Friday, May 1, 2009

Fasten Your Seat Belt...

...there's a lot on my mind! So I'm just going to start motor-mouthing.

I'm back from Virginia, obviously. It was a very long and emotional week, but such a good one too. I was expecting Grandmother to die almost any day, but she is such a fighter and is STILL going strong. The woman is amazing, y'all. She's 94 and up until this episode, she was only on a multivitamin and steroid for Addison's Disease. That's IT. She doesn't need glasses and her hearing is perfect. In fact, she kept telling me, "Stop shouting, I'm not deaf." And when I read poetry to her (which was often), she had to keep repeating, "Slow down. You read too fast." (Apparently the Midwest has rubbed off on me and now I talk TOO fast for my Southern relatives.)

It was such an honor for me to be there to care for Grandmother, even if she was more interested in the men who took care of her like my uncles, cousin and brother-in-law. My aunt and I slaved over her, yet she kept telling us how strong and wonderfuly my cousin is. It can tick you off, until you realize it is so in-character for her. She's never enjoyed women much, and really LOVES men.

And finally, in just one week, I think I came to a place of understanding and mutual respect for Grandmother. Growing up, I kind of feared her because she isn't the fluffy, soft grandmotherly type. I was taught to have a large amount of respect for her and mostly just stay out of her way. Now the older I get, the more I respect her out of love, not just deference. Last week was the best time I've ever spent with her. We talked about her parents, her brothers, her husbands (all FOUR of them), and how much she misses my dad and brother. We watched TV, I combed her hair and scratched her back and rubbed lotion all over her. I fed her ice chips and ran straight to the store when she requested a beer. When she needed a tissue, I jumped to get it for her. She yelled at me a bit and told me to "lay off the brownies." Oh, and, "Never eat bread. It makes you fat." I got to read poetry to her and learned that "Ode to a Nightingale" by Keats is her favorite poem. Her mind is sharp and doesn't miss much. She was still reciting entire poems and quotes that she learned decades ago. After sitting beside her for an entire week, I felt truly integrated into her life. Putting someone else's needs above yours is exhausting, but so gratifying too. Being the caregiver for someone does something to your soul. It makes you feel like an extension of God's love. I hope Grandmother felt His love and mine throughout the week. I honestly feel like she did, because our goodbye was one of the most emotional I've ever experienced with anyone. After having three of my four family members die, I've learned to say "it" regardless of how inappropriate it might feel. So when I said goodbye to her, knowing it was the last time I'd see her, I made sure that she knows without a doubt how much I love her. I looked straight into her eyes, told her I respect her and care for her so very much, and thanked her for being the woman she has been. I thanked her for being an example for me, and for the son she raised who in turn raised me. She and I were both aching as I turned to leave, but I walked out of that room with no regrets. I am so thankful that I was given such a gift last week.

So this week has been a little overwhelming in other ways. It started with my return flight back to Missouri, which was a nightmare. I won't go into detail (I already wrote a four page complaint letter to American Airlines), but suffice it to say I was exhausted when I returned. Dan was too, after being the only line of defense for an entire week. We've both been scrambling to make up for the previous week: work at his office, laundry at home, To Do Lists, groceries, emails, and I haven't even blogged about anything in depth! And to make it all worse? We're leaving for another trip and are trying to get things in place for that. To be honest, I've not really let myself think much about this trip because I keep expecting to get a call that Grandmother has died and we will have to cancel our trip. But so far, Grandmother has been a champ and today I finally feel hopeful enough to start packing and planning. Nothing like waiting 'til the last minute!

Lastly, I had to share some photos I took today of my Katie girl. I saw this crinoline tutu at the mall, and had to buy it for her. I gave it to her when she got home from school, and she immediately put it on and danced around in it. I asked if we could have a little photo shoot while Jackson napped, and she obliged. Here are the photos I took. Isn't she marvelous?


Charity said...

Gorgeous photos of Katie! Your camera is great!

How very fortunate that you spent that precious time with your grandmother. I'm glad she is still sharp. My thoughts and prayers are with everybody.

Robin said...

Amazing post, I am so touched. Please know that by suffering your losses, you have been brought to a place where people like me can learn from you.

The pics with the mirror are so neat (really better than neat, I need a thesaurus this morning).

scrappysue said...

gorgeous photos elizabeth! sounds like you need this holiday. is it to somwehere fabulous?

Lynnie said...

Those are great pictures! Very imaginative. And I'm glad you got to spend that time with your grandmother. That's so interesting and sad and powerful that you said you know how to say goodbye even if it feels inappropriate. That's a time when so many of us get "stuck" not knowing what to do and regretting it later.

scrappysue said...

4 husbands, and don't eat bread? what a woman :)


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