dead?  What if her brother wants to come from California to say goodbye?  What about the few friends she has left?  I'm not good with complex thinking when I'm sick with some kind of hideous flu.  I suppose I have to write the obituary too.  It's all I can do to compose this post, obit will have to wait.
My mom has grandma on a DNR, obviously--she's 93 (her 94th birthday is this weekend; the picture above is from last year's party).  But right now the ventilator is keeping her alive.  Her heart is strong and healthy but the doctors don't know if she'll keep breathing without the tubes or just die.  So that's what I get to do this afternoon, go and pull the plug on my grandma and watch her die. 
Happy Valentine's day to my family, right?  My dad died on Thanksgiving, and my grandpa, great grandpa and great grandma all died within days of my birthday.  My  husband's grandmas both died around his birthday (one actually ON the day).  So why not ruin Valentine's day with a death anniversary too? 
I need to think more positively, but right now I can't.  The doctors say she's not in pain.  She's simply  not there anymore.  Hopefully she won't linger and suffer like my dad did (and he suffered--there was no lying to me and saying "he's not in pain" even though he was a vegetable; he moaned and thrashed like an animal in a trap).  I didn't get to say goodbye to her properly but really, that's rare.  When someone is hanging on forever like my dad, you never know when the last time will be to say it, and the flip side is the immediate and quick death with no time for the last time.  If that makes any sense.  She lived to be, essentially, 94.  She had no dementia, no cancer, no ill-health other than arthritis and high blood pressure.  She could walk (slowly) and talk (just fine) until the end. Most people would be happy with that kind of life.
Sunday night, in fact, she was in a really good mood.  We were playing a word game and my mom took a spot where my grandmother wanted to put her word and my grandma was sassing her and we were all laughing.  We were planning on where to take her for her birthday (Red Lobster, for lunch, on Friday).  Now it's more likely that on Friday we'll be eating an after-funeral meal instead.
Bye, Grandma.  I love you.  I'll miss you.  Say hi to Dad & Grandpa for me when you get to the Elsewhere Bar.


Sheri said...

I am so sorry, I do know the holiday thing, Bob and "Al's" father died ob christmas day at the ripe old age of 57 and his mother died on thanksgiving 20 yeas later.

your family is in my prayers
Sheri ( Living in the shadow of Alzheimers)

Anonymous said...

Hello Bert

I found your blog a few months ago - I can't even remember why, I have so far escaped being touched by AD close to home, but the way you tell your story so honestly and beautifully just gripped me and I've been reading a few entries each day until I caught up to now.

Your grandma had a full life to 93, still surrounded by people like you and your mother who loved her, and not many people are as lucky as that. I hope she has a gentle exit and it doesn't stir up too much all the memories of your Dad. I hope too that your mother has a chance now to enjoy her life. I felt sorry for her, as well as you, having to lose her husband in such a dreadful way, and at the same time having to cope with her mother becoming more like another infant than being a mother to her when she needed it (or at least, that's how I pictured it, forgive me if I have it wrong).

With love, from a stranger who is thinking of you.

Lisa said...

I'm sorry to hear you lost your Grandmother ... but you're right ... we should all have such a good life ...