Monday, August 22, 2005
Mortality on the Mayflower
Greetings all! I've been gone for about a week and a half, but between traveling across the country, getting lost in a couple different time warps, and facing 3 generations of mortality- it felt like a month....In that week and a half I saw both sides of my extended family, finished my huge project for work, attended my ex-boyfriend's father's funeral, received a new nephew into the world, had a best friend suffer a miscarriage, and went to my 10 year high school reunion. I am at a loss for a complete toll this chain of events has had on me, but let me start with the Mayflower nursing home on the Cape...
I hadn't seen my paternal grandparents in over a year and a half. The last time I saw them Christmas of '03 they were together in an assisted living apartment. My grandfather wasn't doing well, but he never really has. It is amazing how slow and gradual his descent into aging has been. I have feared he would die for the past 10 years, but he has prolonged his life with all the surgeries and 24 hour care he has received. My grandmother was fine but she was losing her memory. She needed her Honduran CNA/assistant who she calls "Angie" to get her in and out of bed, bathe her, dress her, and clean her house.
I walked into the nursing home on August 12th, 2005 to find seated relics eagerly awaiting their beloved families to walk through the door. So many of them have trouble with their memory and they mix up the days they think their children or grandchildren are coming and they are devastated when they don't show up.
My grandparents are of the few couples that actually live at the nursing home. There were tables upon tables of single women widowed or otherwise in the lunchroom. I wonder how they feel when they find out my grandparents don't even stay in the same room because as my grammy put it "Your grandfather and I separated because I'm tired of being treated like a 2 year old!"....Amazing what you stand up for the first time after 60 years of marriage.
What really hit me was when I went to the exercise class (wheelchair aerobics). I sat and watched my grammy struggle with the stroke-induced paralysis on her left side as she tried to do all the exercises but mostly she just counted really loudly along with the physical therapist. They did this exercise called "Row the Boat" in which a woman to the side of my grammy with an 80th birthday balloon floating above her wheelchair sang "Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream...merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, I'm about to scream!"
Of the three days I spent with my grandparents I think my grandmother asked me when I was going to have kids about 20 times. I kept repeating "I can't now Grammy, I'm starting my MBA program in a couple weeks" to which she replied "Well, I just hope you don't get endometriosis!" Yeah, me neither....
My grandfather on the other hand has lost a lot of control in his hands as Parkinson's continues to ravage his mental and physical faculties. One minute he's bragging about the Red Sox in being in 1st place, the next minute he's pondering reincarnation. "When you die I don't think you really die, I think you just keep going going going going going going going (rapid hand movement signifying continuation) and you come back as a better person!" I am convinced that Parkinson's has a prophetic effect on the elderly in whom it manifests itself. I am pretty sure my grandfather wishes he could come back a better person, a kinder person to my grandmother, a warmer father to his son.
I got a couple candid shots of him shakingly taking his medicine or sitting in his bed watching the Sox pre-game coverage. I really thought I would get a better chance to talk with him or say goodbye, but when I was getting ready to leave he had to call a nurse to change him and I was rushed out of the room. I was on my way to Lowell, so I knew it was the last time I would see him. As I pulled the curtain aside to say goodbye he gave me a "power to the people" fist as if to pass on his blessings and good fortune, to cheer me on in life, to champion me. As the only grandchild on that side of the family it means a lot to both of us that I was able to see them before they pass on....My grandfather will be 90 years old on November 7th.
....To be continued