TW: Death of a grandparent

Well, you’ve been warned.

My grandma died today. It was unexpected. She was totally healthy, aside from being high in age. I hadn’t known, but she was even planning, with other relatives, to fly and visit my parents soon.

It’s sad for the living. I wonder how my dad is holding up. She’s his mom. He hadn’t come down last time there was a family get-together. He was going to see her when she came and visited. I can imagine he would have felt like there was still plenty of time; they were both healthy.

She woke up in the morning. She did the things she normally does. She and my mom were playing a word game electronically with each other; Grandma had put out another letter. But then she was found dead in bed.

All of my grandparents are dead now. It’s kind of unreal. Aside from the initial moments of feeling nothing at all, my next reaction is to crave childhood. To want to go back and re-experience all of the trips and be with them again, from the viewpoint of when life seemed stable and everyone around me was set in themselves and so sure. When I had total trust and faith and belief in the adults around me. And it seemed like everything would last forever.

So I want to curl up and listen to old, familiar music. I want to listen to what my grandparents would listen to, but I can’t think of it. I want to drink the drinks I drank when visiting them all, but most have eluded me. I remember one grandpa’s mystery punch. I remember being allowed to drink these really fancy sodas at the other grandparents’ house. I remember their yellowy-vinel-like table cloth on what I remember as a small, round table. There were a lot of animals there.

At one grandparents’ house, I would play lots of card games. My grandma there enjoyed Gin Rummy and would play any card game. My other grandparents used to play Dominos. I know we also played card games together; was it Hearts? I’ll have to ask my parents.

I can’t believe life.

School goes on, classes go on, work goes on. The people around me go on with their own worries and their own viewpoints. But it’s hard. My mind wants to be in the past. I don’t want to be in this moment. I don’t want to go to class; I don’t want to go to work; I don’t want to chat about anything of interest here. I want Family.

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Log: Jun 23 – 29 (Tue – Mon) Grandma’s Death and a Bar Mitzvah

Jun 23 (Tue): @ Grandma’s
Jun 24 (Wed): @ Grandma’s
Jun 25 (Thu): @ Grandma’s
Jun 26 (Fri): Fly back from Grandma’s by 10a; Fly to Peter’s cousin’s place at night
Jun 27 (Sat): Peter’s cousin’s bar mitzvah
Jun 28 (Sun): Peter’s cousin’s place; Fly back home in afternoon
Jun 29 (Mon): Work 9:30a – 5:30p; Go to Uncle’s after work

Tue, Wed, Thu: With my grandma, my mom, two aunts, two uncles, and a cousin (briefly). I’m not posting TW’s because I think the title is clear: I was there again because my grandma was dying. I was there for my own sense of closure and saying goodbye as well as wanting to commiserate with my family and be of any support for them as possible. I suppose I won’t go into too much detail here but hospice was involved so we were able to help take away Grandma’s pain and take care of her there at my aunt’s house. My grandma was much more at peace there, and always surrounded by love. Some family issues came up; two siblings had a pretty severe blow-up and might not speak with each other for many years to come. Let me rewind. Also, my aunts and uncles helped me to pick out an outfit for the upcoming Bar Mitzvah, because I left all of my formal clothes back Home (with my parents and dog). I talked to my grandma or just sat near her, and each day I played some gentle piano music for her. She was in a state similar to a coma but not quite; she did respond in certain ways when we would talk to her and stroke her arm or forehead. Her eyes would blink although closed, and her mouth would close, and her breathing would steady a little. She could definitely hear us although there is no way of knowing what she could comprehend; the hospice nurses said her brain was also starting to shut down.

Fri: Left there in the morning, flew back here. Leaving there was hard. I did not want to leave. I would not have left but for the $600 plane ticket that Peter had already purchased for me. So I did decide to leave. I said my goodbyes to Grandma on Thursday night and reinforced them again on Friday morning before leaving. She’s been basically in a coma or maybe a morphine-induced fog, but there were things I wanted to say. So then I flew. Got back here, napped and packed for my flight with Peter and his dad for Peter’s cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. We left that night.

