12 October 2010

KtMac Confessions: The Autumn of Her Life

It is a goregous autumn day here in Chicago.  Outside my window, I can see a sliver of the clear, brilliant blue sky.  The sunshine on the overgrown grass.  The wind rustling the leaves.  The window is cracked open for some crisp fall air.  I am productive.  I am loved.  I am content.

But it doesn't mean there hasn't been some tough stuff going on.  Just like in any life -- there's more than meets the eye.

My grandma keeps slipping further and further into senility every day.  She is slipping into the autumn of her life.  It breaks my heart to hear her sound so confused.  When I was home for her birthday a few weeks ago, she had to take medication for shingles.  She remembered she needed to do something at 7:30, but she couldn't tell the time correctly.  At 7:20, she said, "Oh, I have twenty minutes still."  At 7:35, "Oh, five more minutes.."  And then when I told her to go take her medication, she got confused all over again. 

She sees "visitors" in her house.  She can't follow conversations.  And now, she interrupts conversations with statements out of left field, such as "Dolly Parton gave a small show for us at the store this morning."  She can't remember names of everyone in her life, but she remembers those who are nice to her.  She responds best to my Mom...and second best to me.  I know the day will come when I call her and she doesn't remember who I am.  I know it.  I am prepared for it.  In fact, every time that Grandma still remembers who I am, I count it as a blessing.  But it still hurts.  And it makes me sad.

But moving Grandma into my parents' house as planned this fall (after my youngest bro went off to college) has been a bit delayed.  Because my Aunt found herself in financial troubles and has moved into my parents' basement for a year.

So my parents are reworking their floor plan to find a way to accommodate both my grandma and my aunt and still give them all the privacy they deserve (and still keep a few places available for us kids to sleep when we come home).  And they are still slowly trying to talk Grandma into the idea of living with them.  See....Grandma knows she shouldn't be living alone anymore.  But, as with most elderly people, she's reluctant to give up her independence.  Even if she knows it's the right thing.

Which means, in addition to reworking floor plans to accommodate several adults and maintain some amount of privacy, my parents are trying to find a way to allow all of them to live with dignity, respect, and hope through these tough times.  As the oldest, and as the closest to my parents, I hear their thoughts and feelings about it all on a regular basis.  But even though I now live closer to home, I'm still too far away to do much more than offer a listening ear and a readiness to come home some weekends to relieve my parents after Grandma moves in. 

However, I just wouldn't be the KtMac I am today if I couldn't see a tiny silver lining in all of this.

My brothers and I are now seeing in action what our parents have preached all our lives.  Family first.  My parents always told us, "There's always room for you to come home if you need help.  There's nothing we won't help you with.  Make sure you are always there for each other.  Family first.  Family last."  And while we can hear it and know it, it's very different seeing it and living it.

And that knowledge shines so brightly, it helps drive away some of the shadows of sadness and despair in this situation.  Even amongst all the heartbreak, I really do feel some hope and I do see the beauty of the autumn of my Grandma's life.


Katerina said...

I just went through this recently myself - not anything I would wish upon anyone, but it's nice that your family is close and you can support each other through this.

KT Mac said...

Kat - so true. It sucks, but it's also a great reminder of how precious loved ones are and to not take a day for granted. But it's also good to know there's others out there who have gone through the same things.