My Mother and My Grandmother
Posted on May 30, 2018
“The seasons come and go again,
And what was old is new again,
They say you’re over times have changed…the end…
But there’s no end to this story”
(Kim Wilde, Pop Don’t Stop)
Mom did something very odd last week. She sent me an e-mail with the subject “I might need some help”. I thought, okay, she goofed something on the computer. I’ll stop by after work and sort it out. Then I read the message; “Something is wrong with me.” She didn’t want to alarm my grandmother, so she e-mailed. I called my boss, left a minute or two later, and called her. There was something not quite right with her speech. I called Ralph, told him what was going on, and he called mom. He ended up calling her an ambulance.
She spent 4 days in the hospital while they ran tests, and I spent those days going back and forth between the hospital and her house to check on grandma and let the dog out. I also stayed overnight there during that time just in case, but also to look after the dog. Mom got discharged Thursday night, Ralph came home, and all looked good for the weekend.
Got another call Saturday and mom was concerned about grandma. Mom has a couple of limitations after her hospital stay while she rebuilds her strength and speech, and she thought grandma was running a temperature. Since grams had complained about a scratchy throat on Thursday, she might very well have come down with a cold or something. We came over as did my aunt, and grandma was indeed running a 103 degree temperature. We wanted to take her in to a clinic or somewhere, to which were admonished and sent from the room. She insisted she could get her own temp down.
We all monitored her and the temp did come down. Ralph and I received another call on Sunday morning. Grandma fell in her bathroom, so we went over and helped get her into bed. My aunt joined us, she and mom looked grandma over, and we made sure any wounds from the fall were taken care of.
Everyone relaxed on Monday. Mom finally started to get a little much-needed rest, grandma was up and emptying the dishwasher, Ralph and I managed to get some work done around the house, and all seemed like it was finally settling down.
Then came yesterday.
I got to work after most of last week off, and my aunt called. She was heading to the house because something might be off with grandma. I received a call half an hour later and my aunt was on the way to the hospital with grandma. I told her if it was serious, please call me back and I’d ask my boss if I could leave early. She called fifteen minutes later and told me it was bad.
I left work and joined them in the EC. Mom stayed at home because, again, she was in no shape to be there and we didn’t want to risk putting her back in the hospital on top of everything else. Mom didn’t even know I was at the hospital with my aunt and grandma, something we felt we should keep that way for now.
My aunt and I spent most of the day there talking with doctors, listening to test results, staying by grandma’s side—grandma was on a ventilator and unresponsive—talking to her and holding her hands. My aunt’s kids joined us during the day as well, which was nice to have some extra family around. But my aunt was right. It wasn’t good.
If you want the technical version, grandma had a kidney stone, there was a back-up causing sepsis, some internal bleeding they couldn’t pinpoint, and a couple other minor contributing factors, all compounded by her age. One doctor wanted to give her a pacemaker and another wanted to put in a stint to handle the kidney stone. Unfortunately, none of them could say this would solve anything. Grandma was a very, very sick woman. And non-responsive.
There are no guarantees with medical treatments, and we understood this. It got to the point the doctors agreed grandma would not have even the reduced quality of life she’d been enjoying the past couple of years. She was 88, would have a very long road to recovery in front of her—if recovery even became an option—and several bumps along the way.
Grandma never would have agreed to this. Not this.
We chose to let her go. We also agreed if I’d gone home and brought mom up, then the staff might as well have gotten the room in the ICU next to grandma ready to receive mom.
My aunt, her four kids and I stood around grandma—my aunt and I held her hands—let the staff disconnect her, and let her pass.
It took her body half an hour maybe, but grandma was already gone. She’d been gone most of the day, I think. And the shell of her former self on the bed finally rested.
And as difficult as most of the day had been, something worse waited for me. I had to break someone’s heart. I drove to my mother’s house and mulled every iteration over in my head of how I could tell her. There is no good way to tell someone this.
I walked inside the house, set my things down, and mom met me in the kitchen. I suggested we go in the living room and sit down. I really wasn’t in the frame of mind to call another ambulance if she passed out. So she sat down, and I told her I’d been at the hospital since 8:30 in the morning, and started to tell her what had been wrong with grandma. I got halfway through and she realized where this story ended.
My grandmother and mother were twenty years apart, and my mother and I are twenty years apart. It’s a chain, but a chain that is now one link short.
I walked around the house, the house my mother bought last year that she and grandma moved in together in last December. So many of my grandmother’s things. So much of her there. Her belongings, furniture, trinkets, papers with her writing, clothes…all felt like a warm blanket. A kind of final comfort to let us know she’d been there and existed. A temporary shelter until we start to heal and can gradually poke through the shell.
I’m hoping mom feels the same way. There are only a handful of times I’ve seen my mother cry. Having to tell her that her mother wouldn’t be coming home again is by far the worst. And yet we know grandma has been reunited with her mother—who she missed dearly—and all of her brothers, plus two of her three husbands. The first husband probably didn’t make it upstairs, not the way she talked about him. So there is that.
And her story goes on. Just there, not here.
And we wait until we see her again.
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, and the upcoming Falling Awake II: Revenant.