I texted my cousin in the early afternoon to find out how my grandma was doing in the hospital. She warned me that I probably didn't want to come up. She had a near fall at the hospital, she was yelling at family and staff alike, she was resisting all medication and treatment, and was having hallucinations and couldn't identify who certain family members were. Obviously I had to go and see her.
I received permission from my boss and left work half an hour early. After a quick change of clothes at home and grabbing some get-well flowers and a drink, I drove the hour and a half ride to my parents home town to the hospital where she's staying.
I greeted my frazzled looking mom and sat with my grandma. It was a very surreal experience to see someone who was once so sharp and on point change into someone who couldn't piece together one moment from another. It was like watching a DVD that couldn't ever make it past the first 5 minutes and rewound to the beginning over and over again. She asked me (or I had to remind her) roughly every 5-10 minutes that she couldn't get up from bed or leave the hospital because she hurt herself badly. Sometimes it went okay and she nodded, understanding somewhat. Other times she was much more hostile and insistent. The injuries alone warranted her staying, not even including the fact that she couldn't remember my name, my mom's name, my cousin's name, and was "seeing" things in the room. I would watch her move her hands in a motion like she was sorting through a cupboard.
"Grandma, what are you doing?"
"I'm looking for the keys!!"
"Grandma there's nothing there. What do you need keys for?"
"Well how ELSE is your grandpa going to get into town if I don't drive."
"You're not driving into town. You're in a hospital."
"Well...what's that...what's that horse doing out there? Where are those tracks going?"
She'd often gaze at the ceiling or into the distance, asking who a person was, or why farm animals were places they weren't supposed to be. Sometimes she'd see a little boy or girl run off somewhere. I didn't have answers. It would've almost been funny if it wasn't so heartbreaking. She would begin to fall asleep and then move her hands to her mouth and move her tongue around like she was eating something. For a solid 20 minutes she insisted on ice cream. I tried to help her eat it by herself but she didn't seem to have the hand-eye coordination to hold the spoon, dip it into the small container, and then move it to her mouth. Eventually I was able to feed her some until she held her hand up and said, "No more. I'm done with that now." Minutes later she was asking for ice cream again.
I was there for a bit over 4 hours and they felt excruciating. It's difficult to sit and watch knowing that tests aren't moving as quickly as you'd like, nothing seems as urgent to anyone as it does to you, and above all watching a family member you love deteriorate.
According to what my cousin, aunt, uncle, and grandpa can piece together, she had a really nasty fall. My grandma had a dentist appointment yesterday so she got a quick shower in. As she was getting out, that's when the fall happened. She broke 2 ribs, ripped her knee and ankle up pretty badly, bruised her arms horribly (that is no exaggeration - full greeting card sized strips of her arm were completely black), and she has a brain hemorrhage.
We are mid-process in trying to move her to a better hospital with one of the best neurosurgeons in the country. There's so much red tape to muck through that most takes feel like you're trudging through mud to get them done. As of now there's nothing more that can be done until we are given more test results tomorrow.
When I was nearing the end of high school nothing sounded better than being far from where I grew up. I had too much unpleasant history with too many people and wanted a fresh start. After I left home it was an awesome period of growth. I felt independent and able to do anything I wanted.
Now, living further from home than I ever have before, I realize just how isolating it is. My family was (and still is) my tribe. Being away from them for so long has inched me closer to feeling depressed. I'm super introverted and don't seek out social relationship, really, at all. I could always count on visiting grandparents, aunts, parents, or sisters. And there was no pretense or anyone I needed to be. I just was/am and they work with it. I've tried knitting close relationships but over time they tend to fall apart because I put expectations on people that they are unaware of. (I'm even unaware of it sometimes.) I put large investments of time, energy, and emotion in others and am met with disappointment on a semi-regular basis. Don't take this for not being self aware - I'm sure I've also "inspired" this in others.
As my family continues to slowly shift, move, and drift away, I think back and miss the days when everyone was more young, more friendly, and more willing to get together just for a beer in someone's garage and get in a little game of poker if there was time. I'm guilty of this just as much as anyone. My grandmother constantly jokes and asks me at family gatherings if I remember where her house is because she doesn't see me.
Today my cousin texted me to let me know my sweet (and pretty sassy) grandma was, and still is, in the hospital. She fell getting out of the shower and broke two of her ribs. She complained that the worst pain is coming from her knee but they have yet to solve why. She can't breathe well so they are keeping her in emergency care. My uncle has been with her because he works in a hospital and knows all the lingo. He's been telling family members she's hallucinating and is not well. I don't even know where that would come from. Concussion? Pain medications? The dementia that's been creeping into her brain over time?
My feelings about it keep blinking in and out. When I actively work to numb my brain to the circumstances that I can't do anything about, I feel okay. But when I allow myself to think about what this means for her aging body, for the dynamic of the family...for her kids...it makes me sick to think about it. She was one of my best friends growing up. She would play Mario with me, eat lunch with me, boot me outside to play, sneak me Hostess cupcakes, lend me her kitchen spoons to dig trenches in her backyard, and so much more. And now I can see this strong woman becoming less so as each year goes by.
I still am in the dark about how things are going. I asked if I could drive to the hospital and visit but my dad said they aren't allowing visitors as she's being put through test after test. He let me know that he'd text me if anything came up. I haven't received a text all night.
