Thursday, October 24, 2013

Long Month

Part 2

Early Monday morning Grandma had started suffering from severe stomach pain and shortness of breath. The EMTs were called and she was taken to a nearby hospital.  By the time I made it to the hospital Monday afternoon, they had just decided that Grandma would be having surgery that evening.  She was suffering from a very large hiatal hernia.  So, Dad, his fiancĂ©, and I waited while Grandma was in the OR. When we finally got back to see her it was pretty late. She was sedated and on a ventilator.   If you have never seen a loved one in that condition, let me assure you, it is rough.  At one point she woke up and was very wide eyed and scared. 

Grandma had the vent in until Wed afternoon. It was heartbreaking. Most of the time she was sedated, but every now and then they would put her on “sedation vacation”, turn the vent down, and see if how well she could breathe on her own.  During those times she was conscious, she would desperately try to talk to me.  She tried using her hands to get points across, but she was wearing these huge clumsy mittens to prevent her from pulling the vent out on her own.  There were times she would be crying and I could do nothing to help her but hold her mittened hand and tell her that she wasn’t alone.  I felt incredibly helpless. 

I stayed in Ohio until Friday morning. Spending my days at the hospital with Grandma and Dad and my nights at my in-laws home, 30 minutes away.  I am so blessed to have the in-laws that I do.  Their home is a place I consider a safe haven. A place I can recharge.  I can go there and be completely at ease.

My husband and I ended up driving back down to visit Grandma Saturday afternoon. My aunt and uncle drove back up from Tennessee as well. After visiting Grandma at the hospital we all went back to the condo to see Irwin. Hospice had just put him on 24 hour watch.  While we were there Irwin’s sister called and he was able to talk to her a bit. I was holding his hand while they spoke to each other and when he told her that he loved her, he reached up and started gently patting my face.  I know he was imagining that I was his baby sister. Maybe it makes me weird, but I can’t express how that made me feel, to be part of such loving moment was very special.  

At that point my uncle said “Well, if he was able to talk to his sister…”  I didn’t even let him finish. I said “YES! We HAVE to let Grandma talk to him!”  I had wanted to have them talk on the phone since she’d gotten off the vent…but I felt that I was “just the granddaughter” and did not have the confidence to suggest it.  (I hate that I am like that)  So, my husband, aunt, cousin, and I went to the hospital to be with Grandma and the others stayed back with Irwin.  I felt that it was important that Grandma had someone on her end while they talked.  They were able to talk for about 5 minutes. And Irwin was more animated than he’d been in a couple of days.  They were able to laugh about the first time they’d met when my grandma was 12 and he was 17 and the train rides they took together 50 years later. They were able to say their last I love you’s and their last goodbyes. Grandma kept telling us that we had given her a gift by making sure they got to talk again.  Again, I am the one who felt like I’d been given a gift to be part of something so intimate.   

That night we stayed with my aunt and uncle at a rented condo next to Irwin’s. We expected a phone call or knock on the door in the middle of the night, but it did not come.  My uncle and I both woke up early the next morning and spent a couple of hours talking.  I’m grateful for that time. My uncle is very special to me and we do not get to see each other often. To have that one on one time meant a lot to me.

After visiting both Irwin and Grandma one last time, we left for home.  The girls and I had to pack because we were heading out to Florida the next day.  I spent a long time debating on whether to go. I felt guilty, but for a variety of reasons, we decided it was the right thing to do.   

It's Been a LONG Month

Part 1:

It’s Been a Long Month

Running…has sort of been on hold.  The AFM 5K on Friday (Sept 20) was canceled due to t-storms. Good call on the organizers, but I was disappointed.  People still got their medals, which was cool. (Of course I felt that I had to earn my medal, so that Monday I went out and did a total of 4 miles.  And my 5K split was 45:54, and I was pleased.  But since then, I’ve only run 4 times, and I have a 5K in just over a week which I am NOT prepared for.  Oh well.)

After the cancellation of the 5K, we went to our friends’ house and had dinner. It’d been far too long since we’d spent time with them and we really enjoyed ourselves. During dinner I was introduced to a brand of wine called Rex-Goliath: Giant 47 Pound Rooster…or as I like to call it “The Giant Cock.”  (I know, not terribly creative)  She’d bought Moscato, which I had JUST tried for the first time a few days before. I LOVE it.  I’m sure I’d be criticized by “real wine connoisseurs” because it is far too sweet.  Well, they can bite me. It’s yummy.  

The following morning my husband did his 10K. His goal was to beat his time from when he was 22 years old.  He honestly did not think he would pull it off.  But he did…by nearly 2 minutes, 54:29.  I was very proud of him.  I have now challenged him to go for 50 minutes.  (yes, sometimes I’m the little devil on the shoulder.)
Jim after 10K walking to get his finishers medal. (I won't lie, he was looking pretty sexy at that point)

That night we went to visit my Grandma and step-Grandpa to celebrate their birthdays. Grandpa Irwin had been fighting prostate cancer for years and I knew that fight was coming to an end. But when we saw him that night I was stunned at how much he’d decline in the past month. He was so frail.  They’d brought in a hospital bed and put it up in their sun room.  When we’d been there just a few weeks before, he’d been sitting in the living room on the couch.  But now he was only leaving the hospital bed to go to the bathroom. 
Grandma was telling me that she was having problems caring for him due to her own health issues.  So that night my family decided that I would come back on Monday and stay the week with them so Grandma wasn’t trying to care for him alone.  And selfishly, it allowed me to spend some more time with him.

By the time I got there on Monday, they had aides coming in to help during most of the day. That was a HUGE help.  It was a rough week, but also a good week.  He was in a lot of pain and at times he was very confused and agitated. Then there would be periods of time when he was sitting up in bed, doing the crossword puzzles and laughing.  We watched Dancing with the Stars together and talked about the news. Sometimes he would get irritated about all the different aides coming in and out of the condo and would rant about that for a while. Or get upset about his medications and lash out a bit.  But the man was in pain and he was scared and dammit, he DESERVED to be able to bitch and complain and holler! I do NOT begrudge him of that at all.  And the fact that he would always apologize later, after the pain subsided, would break my heart.  But, *I* was able to handle that. Grandma was not. *I* knew it was not personal. Grandma would internalize it. It was very sad. I was torn between wanting him to be able to yell at the world and wanting him to stay calm so Grandma wouldn’t get worked up.

The last night I was there was a good night. The three of us stayed up late and he was telling me some stories about the end of World War ll.  Some sad and some funny.  We all ended up laughing before it was time for bed.   As sad as it was, I will always cherish that week and especially that evening. 

The plan was for me to come back the following Monday and stay for a couple of days and then his children would come and take turns helping.  But I got a text early Monday morning from my dad.  Grandma had been taken to the ER.  

The end of week one and start of week two.