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.   

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