Sat: Arrived on Saturday morning. Met Peter’s paternal family. Everyone was nice. I rested a bit (hadn’t been able to sleep on the plane that night; my restless leg syndrome was being severe AND every time I started to nod off, I would jerk awake with horrible, horrible OCD intrusive thoughts). Then it was time to get dressed and ready for the Bar Mitzvah. It was really nice. I haven’t been to any before this, but I am sure it was a really nice one. The cousin’s speech was really interesting; I’d been afraid I wouldn’t be able to relate to it because I don’t know much about the religion, but he did a wonderful job and I felt very connected to what they were talking about. Of course, I didn’t know to expect a prayer/words for those mourning loved ones’ deaths near the end, so I cried and had no tissue for my snotty nose. Afterward, the reception/ceremony was pretty amazing. There was an open bar and catered food that was really good. There was mandatory dancing and I liked that. Then Peter and I danced to many of the rest of the songs anyway, although neither of us knows any dance moves. So we basically were just shuffling our feet in random ways, but it was fun. I hope a relative sends a picture so I can show my parents (pictures were allowed during this part). They’d LOVE to have seen it.

Sun: So, we left Sunday, early afternoon, after they had a bunch of family photos taken and more chatting and celebration. I got to talk with more, very nice relatives. Peter was asked to play piano for ambiance again. Then we had to leave. Flew back, said goodbye to Peter’s dad, dropped off our stuff at Peter’s place and went out to eat dinner. It was really good food. Then went to a store for a couple of supplies and that’s when my mom called me that my grandma had passed away.

She had been without food or water for a week already, and hardly eaten or drank for a long time before then. It hurts but at the same time, there was an element of relief for me. She died very peacefully, not like her husband, who struggled at the very end. My grandma’s breathing was becoming more infrequent and then at last she did not inhale again. She had waited until the family was back from a walk and they were all with her, and I’m glad for that. But it’s hard not to be there with them now. But I cannot go back right now; a coworker was getting anxious about my absence because of a large, important report that he needs me to print + bind shortly. I was hoping he’d give it to me today and then I could consider leaving again later in the week, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen today.

I had worried so long, SO, SO long, about how my mom would not be able to live on without her mom. I thought she’d be lost forever once her mom died. But it turns out, and so I think I needed to have been there and seen with my own eyes, my mom will pull through this. I saw it. She even helped with some of the night shift medicating. Reality turns into the New Norm and she is adjusting to it. I imagine it helped her too, to see Grandma during this stage of her decline. So there was this chance to see and to adjust and to live differently. I underestimated her. I guess we will all adjust to the New Norms as they happen, and I needn’t have worried so much for so many years. We deal. We handle it. We let our mental expectations change as the reality changes. We adapt.

Mon: I woke up in a pretty severe, serious mood. No joking, just taking everything very serious and saying very serious things. In contrast, I think Peter woke up in a light mood, and our conversation this morning was confusing and I’ve already written him for further clarification. I’m at work. I briefly saw my uncle. I’m going to go to his place after work today, and I’m going to watch a stupid movie with him (we’ve already planned it). He was one of the siblings involved in the blow-out and there are certain topics we’ll avoid discussing, but I’ll be glad to be with him. I talked with my mom for a while last night when she called to tell me the news about Grandma, and then I called my dad and talked with him for a while, although he and I mostly talked about my dog. I needed to talk with family. I texted with my brother some, too. ❤

UPDATE: I’ve been in a shitty, shitty mood all day today. I’ve just gone on a 2+ mile walk in the sun and I’m STILL in a shitty, shitty mood. That’s how bad it is.

Log: Jun 7 + 8 (Sun + Mon) Grandma; life

Jun 7 (Sun): Airplane 10a; rest

Jun 8 (Mon): Work 8:30a – 5:30p; Go to uncle’s after work

Cactus

Cactus

Sunday: Said goodbye to my grandma. She was the most lucid she’s been the whole time I’ve seen her. She even ate breakfast (puree, fed to her by spoon). I couldn’t bring myself to say some of the things I was going to say to her, because she was very alert as I said goodbye. I kind of wish I hadn’t started crying while hugging her. I’m not sure if she knew I thought it might be our final goodbye or if she thought I was just sad about having to leave in general. I told her I love her and she told me she loves me.