When I examine myself and my interests, careers I would love to pursue narrow down to these general chunks:
• Nature (plants, animals, marine life, the outdoors, you name it)
• Art (crafting, painting, drawing, visual storytelling, essentially any and everything)
• Death (Caring for the dead, solving deaths, even sects that only remotely touch on death such as paleopathology, etc)
So today, ladies and gentlemen, we're going to focus on death! Yay! I came across this article today. It was written by a man named Eric Puchner. The intro peeks into the day to day of a funeral director:
"Caleb Wilde is a sixth-generation funeral director who wants to reacquaint us all with the uncomfortable, eye-opening realities of death. It’ll make us more human, he says. If it doesn’t kill him first."
I read it through both with fascination and agreement in his points that we are now a culture very disconnected from death. (This opinion is also held by a youtube series I subscribe to called Ask A Mortician, aka, The Order of the Good Death.) Historically, families always washed, dressed, and buried their own. Now it feels like a much more sterile process - and one that involves many more chemicals, preservation, and distance from the deceased. (I remember in one youtube video, the host of Ask A Mortician expressed her awe and/or confusion that many times she's the last person the deceased is with before they are cremated - odd considering how unloving it appeared from her perspective that they end up with someone who knew nothing of them.)
I've often thought about my own death and how I would like my body treated when I'm gone. A green burial seems like the best option if I don't end up donating my body to science. I confess that it's made me feel weird that people would try to preserve a shell at the sacrifice of the environment. (Don't even get me started on elaborate caskets with pillows, trim, and airtight capabilities. Airtight or not with all of our fancy pillows and doilies, we all rot the same.) A few years ago NPR aired an interesting piece that interviewed medical students who dissected donated bodies. Each expressed how grateful they were in getting to know the person and being given the opportunity to learn from their gift. Many also spoke of how it almost became a story that unfolded because they would uncover health ailments that lead them to conclusions about how that person must have lived his/her life.
My dad speaks occasionally of when he dies and has a small number of requests for his funeral. He wants it to be fun (or as fun as a funeral can be), and he wants lots of stories about him that make people smile and laugh while at the same time making him look like a badass at life. For example, he wants to make sure that everyone knows that at least once in his life, a car salesman paid him to take a car. (True story!)
In many cultures, the death of a loved one becomes a celebration of their life and tribute is paid to their story at least once a year. How often do we choose to remember the dead in our own culture? I would almost stretch to say that many opt to forget because "sad" can be too hard to experience. I believe that true acceptance of death will ease the burdens of pain, not increase them. (Though it will never take them away.) It will make the relationships that matter more solid because we know, ingrained within us, that they won't always be there. And neither will we.
My boyfriend and I joked about the last time the mortgage people (that's what I call them) asked for more stuff from us. I said, "I think we should be good to go now!"
He replied, "Yeah, until the next time they want more." Well, huh. He ended up being friggin spot on. On Friday one of the assistants contacted me via email saying she needed a few things, one of which needed to come from the IRS - and the short way to do it was to simply go on their website and get it. I went to their website and of course the exact service I need is down for all of the Memorial weekend and will be back up Tuesday. Stupid maintenance.
I was also contacted by my doctor Thursday - she found an alternative to have hormonal saliva tests done and discussed options with me. In the near future I'll have to write out what I've experienced so far. Honestly I've been meaning to so that anyone who is nervous about similar things happening to them can look here and see what venues and options have worked for me.
I work as an IT in a school that teaches trades - my specialty being design.
This week we gave the kids a bit of a history lesson on printing presses. We (we being the instructor and I) explained that before printing was available as a tool to create mass amounts of books, men of the church would hand letter books while including illustrations with painstaking detail. Most could not afford the high cost of books so only the rich owned them. The lesson continued on with examples of Illuminated Manuscripts, introducing them to the Book of Kells, explaining what the process will be for brainstorming their own ideas for an illuminated word or quote.
Today a student walked up to me and asked if he could illustrate the word "Gonorrhea". I told him I think he needed to do a little more brainstorming.
I try to limit my moving to every two years. I've found that's about my financial and mental limit at each apartment before I get tired of both the complex itself and the raised rent. Last summer was my "move to a new apartment" summer so it felt lost and not well spent. When I wanted to have fun outside or relax or going off to a local beach, I was packing instead. Adding to that, I had a laparoscopy as well as a followup surgery to repair a hernia. What does that add up to? A totally blown summer.
Now that my boyfriend and I are buying a house, it seems like another one of those "lost" summers that I need to make sure doesn't go too far into unpleasant territory. The biggest, nicest difference will be that because we're moving to a house, everything is ours and all the work I'm doing is investing in a place we'll love.
I've been pinteresting for months now (yes, that's a verb) and have a nice collection of ideas for where I'd like to begin with the house. My 3 biggest projects off the bat? Painting the kitchen cupboards white, building a custom entertainment center for the living room, and laying vinyl flooring down in the mudroom/laundry room. Thinking about this house has been my best and worst distraction lately. Having unsolvable medical issues forces you to look for diversions any where you can.
On the bright side for today, my entertainment night will be filled. Our nightly ritual consuming of alcoholic beverages while watching Game of Thrones shall commence. I've been seeing internet-bitchings lately about how the creators of the show are horrible, devil people for changing the story line. At first I was annoyed with the thought of it. Now? Not so much. I view them as separate ways of telling how the story is going/could go. And it's a pleasant thought to know that no bookie can spoil any details for me because they don't know how the show will play out either!
This is a space separate of my house blog. Here is where you'll find a little bit of everything. I'll try to avoid vapid posts - but no promises.