The Loss of My Grandma

This is definitely a blog post instead of a video.  I have a policy against (real) crying on YouTube.  Plus YouTube has had issues with their advertisers and will send me a message that it’s not approved for monetization, I think because I used the keyword “death”, which gives their automated flagging system concern that I’ve made a death video maybe?  I made a brief video mentioning that I was still alive, but my grandma passed away.  I can write this without receiving an annoying message that it’s defective in some way.

Anyway, I am struggling with grief right now, but it’s different this time.  She lived for 92 long years and sometimes people think it’s less sad when a person is old when they die.  OK, it’s not a huge tragedy and unexpected, but our loved ones can’t ever be replaced, even when they did or said things on a regular basis that maybe hurt or annoyed us.

The difference is, we lost her a little bit at a time, so by the time she was gone, there wasn’t the sense of shock, like jumping into ice cold water.  The visits with her were less and less.  She lost her ability to drive.  She couldn’t handle being at our house for very long anymore.  Outings were later out of the question and she didn’t even come over on Christmas Day. She stopped writing.  She stopped reading. We were eased into a life without Grandma.  She understood everything until the very end, but it was very hard for her to talk.  It’s not that I ever would have wished for her to pass away, but I didn’t want her to suffer anymore, lying in her hospital bed alone for countless hours.  She wanted to move on.  She asked my uncle why he was crying and he said, “I’m going to miss you.”  She said, “Just think of all of the hellos I get to say!”  She longed to be reunited with the three children she lost and my grandpa.

She told my cousin, “Don’t be sad.  I’m happy.”

I’m trying to be happy for her now, but the waves of sadness keep coming.  She was the only grandparent I ever truly knew.  My other grandma has been missing for over 40 years and disappeared before I was born. One grandpa had major strokes that made it impossible to talk for the most part and my other grandpa damaged his brain with alcohol to the point that he couldn’t really carry on a conversation.  He literally drank himself to death.  When he was in a home, he used to go for walks and some bartender felt sorry for him and gave him free drinks.  He drank himself into a coma.  I was a teenager and I watched him have seizures in the hospital, which he did every ten minutes for a week before he finally passed away.  I was devastated simply because we didn’t get to have a relationship.  He wasted his life on alcohol.

I’m left with this overwhelming feeling now that my parents are next and I don’t want to face it.  I couldn’t wait to grow up when I was young, but didn’t consider that that meant my parents aging.  I wanted certain benefits of being older and then I wanted time to freeze.

There’s so much focus on living as long as humanly possible, but I no longer have that wish.  I want to live a decent amount of time, but not long enough to be forgotten.  Not long enough to be put into a home where I will most likely be neglected.  Not long enough to realize all of my friends are gone or to lose control of bodily functions.  Yes, it is a blessing to be with our loved ones, but I want to do the things I love.  I would rather serve in some way on the other side than wait in bed for my death day after day.

Sorry if this is depressing, but that’s how I feel right now.  One day my grandma complained, “My doctor said I could live another fifteen years.”  I joked that I wanted her to live to be 100 so she could be on the Smuckers jar on The Today Show.  They always feature people turn age 100 or above.

I’m OK with being on the jam jar as song as I can still walk, make people laugh, play the piano, etc.

I’m alternating between the stages of grief, but it seems like denial and acceptance kind of feel the same.  I was laughing hysterically at a party last night and then today while I was working on chores around the house, I felt waves of sadness and emptiness. I thought, “I wonder what’s bothering me?”  Duh!  My grandma passed away less than three weeks ago.

I don’t have to feel less sad because she lived a long life.  There are no grief rules.  I have some friends who were both widowed and later married each other, but they are able to tell each other how much they still mourn their spouses.  I think that’s healthy and wonderful.  We don’t just forget those we love.

I do try to distract myself from being sad and feel a lot better when I’m with people, but it’s like the grief is waiting for me when they’re gone.

I love her for lots of reasons and I miss her even though she took jabs at my weight.  I think that’s mostly a generational thing and sometimes I actually found it kind of amusing. One day I told my aunt, “Watch Grandma when I say I’m starving right after dinner.”  Sure enough, the moment the plates were cleared, I said, “When’s dessert?  I’m STARVING!”  Grandma exclaimed in horror, “SARAH!!!!!”  She had no idea I was joking.  She also loved to talk politics and I seriously preferred that she talk about my weight instead.

I admired her most for the way she took care of her daughter and her children, my grandpa, and her own mother for as long as possible.   She also created family history pages every year as gifts for years, which I am so grateful for.  Writing is one thing we have in common, although I’m not sure if she knew that.

I just needed to get these feelings out and now I will put the lid on the can of his Almond Roca my family brought home from the store.  🙂

Multiple Myeloma Strikes Again

I’ve been trying to process the awful news that my dad has multiple myeloma.  We all want to be strong for each other, but this weekend I have been crying quite a bit as my dad gets ready to start chemotherapy.

One of my dearest, closest friends also has multiple myeloma and after seeing what it’s done to her, I just can’t stand this.  Well, she also has other factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and more, but we have had her over every Christmas for years, including since her diagnosis, and watched her as she suffers.  The cancer itself makes her puke her guts out. Add chemo and it’s even worse.  Right now her cancer is “slumbering”, but it doesn’t go into remission.  She and my dad will never hear the words, “You are cancer free.”  You can stop its progress for a while.