I feel somewhat responsible for the following downtrodden mood of hers. My mom thinks maybe she got a stomach ache again and that’s what caused it, but I can’t help but feel that her sensing my sadness was also responsible. But apparently right after I left, she was saying things like she didn’t want to be a burden on anyone anymore, and stuff. But I thought, at least she is still saying sentences, maybe that’s a good sign.

But then she didn’t eat or drink really the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, I traveled back to these dual cities I am now calling home-ish. (My uncle’s city and Peter’s city.) I want to turn right back around and return to my grandma’s side. I already told them I would if they thought I’d be of any use. I would fly out this instant. She will be paying nurses and there is also hospice and so my grandma will have someone with her around the clock. But surely she would be even happier to have a familiar face by her side for a lot of that time. Oh, I am accidentally fast-forwarding this log — there is another development I haven’t written about yet, so look for her new home information farther down this log.

I was in airports most of the day due to flight mess-ups (well, like not being able to locate the co-pilot for several hours). Meanwhile, Peter had actually shown up at my arriving airport and was waiting for me! Good thing he brought a looong book because it was hours and hours before I arrived. We went to his apartment and I unpacked and told him about my grandma. It was nice to see him and he said it was nice that I’m back again and frankly I can’t think of anything that smells better than him. But I’m very confused and my heart is not here right now. I might go back to my grandma for a while; I haven’t decided.

Monday: Peter and I got up early and I made it to work by 8:30a. Crazy. I packed a PBJ to-go for breakfast. But ended up eating some granola for breakfast and the PBJ for lunch and I’m pretty hungry and weak-feeling now, but I’m not doing anything about it. I’ll leave work shortly and head to my aunt and uncle’s house. Maybe there will be food; if not, I have a frozen TV dinner in the downstairs freezer.

Cactus

Cactus

I caught up on things here at work. Except we did receive a bill for a service I personally cancelled six months ago, and they refused to acknowledged it because I did it over the phone and have no paper trail. Bloody hell. I’ll deal with it more tomorrow. I have a call in to a company that might be able to back my story.

Anyway, so work has gone well today. I was busy and productive for quite a while. I even called my health insurance again and am told that my termination letter is on its snail-mail way to me, and my case is currently in “appeals” and I should know more within a week or 2. Here’s hoping.

I also made a passport application appointment, finally, and also sent for another record of my birth certificate, because I am so anxious at the thought of having to mail in my only original birth certificate for this passport application.

SO the development with my grandma is that she was refusing food and liquid again today. Hospice was consulted again and it was decided to move my grandma to my aunt + uncle’s house there. I am very glad of it. She was SO unhappy at the new place.

See, she had lived in a certain assisted living facility for YEARS. She had friends and all of her familiar things around her there. But after 7 hospitalizations, including the previous SEVERE UTI and a possible mini-stroke (they’re still not sure), she was deemed unable to remain there, because she needed a more intense level of care than could be provided at that place.

So after her UTI was cleared up (the hospital said the UTI was so severe, they were surprised it hadn’t killed her), she was moved to a new home, one with a special unit for dementia patients and would be able to care for her. Before she could move into her new room, they had her for a short while in a different unit of the building, a rehab center, where she was supposed to regain enough strength to help her transfer safely to her chair and toilet, and feed herself, etc.

Moth

Moth

However, she’s been unhappy at this place. She begs to go home and see her friends but she can’t. Her rehab room looks and smells like a hospital room. The staff is very busy and not really that personable with her. Even in the few days I was there, she got weaker and weaker and more and more remained in a brain fog and asleep, and lost the ability to chew and feed herself, and forgets things like swallowing.

Anyway, so today they decided to move her to my aunt and uncle’s place there. They work and are also unqualified for her level of care, but they have hired nurses and hospice and altogether, my grandma will have round the clock care. Hospice currently guesses she has another week to a month before she dies.

Maybe she will be so happy to be back in a familiar, homey, loving environment that she will remember the will to live and will start to eat and drink again. And if not, she will spend her final days in the most familiar, homey, loving environment possible, and I don’t think anyone could ask for more than that.

