Taking care of the elderly is like trying to maintain an antique car. No matter how much TLC you give them…. eventually they are going to give out. My mom once told me that.
I grew up in a nursing home. My living room was where the elderly patients sat and watched TV. They used my bathroom, ate in our dining room and often even celebrated Christmas with us. You get the diea.
There are times in my life when I realize that I have to step back from the family drama and just let things happen.
I’m not sure whether this is such a moment, but my hunch is it might be.
My paternal grandmother isn’t doing so well. She’s 93 and living with my uncle in Santa Cruz, California. My uncle takes superb care of her and he also makes sure she gets to go out and see plays, go for walks and attends classical concerts (so much that many of the professional instrumentalists in Santa Cruz know my grandma by name).
He also takes her to the church where my grandma gets to visit with an Indian lady about grandma’s age. The two women have known each other for many years since both their husbands worked and traveled together. Grandma’s eyes just sparkle when she sees her girlfriend at the church. They will just sit there and hold hands during all the service.
Uncle’s love, dedication and unselfishness astounds me and makes me respect him all the more.
I add here that Grandma Hartman is my soul mate, one of a very few in my life. It will be very hard to loose her.
But grandma is old. It’s as simple as that. And I’m sorry if this sounds cold but, taking care of the elderly is like maintaining an old car– it’s mostly guesswork, it requires a lot of TLC and no matter how much you take care of it, the car will give out eventually.
Well my uncle (and my aunt) now is faced with having to plan what to do when Grandma dies.For the first time he has found out all the numbers he will need to call My dad, who wants to imagine her healthy, wants nothing to do with making funeral arrangements. And my guess, although it breaks my heart, is that he won’t be able to visit her in the state she is in. It would break his fragile heart.
Oh dad that I could be your strength, but I can’t.It was all I could do, with strength granted to me from God alone, to help heal the hurt that has built up between my father and his siblings. I fear that there is nothing I can do to stop that from happening again when grandma dies. Their sorrow will be so strong that they will lash out and re-open those freshly closed wounds. And I will not be able to mourn at the funeral because I will be doing everything I can to keep things at peace. But to honor Grandma, that is what I will do.
I force back the tears even as I write.
Grandma has asked “uncle” to let her die at home. I don’t think he quite knows how his house will haunt him when she’s gone but that’s something one can only understand after they’ve had someone die in their house.
So here’s my decision.
I can’t fix the issues that have been built over yearsand years between the siblings no matter how much I know they love each other, I don’t think it will be enough.
I can’t make my father run to grandma’s side. It has to be his choice. And I understand why he can’t because I’m not good at goodbyes either. I also know that he’s had to attend the funeral of every elderly person we had at our nursing home and that with each funeral it drove all of us a little madder. Perhaps that is why I revel in my youth so extremely–to fight the inevitable.
So I’m letting it go. Writing this entry has been healing. I see now that anything else would be futile. I can only be there for those I love and that is what I am now determined to do.