Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dying is hard...

Anyone who has read my blog for long enough knows I love and adore my grandparents and have been lucky to have them as such a big role in my life. If you know that then you know about my grandmother's battles with heart issues and breast cancer and likely also know that my grandfather has been through a lot in the last decade between cancer and a plethora of other things. I haven't talked in detail about it more than saying he's getting worse in the last several months.

Basically, he's not doing well at all. He doesn't remember where he is most of the time. He hallucinates a lot, seeing and hearing a lot that isn't there. He's got a lot of issues going on that I just feel are too private to get into but his health has deteriorated a lot over the past few months. Last week, after a trip to the hospital after a series of seizures, the doctor told us his body was just starting to shut down. Renal failure, fluid slowly building up in his lungs and some other things. They say anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks is probably all he has left. I know a lot of people will say he'll go when he's ready but I think he's afraid of leaving my grandmother alone. When he remembers who she is, that is. Alzheimer's is a bitch. I don't know why he hasn't gone yet but I know he's not going to win this battle much longer.

It's hard to think of him in his current state. I've seen him sick and in a hospital so many times and so many times he's beat out what was trying to take over. He's not doing that now and I know it's because he's old. Hell, he's not too far from 90. And honestly, I feel lucky he's lived passed so many things and been here for as long as he has.

I know I'm lucky. And as I always say, I know I'm lucky that he's been around and been an active part of my life. I know to think about good times, blah blah blah. Like I also so, I'm allowed to be sad and remembering all the happy times doesn't always make it hurt any less. Sometimes, it does the opposite.

I have great memories of him, though. Any time my grandma was going to get on to us for something, as long as it wasn't something bad, he usually just told her to let us alone because we were just being kids. He would sit outside and watch us climb trees, help us out when we needed it. Push us in swings. Watch us play basketball and sometimes even do that with us. He was always there with a sharp comment that made me laugh or something insightful that maybe didn't always make sense at the time but always sunk in later. I'll always remember when he said The Boyfriend needed a haircut and to get and keep a good job otherwise he wasn't good enough for me. I remember it didn't take long after that for him to tell The Boyfriend that he didn't worry about me being with him because he knew that he would always watch out for me. My grandpa doesn't think I need protecting or someone to take care of me but he didn't want me to have a man that was going to try to take advantage of me in any way either. Plus, he's just old fashioned that way.

Grandpa didn't often say a lot, though when he got in the mood to talk he was always funny and sharp witted. He had a way of being brutally honest that I always admired and I think in part that's where I learned to be that way from. He didn't say things just to be mean, he said them because that's the way he saw something and why beat around the bush about it?

It's hard to think of him as I always have and see him as he is now. The contrast in the two realities is hard because one is how he was and one is how he is now. Sometimes, sickness and disease wear a person down until they're just a shadow of the person they used to be. That hurts. It feels like you've had that person taken away from you when they're still there physically. I've wondered lately, while he's in the final stages of his Alzheimer's, how that must feel. He's lived in the same house since my mom was a child. How must it feel to sometimes not recognize those things that were once so familiar? To lose parts of yourself piece by piece. To start acting in ways you never have before and then not remember it happening. There's so much to it and honestly, I hope I never know how any of that feels. I would hate to lose myself and my life piece by piece, remembering it in waves until eventually there's more nothing than anything else.

I feel bad for my grandmother, too. It has to hurt more for her to go through this with him every single day. And like I said, there's a lot of stuff I'm leaving out because it's personal and doesn't belong here. Or anywhere besides in words spoken between my family and thoughts that aren't spoken of again. I know it's been hard and at times scary for her. I also know it's going to be hard for her to part with someone she's spent the last 6 decades with. She's been in denial for so many months now, just thinking more tests and more treatments can fix it. My mom told me grandma told her the other night that she's accepting it or at least trying to but it's hard to wrap her mind around the fact that he's not going to be here much longer.

Last year, I was at that place where I felt selfish for wanting him to get better so we all could have him around longer and then felt a little cold for just hoping he'd pass soon so he could stop hurting. Right now? The way he's living isn't how anyone should have to live. Life isn't fair, though. So all I hope for is that he'll pass soon.

Every time my mom sends me a text or I see her name pop up on my caller ID, I just feel a knot tighten in my stomach and I always hold my breath for a few seconds. I don't even tend to realize I'm doing it until I exhale. Even though I want him to pass, I'm still not really ready for it. I think even when you know it's coming, you still can't ever get ready for it. You can accept that it's going to happen and accept that it will be sometime soon but there's not a way to get ready for it. It's not like going on a trip or planning for some event that you can control more.

I have promised myself one thing. That after he does die, I won't drive myself crazy thinking of all the times I could have visited or called when I didn't. I could think of a hundred instances where I could have done more or said more but I will not let guilt or anger for what I didn't do get to me. I have done that before and it just makes it hurt worse. So, I promise myself I'm not going to do that with him.
I think at the end, no matter how much time you spent, you'll always feel like it was never enough and you can't let that eat away at you. You can't make up lost time but you can make sure they know what they mean and how you feel about them.


the late phoenix said...

thanks for this post

i've been dealing with some heavy family stuff as well, so i feel ya

thoughts, prayers, and best wishes

yep, alzheimer's is the cruelest of the cruel, huh?

Anonymous said...

I joke about many things. Alzheimer's & Breast Cancer are not among them. Hugs to you chica.

Sounds like overall, your Grandpa had a decent life caring and loving those in his family.

Keep his memory alive with the good that he has done. That is the best way to honor him.

This Joker sends all good thoughts and prayers your way! Be strong. Keep the faith!

Alfro said...

Good thoughts and Prayers to you and your family...