Is Grandma going to die?
Yeah, but what day?
They don't know.
The doctors can't tell you that?
A million moons ago, sometime in July, began the influx of house guests. They came to party primarily, and say hello, and for my mom there was also the added benefit of a high school reunion. At some point in this initial seizure of good times, my grandmother was hospitalized for dehydration.
I suppose no one ever foresees this kinda thing, but in that bout of institutionalization came MRSA. Followed by organ failure. The day my mother was to drive west for a few days of wine and old yearbook hilarity, we had a conversation in my kitchen about DNR's where I suddenly found the following words leaving my mouth, as though my lips were possessed by their own small wee brain:
I know all situations and doctors are different, but when we were at Children's . . . . . There's a lot of gray area in there between "yes" and "no." You can give them a half-assed answer, there's a lot of wiggle room . . . .
Under what circumstances does a daughter tell her mother these things?
For a while, grandma was "stable." And anyone with time clocked in the NICU knows "stable" simply means "not plummeting in a death spiral at the moment." It does not mean "good," or even "better." She wasn't eating. She recognized a vase from her china set when I brought in flowers. Me not so much. Because of the infection, we all had to suit up, and I had to wear gloves just to touch her.
There is no comfort in latex.
After stabilization came a stint at the nursing home, and decisions were made about hospice. There was no time line, but it was understood that she was seriously compromised and the next step -- whether in days, weeks, or even months; whether a small stumble or a flying headfirst leap -- would be her last. Plans were made to dislodge the house guests.
And then hospice called: we could expect only days. Flights were changed; my brother madly hopped on a red-eye.
And after dinner on Monday I drove out to the nursing home to say goodbye.
Did you touch her?
I touched her hair. It was so soft. She's not in pain, she's very peaceful. She didn't talk. She looked like she was sleeping. I told her you loved her.
It was deja vu all over again, sitting in a dark nursing home room, listening to her shallow, long breaths. Her eyes were closed, she may well have been sleeping, and I sat not knowing what to say. Again. A life so short, I couldn't possibly cram everything in versus a life so long I couldn't possibly cram everything in. I left it at I love you. Awkwardly hunched over a bed, this time with no suiting up but strict instructions to wash my hands very well afterwards. Some things never change.
My brother's plane touched down at 8:19 a.m the following morning; Grandma died at 8:00 a.m.
Bella, Grandma died.
Oh. Will we bury her?
Can I help?
Pieces of conversations slammed me: "We're going to the funeral home. I have no idea how long it will be; I don't know what they do there." I do. But I decided not to regale them -- they'd find out soon enough.
The funeral director offered to include ashes in the casket, and apparently there was a whispered conversation between my aunt and Mr. ABF about Maddy's remains. We were touched, but opted no. Grandma will be buried at her church, where she's been a member for 40+ years -- a move I couldn't argue was more perfect for her. It is not perfect for us.
The burial was Friday, a private affair, just immediate family plus one family who will not be there for the memorial service next week. Plus since my dad can't lift, we needed another pallbearer. We stood in the hot noontime sun, my aunt, my mother, and I wearing grandma's jewelry we had laid claim to the day before while sorting through her apartment. We went to a brew pub afterwards and drank and ate. And that evening, we all dissolved in tears.
Can we visit Grandma?
Next week at the memorial we will. And later this fall we'll plant flowers, ok?
It has been an incredibly long month. We've had uninterrupted house guests since July 29, and more are on the way this week. I have been in constant motion since July 27 or so, always planning the next 48 hours. I am exhausted.
For Bella's birthday my father gave her a fish tank, and since that fateful day, we've been through (I am not making this up) 8 fish. We finally realized the primary goldfish we bought was aggressively trying to make meals out of his/her compatriots, and then sadly the last partner we brought in brought disease with. Before the major cemetery ceremony, we had a few in the back yard. Until that got old.
Do you want to bury Lily in the yard or flush her so she goes back into the water?
Flush her. I'll do it.
Poor kid has overseen 9 burials in the past four weeks. The silver lining is that although there have been tears, there has been only honestly, no mincing of words, no euphemisms. No hiding, no secrets, no lying. No finding a babysitter. She has asked great questions, she understands perfectly that we will never see grandma again.
Mom, can you get another grandma if yours dies?
No love. No you can't.
Sadly, I know exactly where she's going with this.