Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stubborn as all hell

This week has been a rough one.  Wednesday night we got a phone call to rush to the hospital to say our last goodbyes to our grandmother.

Let me back the story up.  My grandmother is the only one we still had from both sides.  She's my mom's adoptive mother (is that the term?  I don't even know) and she was also my husband's grandmother's best friend.  Right after Thanksgiving of this past year my grandmother's health started going down the tubes.  When I was in high school she was diagnosed with melanoma and they were able to clear everything up.  Then she was hit with breast cancer and had to have a lumpectomy...I remember being seriously grossed out by the draining tube in her armpit but we all got through that.  Then she was in and out of the hospital at least once a year for severe pneumonia.  Finally they diagnosed her with COPD.  I guess it was expected since she had been a smoker up until the late 90s.

Well after Thanksgiving she was getting sick all of the time and was hospitalized at the beginning of December because there was blood in her lungs.  She was released on Christmas Eve but stuck wearing an oxygen mask.  Bob and I went to give her her Christmas present the week after and it was scary seeing her sitting in her chair with tubes up her nose.  This was so unlike my grandmother.  At 87 she was still feisty, living alone, making all of her meals, driving around town so it was difficult to see her so frail.

Last Sunday she was having a very difficult time breathing so her children decided that Monday they would bring her to her doctor and have her admitted to the hospital.  I didn't think anything different of her hospital trip this time around so I had no real intention of visiting her, knowing that she would be home again soon.  I was wrong

Wednesdays I usually tutor two different girls after school in Franklin Lakes/Wyckoff.  I had finished my  Algebra 2 session and was an hour and a half into my Geometry student when my phone continued to go off.  I had three missed calls.  One from my parents, one from my sister, and one from Bob.  I knew something was up so I excused myself for the call and sure enough we had gotten the emergency call to say our last goodbyes.  It was insane.  I couldn't understand how she had gone from driving herself around town to curled up in a hospital bed, unable to speak, with tubes all over and needles in each arm. As soon as we got in the room I started balling my eyes out.  Grandma and I had a love/hate relationship and every bad thing I had ever said to her and every bad feeling I had ever had toward her came rushing in.  I felt a tremendous amount of guilt for our relationship and wanted to go back and change every minute of it...but I couldn't.

That night was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  Grandma couldn't speak.  She was pretty heavily sedated and had a very hard time focusing on our faces and voices.  She kept trying to talk but no words would come out.  We tried to give her a pen to write but everything that flowed from her fingers was illegible.  We wrote out the alphabet so she could point to the letters to spell out words but she would get distracted or feel a pain and need to be repositioned or covered in a blanket.

I knew, touching her face, that she could feel how loved she was even though I was never good at showing that sort of thing.  Just having her whole family there with her, in one room, was enough to keep her going for three more days.  Every day I would call my parents to find out if she was getting moved out of critical care, when she would be able to come home, if she was speaking again and it was such a rollercoaster of news.  Thursday she was breathing with just the small oxygen tubes vs. an oxygen helmet.  Her blood sugar had stabilized and things were looking up.  Friday she was back in the huge oxygen mask and not going to the bathroom at all.

Saturday morning I got the phone call from my mom saying Grandma passed away at 2am.  I lost it.  I was going to go back to the hospital after class on Saturday because I had promised we'd go back and still hadn't and she was gone.  It was too late.  I made the decision to go to class anyway to keep my mind off of things because I knew I would be of no help.  Part of my class required us to log in to different social networking sites to see how we could incorporate them into our teaching and I noticed my sister had posted pictures from growing up with grandma on facebook.  I lost it again.

Though we have lost plenty of people close to us, grandma's the first one that I'm old enough to remember making this especially hard.

Thank you everyone who have offered condolences and prayers.  It's been rough and this coming week is only going to be harder between her memorial and church services.  She was a tough old broad...stubborn til the end.

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