The Tarnished Promise

2:25am.  Why am I awake?  Go back to sleep.  It is my morning to get up with the boys.  They’ll be up in a couple of hours.  Go to sleep.

I can’t.  I’m awake.  I haven’t had a nightmare.  I’m not sick.  I woke up thinking of her.  My grandmother.

Ever since my visit a few weeks ago, I can’t get her out of my head.  I feel like a charlatan.  I love my grandmother, but I’m not particularly close to her.  Growing up, I visited her on major holidays, and perhaps a couple of other days a year.  Why can I not stop thinking of her now?  I am bothered by her current turn of health, that is for certain.  But perhaps I am also fearful of my own demise.  If I can somehow think about it enough, maybe I can buy some good karma for myself- a better way out than the one she is afforded.

Which makes it sound like she is in some horrible situation.  She’s in a beautiful assisted living facility. She wants for nothing.  She has access to a variety of activities.  Her meals are prepared for her.  She’s met a few people who could potentially become friends.  But I find myself troubled over her lack of freedom.

It hit me hardest when we were talking about the shower.  She told me she wished someone would come and help her take a shower and wash her hair.  My aunt must have noticed the troubled look on my face because she said “They have people from hospice come and help her shower twice a week.  She has scheduled days.”

My grandmother insisted no one came to help her.  I have no doubt that hospice does their assigned care, but it made me sad to think What if they didn’t?  What if they never showed up to give my grandmother a shower and she’s trying to tell us?  Of course, none of us would believe her.  She’s slowly losing her mind.

I began to think of how many times I take a shower or a bath, not because I am dirty or smelly, but simply because it feels good.  When I want to relax, I take a long bubble bath.  If I’ve had a bad day, a hot shower will put things back on track.  She no longer has that option.  Two scheduled showers a week.  That is all.

We also visited Ben’s grandmother at her assisted care home.  I noticed a sign there that read “If you would like a shower outside of your scheduled days, we are happy to assist you for a $50 fee.”  $50 to take a shower.  $50 to relax and wash off a bad day.

My grandmother is so modest.  I can’t imagine what it must be like for her to need the help of a stranger in order to bathe.

I began to wonder, could I help her take a shower?  What would I need to do?  But she’s so frail.  What if she fell?  Would I know how to hold her up?  The nurses are trained to assist her.  Like it or not, she is in a place that can provide better care than I. I am not trained to know what to do.

I wish she could be home or in the care of family.  Yes, she has access to a huge facility with so many activities to do.  But I can’t help but think how hard it must be to go from living in your own home to existing in a room, waiting to die.  How lovely it is that she has meals prepared for her since she is frail and no longer has the strength to do it herself.  But what if she doesn’t want barbecue chicken today?  What if she wants spaghetti and meatballs?  The cooks don’t know it’s her favorite.  They only know she, and hundreds of others, need to eat.

I feel like the dream is tarnished.  From childhood, we are all led to believe we want to live a long, healthy life.  And she has done that.  She lived on her own, well, for eighty eight years.  But is it worth it for these last few months?  I guess it is pointless to think about because none of us get to choose.

I find comfort in looking at my own sons.  Would I go through what she is enduring to meet their children and grandchildren? Without a doubt.  I can’t imagine missing out on that.  Maybe seeing me, my mother, my aunt, my uncle, her grand children and great grandchildren makes it worth it.  Perhaps we offer meaning to these final difficult months.  Or maybe she is just happy whenever we arrive. A friendly face to ward off the loneliness.

I love you Grandma.  I don’t know what else more to write.   I have no doubt you’ll be on my mind for many nights to come.

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