This wasn’t a total surprise because abnormal protein showed up in my dad’s blood just like my friend.  It makes your kidneys work extra hard, which makes one exhausted.  The doctor said it could develop into multiple myeloma, but I didn’t think it would happen so soon.  He has to be on a low sodium/low protein diet and this man loves bacon and eggs for breakfast.  It’s the only thing I’ve ever seen him cook besides BBQing some things and making microwaved vegetables.

The unknown is scary.  Maybe he’ll surprise us and the chemo won’t be as bad as we fear?

He’s going to lose his trademark mustache.  I think the last time he shaved it off was when I was 4.  I said, “Daddy!  You took your mustache off!  Put if back on.  Right now!”  His 70th birthday was mustache themed.

There are worse things than losing hair though.  It could cause tingling in his hands, which would affect his guitar playing.  That is his passion.  My dad has a lot of life left in him.  He has kept himself healthy and pretty active.  He has been taking care of his mother multiple times per week and she was recently put on a hospice program. I don’t know when he’ll be able to go over there again, but I’m planning on making weekly visits if possible.

My mom has health problems aggravated by stress. I worry about her just as much as I do my dad.

My parents have done so much for us and gave me and my siblings a pretty wonderful childhood even when they were worried at times about how to make ends meet.  I’m so grateful for them and I need to take care of my health too so I can help them as much as possible.  I have to somehow not become sick with worry myself, which I am prone to.

Humor is my coping mechanism.  I will continue to use it, but it doesn’t mean everything is OK. I just have to stay well and I’ve been trying to get well since around September.  I have mostly recovered from a flare-up, but not quite.

I know I am not alone.  So many families have gone through this.  Please share your thoughts with me.  Also, if you have any good ideas for low sodium/low protein recipes that taste good, I would be grateful to have them.

 

Dreading Loss

Shortly before Christmas, my grandma was not doing very well.  She lost her appetite and ended up in the hospital because she was very dehydrated.  She hasn’t really wanted to eat ever since she moved from her apartment into the assisted living center.  She didn’t want to leave her room at all and socialize with others because they’re not interesting.  Her mind was still in tact and she still liked to have political discussions or debates (if she could lure you into it).

It was hard enough moving her out of her home she had been in for decades where most of her memories were – where she raised eight children, including three who passed away.  I felt terrible when we had to help her downsize and move into a small apartment.  My grandpa has been gone for over twenty years now and with the good health she has been blessed with, I could see her outliving another one of her children.  That would be devastating to her.

She is being evaluated for hospice care, but my dad feels she just doesn’t want to try anymore.  She has become very weak because she chose not to leave her room except to go to the doctor.  I won’t go into detail, but relationships with her have been strained and I can’t help but wonder if she would continue trying if she felt like many loved ones were excited to see her often and came to visit more.

No one is going to urge her to get up or eat anymore and I respect her decision, but I’m also scared that all she’s doing is bringing on a long, miserable end to her life.  I went to visit her yesterday and she had a meal replacement shake and a glass of milk next to her bed, so she’s eating a little bit.  I have no idea what to expect and I don’t want her to suffer.  I don’t want her to be lonely.  Yesterday she was watching CNN with no sound and later my dad said it’s because she accidentally muted it and can’t figure out how to turn it back on.  Just laying in bed in a dark room at 4pm reading subtitles on CNN.  Alone.

Grandma is basically the only grandparent I ever had any kind of relationship with between my maternal grandmother being missing for over 40 years, my grandpa having a stroke that made it impossible to have a conversation, and my other grandpa not being able to carry on a coherent conversation because of the brain damage he suffered from alcohol.  He was in a nursing home for years, but still managed to find a way to literally drink himself to death.  My grief was more about the relationship we could have had and the fact that he wasn’t leaving a huge void in my life.  I watched him have seizures as he was in a coma all week and all I could think about was how he was a stranger to me.  That is a tragedy – when one’s death doesn’t cause unbearable grief for someone.  I remember my mom coming home and crying, “I didn’t think it would hurt this much.”  Considering her childhood with both of her parents’ alcoholism, abandonment, and becoming a foster child, she didn’t expect to miss him terribly.  She did like her dad though – just not the person he was when he drank.

As difficult as my grandma can be, I know my family is going to miss her and it’s going to hurt more than they realize.  She has many good qualities.  Her mother, on the other hand – her memorial service was horrifying, especially to my husband who didn’t know her.  It was just family because she lived 97 years.  Everyone who got up struggled to say something nice about her.

“She was very determined.”  (aka stubborn and unbending)
“Her house always smelled like coffee.”
“She always had ice cream.”

I kid you not.  Finally her son got up and said, “To be honest, I didn’t really get along with her.”  He broke the ice and one after another, relatives got up to tell stories about my great grandma being selfish, narcissistic, always right, etc.  My dad’s cousin drove her old car and when it broke down, she snapped at her that she was driving it wrong.

This was one of the most depressing experiences of my life and it made me very nervous thinking that maybe these genes had been passed down to me.  I told myself, “If your death doesn’t make your closest relatives feel like they can hardly go on living, then you failed.”

Some people are given a very short time to live.  It’s frustrating to see others given over 90 years to make things right, but they don’t.  And if they did try, I would hope their loved ones would accept the change they’re offering rather than pushing them away.  It’s never too late to change and to try to right your wrongs.  Sadly, that rarely happens.

I’m trying to reach out to her more and encourage her other 23 grandchildren to do the same.