Wednesday, October 21, 2015
I’ve never spent the night in a nursing home. Tonight will be a first. It is my understanding that this facility is called a “Rehabilitation Center,” but it has every characteristic of a nursing home.
Possibly, that’s just a new name given to take away the icky stigma attached to the title, “nursing home …”
Considering the outside surroundings of this location, (barred doors and windows on the small, rundown houses; railroad tracks and no one of my same skin color driving in the passing cars,) the actual facility is surprisingly quite nice and impressive. It is very clean, well decorated and smells good; which is exceptional considering the amount of elderly people here. Not what I expected.
The nursing staff have all been pleasant, and several have accents; making me wonder what their stories are … like where they are originally from and how they ended up here. (One lady just came in and said, “Oh, The Book of Hebrews,” which is what I had Granny’s Bible open to. I told her we just read James, and she said, “Yes, be careful of the tongue.” So, I asked where she was from with her beautiful accent. With a sweet smile, she said, “Costa Rica.“)
I don’t know her name, but I like her.
The background noises here are teachers; enlightening me to a hidden side of life, one that many have not, and may not ever know. It is hard to explain … One part of me feels peace, like the harsh, yet beautiful reality of life, REAL life, is being played for me in slow motion. The speed of everything here in this world is unhurried. It’s not scary, but it is enough unfamiliar stimulation to make me want to sit, look and listen more than talk or do anything.
I can hear gospel music playing, I think from the room next door, or possibly two down. I’m quite certain it is Alan Jackson’s voice singing, “Oh How I Love You,” “Amazing Grace,” and a few other songs.
I don’t literally know Alan, but considering my circumstances; other than Granny, he is the only familiar person accompanying me … and Granny’s asleep … so it’s just me and Alan for the time being. Therefore, I’m really glad he’s here.
The music/songs seem to be on repeat, and I don’t mind at all. I think if I’m ever in such a shape as some of the patients here, I hope someone will play this same CD for me … over and over. I think it helps as a diversion noise, a balance of sorts, to the noisy train blaring outside and the person down the hall who is coughing and choking.
Anyway, I really didn’t think anything of the oddity of me being here with Granny. I suppose to some it may be a bit perplexing, it’s just not to me. Several times over the last two weeks I’ve been asked, “And who are you?” or “Are you a relative?”
Granny has been asked numerous times who I am too. Tonight, the first time she said, “This is my granddaughter-in-law.” Then the second time she said, “She’s my granddaughter.”
I’m not sure if my rank escalated or if it just sounded like an easier explanation. Not to mention, in the big scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter who I am.
The truth is, I have two biological Grandmothers, and being here is somehow helping me to feel I am with both of them in some new way … or they are with me. Either way, I like it, because I miss them terribly. It has been seventeen years since I last had access to an earthly biological Grandmother, and about thirty since the other one. I called one of them Nanny, and the other one Nannie B. They both took great pleasure in their Grandmother roles and did exceptional jobs. By the age of 25, I became grand-parentless, when I was four months pregnant with her third great-grandbaby. A stroke was to blame, but then again, for whatever reason, it was just time for her to go I guess. As far as Grandfathers, I never knew my Daddy’s Dad because he died before he became a Grandparent … but I think he would have been a really cool Grandfather. And my Mom’s Dad died when I was 6.
At any rate, “Granny” is my only Grandparent here on this earth.
I had been married for five years at the time of my last Grandparent’s death, and my husband, who is six years older than me, had ALL FOUR biological, healthy grandparents.
For whatever reason, I connected with his paternal grandmother, “Granny.” Most likely because she made sure she was connected with us, just like Grannies are supposed to do. I’m certain there was and is no limit regarding what this woman will or would ever do for her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or anyone else.
In 2000, I was the mastermind to what I considered a grand plan … To purchase a house and move Granny and PaPa in with us.
Several questioned me and why I would want to do such a thing, especially since I was the sole income of our family, as my husband (Granny’s ‘pride and joy grandson,’) was a full time college student and my business wasn’t exactly profitable. But it’s what I felt had been heavily laid upon my heart and I was determined to make it happen.
It did happen, and to this day I have no regrets. I absolutely loved having Grandparents and that my children grew up understanding that family takes care of family (as long as everyone is capable of give and take teamwork, which we all were.) At the time, my/our children were 2 and 6 … Now one is a junior in high school and the oldest is a junior in college. A testament to how “time flies.” Another trivial fact with little to no importance, was that I turned 28 the same year Granny turned 82. I thought that was magical in some way. Our numbers reversed and our birthdays only one day apart; Mine, June 11, and hers, June 12 …
However, after six years, events unrelated to Granny and PaPa had surfaced beyond a place of being pushed aside any longer. My marriage to their grandson ended in 2007.
Though the house was in my name, and had been what I called, “my dream house,” (not because it was so fancy, it just sat on a tree covered hill and carried a look of ‘home’ in my eyes,) I did not hesitate to say I would be the one to move out and he could have our house. Not because I wanted him to, or I didn’t want it, but because I know blood is thicker than water. No matter how much I loved Granny and PaPa, the truth was, I was not their grandchild and he was … and they were around 90 years old. Not an easy time to uproot a person if at all avoidable.
