She's had a series of strokes which are probably why her left side failed her. They aren't blood pressure related, her blood is just prone to clotting and when they dislodge and head for her brain she gets to be a little more swiss cheese every day. The only drug that can possibly help is so problematic itself that it is probably going to do more harm than good in her present state. This last set of strokes is causing her to have trouble swallowing.
They are trying to figure out if they put a feeding tube in with the hope that the dementia drug that has been making a gigantic difference for her will help her rebound to anything close to the way she was a week ago, or if they give up hope that she will rebound and just move her to hospice care and let her die in a few days.
I personally think, either way, that one of the strokes is going to do her in before long if she doesn't give up on her own. I've known she was headed down hill for a while, but it's still never fun to be losing someone you care about. It's made even less so by my mother and her sister and their mutual shenannigans with one another, for which they try to draw in the rest of everyone they know.
She's almost 90 years old. She's had a good life. It is just her time.
We went up there to see her. When we got there, there was a hollow skeleton slumped in the bed in front of me. By the time we left, she was smiling and had even been talking a little. My visit seemed to really help her.
She seemed to really be helped and anchored by holding my hand of all things. She kept running her thumb along the bones of my hand. This tiny motion reminded me of all the years that I had migrains that were undiagnosed. She would get me washcloths and rub my head and stroke my hair for hours while I cried and eventually took care of me while I threw up from them. Only now she's the one in pain.
She's completely blind in one eye, she's almost deaf, she bruises just to touch her in ways that wouldn't harm even an infant. And even when she is listening and talking you can see in her one functional eye that she is swimming through molasses to hold on to what is going on in the room at all.
She was always so worried about being beautiful in life. At almost 90 years old I think her skin on her face is probably softer than mine now. It is hard to see her without her hair done or makeup on that she cared so much about, fading a little more on and on.
It is amazing to me how memories work. I loved my grandmother, but I could not tell you that she was always a nice person. Sometimes she was downright mean, though I think half of her stubborn streak came from learning to live with my grandfather without going insane. She's always been a little onrey and a little cranky. But when she cared about you, she cared with a certain ferocity that is hard to explain.
My mother has believed for years that my aunt and her two children were everyone's favorite in her justification of disliking her sister. But I really believe that I was the only one of their grandchildren that they ever were absorbed with and mesmerized by. I was the first grandbaby and there was a long dry spell between me and any other children in my mother or aunt's lives. They had several years to dote on me with everything they had.
Sometimes I think it made my mother's hatred of me worse that my grandmother would stick up for me when she was pissed at me about something. But it did show me that it was possible to resist her in some fashion, even so.
I know that she probably wasn't a very good mother to my mother and her sister. I know her marriage suffered various strains over the years, that she probably never really wanted children of her own and that she threw herself into avoiding the raising of them with a passion.
But there are other better memories too.
Smells can be the strongest form of memory sometimes. The things that are the strongest are the smell of antique lipstick she would let me try on and the face powder she used for years and years. I spent so much time that we were together curled up crying in her lap from migrain pain that those two smells linger still in my memories above all else. I also remember the smell of the old in wall bathroom heaters coming on for the first time in a year when we visited. I remember the smell of the dusty curtains in the house. I remember the smell of breakfast in the morning at their house.
There are images too. There are the images of the small ways that she cared about beauty. She kept marbles in water to grow her plants on window sills and silly little china statues. She loved her irises and violets above all else. She would spend hundreds of hours on them, always growing more ellaborate and unusual varieties than last time, every time I saw her.
This grandmother has outlived her husband by some 10+ years at this point. And she was 5 years older than he was to begin with. My only regret is that someone didn't get her into a group home of some kind much earlier. She spent a couple of weeks in one when she got here, before her fall and she adored having the other women to interact with and talk to. She has spent most of that ten years very much alone for fear of change.
At first no one wanted to interfere because she was so stubborn and set in her ways. No one wanted to foot the bill or run through their inherritance before they had to. Then at some point my mother and her sister felt like they would be abandoning her to a home if they put her in one. My aunt kept her in her home for a while, but again, she had no peers to interact with there and her daughter, my aunt was more than a little frustrated with a variety of things a home could have handled much more effectively.
It is hard sometimes to remember that it is important to push past fears and your own guilt and do what is really right, not what you feel obligated to do or hope you don't have to do sometimes. But that is something my mother and her sister have never been very good at.
As I was leaving this evening, my mother said she was glad we'd come because she rallied for me and ate dinner successfully again. She started crying when she said she'd given up on her being able to do any such things at all.
The saddest part of the whole thing is that my mother and her sister are so broken that their children trust them so little that even as I watched her cry, I couldn't reach out to give her a hug, for fear of the vulnerability anywhere near her. I can only imagine how alone they both feel in all this.
Don't forget the people you care about because it is hard. Don't ostracize them because of petty fears and jealousy. Some day they may be all you have and you may find yourself very alone when you very much wish you had support.