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.