Sadly, for me, things changed after the divorce, though that’s to be expected. Still, I wish I could have kept the Grandparents in the way it had been. It was a sad loss.
Over the years, some members of his extended family have not been very warm and welcoming, to say the least. In spite of the circumstances leading up to the divorce, I was/am still viewed as “the bad guy.”
There was somewhat of a change in Granny from when I was married to her grandson, but I felt there was always still a connection.
Enough of that, we are in the here and now … not in the back then … Plus, that makes me feel yucko.
Anyway, two weeks ago last Monday, Granny, (at the age of 96 and sharper than people my age,) fell and broke her hip, requiring surgery the next day.
Upon receiving the text from my now ex-husband/father of my children, I opted to cancel my work day and go get my youngest from school. Not to be negative, but considering how much she treasures her Great-Granny … who is now 96, and about to undergo a surgical procedure, I felt it was imperative.
PaPa (her husband who passed away a few years ago) would flip his lid at the thought of Granny being hurt and alone at night in that hospital. It was as though I could feel what his earthly reaction would be, even though I know his heavenly one would not. He, like me, had a lot of anxiety … AND he had it bad for Granny.
After feeling awkward, due to the fact that I am actually an “ex,” I still called Granny’s daughter and asked permission to go spend the night with Granny … which is what I did every night that week, with the exception of Tuesday.
Even when they lived in my/our house, if there was a reason for concern, I always slept on their side, or insisted my husband would. Somehow, even after divorce, that same force lies within me.
Now, it is two weeks and one day since the fall. This morning, an x-ray showed pneumonia in Granny’s lungs. I packed my pillow, blanket, tooth brush/toothpaste and headed to Granny’s “Rehab Place” for a slumber party sleepover, just because I felt like I should …
I said, “It’s sleepover/party time!”
When I arrived, she smiled … and that was enough for me.
Aunt Shirley left and Granny and I settled in for the night.
I don’t think I have ever read the Bible out loud to anyone.
Tonight I did.
Granny chose the Book of James. This woman knows the Bible, and that’s putting it mildly. I kind of felt like a child reading out loud in front of the teacher. Even stumbling on how to pronounce words like, Rahab and harlot. (For the record, Granny explained that Rahab was a prostitute (AKA: harlot) who hid people and got them to safety … or something like that. The point is, though Rahab was a prostitute, her heart and her works were what were most important. There was more to her than her way of life.)
Near the end, I asked how to pronounce another word, but Granny (GP,) didn’t answer. Her bedtime Bible story had drifted into her sleep, just like a child. I continued reading out loud, just in case …
It was a surreal time for me. No one else, just me. And I’m okay with that. Possibly, that moment will be one of those “tattoo moments,” as I call them. Time will tell …
I can’t help but wonder about how this all happens. How do we age to the point of being in an unfamiliar place and virtually helpless, hoping these stranger/caretakers will act lovingly to one they do not owe love?
As I’m writing in the dark, I hear the lady in the next room say to her nurse, “But I don’t want to be in here alone … by myself.” *tears*
On the sweet side of that sad audible moment, the Costa Rica accent nurse/aid could also be heard, “Well baby, we all have to help the others too. Okay?”
Then, before leaving her room, I heard the nurse say, “I love you.”
And the voice of the sad patient who thought she needed to go to work and didn’t want to be left alone, responded, “I love you too.”
All of a sudden, all was well …
How do some have loved ones who visit, and others live day in and day out alone? Possibly not to the fault of anyone, because it’s highly likely they have outlived their loved ones.
And how is it that I am sitting in this chair beside the bed of my ex-husband’s grandmother … as though I belong here?
Maybe I don’t belong here … but this woman has given all of herself to others, her entire life … and maybe she is fine to be alone tonight … I just don’t want her to feel aloneness. In that light, my heart, hope and actions are ones of selflessness; like what we read tonight in James. During that part, Granny and I talked about the point being made … how people will see a need and even voice it; yet, DO nothing about it. She said, “That’s bad and will get you in trouble.”
But possibly, my acts and heart are selfish? What if I just need to be with a Grandmother because they always make life seem okay and better?
Either way, I’m glad I’m here; learning about life, more little pieces about Granny, and even a few hidden insights to myself. Like, how I could not imagine wanting the door open all night; hearing people yell and choke, along with beeping noises, lights and talking nurses … but, for some reason, Granny really likes and wants the door open. She was like that in the hospital too. Therefore, somehow her want overrides and disintegrates my opinion, troubling me none.
Even though all I did was sit in a recliner all night, read out loud, gave her a sip of water here and there, and talked when she couldn’t sleep … When I left this morning, she said she was glad I was there. I hope I remember all of this when/if I’m ever a Grandmother, a Great-Grandmother … a Grandmother-in-law … or even an ex-Grandmother-in-law. :)
My youngest daughter says, “Mom, Granny is one of my very best friends. I can tell her anything and she will always listen to me.”
I respond, “Me too baby… me too.”
Tears of joy and pain
Posted by Kasi M. Bryon at 11:51 AM