Tuesday, January 15, 2008

When she's no longer your grandma...


If you've had a grandparent around for some of your life, you probably have memories with them. Things they said and did, places you remember going with them etc. For example, one of the first movies I ever saw in the theater was "Back the the Future" and my Grandma took me. It was great fun, because I was pretty little then and to be in a place where the actor (Michael J. Fox) said "s**t" was a pretty big deal (hey, give me a break, I was like 8 years old.)
Anyway, that's one place I remember going with her. That's not my only memory of course, but one that comes to mind. We spent many a Christmas Eve at her house - I knew her. The way she laughed and talked and walked.
My brother is 6 years younger than I am, and when he was a toddler, I remember how she was with him. One time, she watched us when my mom and dad were on vacation. I remember how she complained that we were bed hogs - and there was no where for her on the bed to sleep. She fixed the best toast - I guess it was the kind of bread she used - Silver Cup. But, it was the best.
This past May, my grandma suffered a pretty severe stroke. By the time she was transported to the hospital, a considerable amount of time has passed and much of her brain was non-functioning. But, we kept hope, and she came to a couple of days later.
I went to visit, of course. And, I was a little shocked by what I experienced. She was/is really no longer my grandma - or atleast the grandma I knew. She was a shell of a person. She couldn't talk. She couldn't really move because her whole right side was not usuable. She couldn't eat - so they had to put in a feeding tube. I talked to her, but stroke victims sometimes lose their ability to even understand language - not just the ability to talk. So, she would look blankly at you when you spoke - and she had zero attention span and many times if you would massage her hands, she would immediately go to sleep. She showed no signs that she knew who we were - she looked at the hospital staff the same way she looked at family memebers.
The most difficult part about the whole thing is that sometimes, she seems like she knows us - there's a little glimmer of the person she used to be. Before she was moved to the nursing home, she was swallowing applesauce and they were moving her around - trying to do rehab. Did she deteriorate to this state because there wasn't enough time spent on her? She still watches and laughs at Animal Planet, but it's hard to believe it's just not a reflex.
It worries me that she's in there somewhere - that she knows that she can't swallow (and just imagine if you couldn't swallow, EVER) she's uncomfortable because it's hard for her to move - impossible to turn over, she knows she's wearing a diaper, she's lonely on the days no one comes to visit, she misses being able to have a cheeseburger, - but she just can't tell us.

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