I’m going to sign up for classes that begin in August here, but I am very seriously considering spending some time between now and then with her there.

Log: Jun 4 – 6 (Thu – Sat) Visit Grandma

Jun 4 – 6 (Thu – Sat): VISIT GRANDMA

Thursday: Slept for an extremely long time. It was late afternoon by the time I visited my grandma.

Friday: Spent the day with my grandma.

Saturday: Spent the day with my grandma.

Sunset clouds

Sunset clouds

Frankly, the days have already blurred together. Where I ate, when I sat, when I fell asleep as my grandma slept, which caregivers I spoke with, when I spoke with my mom, my aunt, my uncle. When my grandma was more alert, when she was in a complete fog. When she could be transferred from bed to wheelchair to toilet back to wheelchair. When she had to use a bedpan. When she had to have a hoyer lift. When she would eat, when she had to have her food pureed, when she refused to eat or drink. When hospice was called, the first hospice nurse who presumed that “I want to go home and see my friends” was code for “I want to die.” But the rest of us are pretty sure she actually meant that she wanted to go back to her usual assisted living home and see her literal friends she has eaten each meal with for the past YEARS. (That said, we do agree that she probably feels it’s time to die when she says things like she refuses the physical therapy because she is too tired, she doesn’t want to try anymore, she is too old, too tired, etc.)

It was not as easy to sit with her this time as last time in some ways, because you feel compelled to speak when in the room with someone you are there to see. But she wasn’t tracking and wasn’t responding and didn’t appear to be mentally present or listening. Many times, she was asleep before you finished a sentence. She fell asleep on the toilet, she fell asleep at the dining table. She fell asleep in the middle of a sentence or video chat etc. She was very tired. A week ago, she could lift a spoon to her mouth. Now she can’t. 3 weeks ago, she was holding regular conversations. Now we are lucky if she responds with a sentence all day.

Sunset

Sunset

But she is still capable of smiling and it’s still beautiful to see. My mom and I pulled up the recent horse race on my mom’s iPad and brought it to her in her bed as it took place live, and sort of forced her to keep her eyes on the screen and see the horse win the race, with our voices full of enthusiasm and cheering on the horses. My mom cried. Grandma seemed to know she had just watched a horse race, although forgot it within 7 minutes. But it’s a memory for me.

Talked with my mom and my aunt and uncle who live out there. We ate dinner and talked every night. My mom sent out video chats to different family members every time my grandma had a lucid moment, so that everyone in the family would be able to talk with my grandma at least one last time before she dies. I know it’s not the same, to not be able to say something private to her, but I think it is special anyway.

Poem: Home II

Wherever the wind blows
That’s where my tent lives
Drive stakes into hardened Earth
Set down my pot and pan
And build a small flame
For boiling water

The wind blows dust and clay
Into my eyes
Gritty teeth grind
And blink
But I don’t mind

In an aquarium of sky
Clouds as heavy as semi’s scuttle
My sweat turns to mud
As I lay and watch

Bushes nearby rustle green leaves
But no large animal ever
Emerges to keep me company

–innerdragon

Poem: Death V

How am I supposed to look you in the eyes tomorrow
And say Goodbye.
Tell me how.
How can I give you a hug
and hold you tight
and breathe your scent
one final time?

Tell me how.
How can I tell you I love you?
How can I show you I care?
How will you know 1000 times all the ways I wish I could be there?

But you won’t know.
Your mind is elsewhere.
Only I will know.
It’s up to me to say goodbye now,
and you unaware
with eyes half-massed
and face turned away
and body still
Yet breathing
And sometimes you accept food and liquid.

How.

How can I leave you like this?
How can I leave you knowing there’s little chance of ever seeing you again?

–innerdragon

Poem: Death IV

It’s strange to find you gone.
Stranger still to find you left a long time ago.
I close my eyes and you’re there
Still sitting at the table.
But no.

I could drive to your home.
But find only strangers at the door.
I could look through my pictures of you.
But when I look up, you’re not there.

Life goes on.
Life goes on.
Life goes on.

–innerdragon