Friday, May 29, 2009

Grammy - Always and Forever

Sometimes in life you are blessed not only to have the unconditional love of your parents.. but to have the unconditional love of a Grandparent.

I was blessed. My Grammy lived with us, she spent the majority of her time with us in our home, with the occasional trips to Minnesota - to spend time with other relatives. I was her baby girl.. not her first grandchild, nor her first Granddaughter.. but.. out of the 4 Grandchildren she was blessed with, I was one of her favorites.

Our home was less than a block away from the elementary school that I attended, Grammy would meet me at the local city bus stop after school - and we would jump on the city bus and head off to our daily ritual. She knew all the bus drivers by name, they all adored her. She was 5'4 - striking red curly hair and maybe 100lbs soaking wet. Full of piss and vinegar. Had the laugh of angels & the tongue of a sailor! She was my everything... I valued her more than my own Mother.

We would ride the bus to the local Woolworth's - where they still had a soda fountain in the store, I was allowed to have some form of sweets, as long as I didn't tell my Mother, while Grammy sat there drank her coffee and had her allocated 2 cigarettes. She always told me, This is a bad nasty habit little one - do not ever do as I do! - I realize now, so many years later, this was Grammy's way of 'hushing' me up...hehehe..she was a sneaky little gal!

Since I had my sweets & Grammy had her bad addictions, she would make us walk the 5 miles home instead of catching the bus home. We were always home in time for dinner, during the day while us kids were at school Grammy would bake some treat for desert. Homemade Blackberry cobbler/pie, Rhubarb/Strawberry pie, chocolate chip cookies, banana bread whatever tickled her fancy during the day. Something.. always.. every night.

As I got older and more independent our time was cut less and less. I got so selfish... Never did I realize that I would loose her so early in life.

By the time I was 12 - the Alzheimer's started to rear it's ugly head. Small bouts of dementia, forgetfulness, my parents were going thru a nasty divorce and little did anyone realize how bad Grammy was getting until we received the call in the middle of the night from the local police department stating they had picked Grammy up for trying to break into another house.

You see, Grammy was getting so bad that I think we were all so caught up in our own misery, we were all being so self-absorbed, not caring about anyone else.
I was starting to experiment with drugs. My Mother was lost in her own misery. Grammy was left to fend for herself.

She was diagnosed shortly there of. Alzheimer's. It's hard as a family to pull together when something so drastic is handed to you. Your hear of other people going thru these issues with in their families, but you honestly think never in your family. Things like that happen to other people. But never you.

There were calls a few times a week from the local police dept, they had Grammy in custody because she had escaped the house, would walk the streets late at night, find a house that she thought looked familiar and would attempt to enter. Luckily.. it was the same house every time, and luckily the police and the homeowners were very understanding. We had to provide the local police dept with decaf-coffee to give to Grammy when they picked her up and they always told us the same thing... She's a delight.. she would sit and talk to all those "fine young men" and flirt and tell her stories. In Grammy's mind.. even though she was in her 80's..she honestly believed in her mind she was in her mid 20's.

Mom had to re-locate for her job to Southern Cali... I decided to stay in Washington because by this time I was 15 - and a full blown drug addict. I stayed behind to live with my Father and Mom and Grammy moved.

Mom and I lost touch over the years, due to me being so strung out and not caring about anyone or anything but myself. I believe I visited my Mother once after she moved. The 2 weeks with my Mother and my Grammy broke my heart. Grammy was in an adult daycare center and home in the evenings, Mom had to literally lock Grammy in the apartment at night, disconnect the stove and remove anything that would harm her.

It got to the point that Grammy had to be placed in a full care facility.
As the years progressed and the disease set in further and further.. her body started shutting down.. she was bed-ridden and gang-green set in... they amputated her left leg before it spread...

I received the phone call from my Mom when I was 17 the Dr's were giving her 72 hrs - if that, her vitals were slowing down.
I drove 12 hrs straight to say my goodbyes...
I walked into that care facility, headed down the long corridors, looking at other patients and thinking how I never want to live like this. All these people that I'm sure have wonderful stories to tell, families somewhere but probably don't get enough visitors...
As I walked those halls, I couldn't stop, I walked right by her room and just kept walking, I could not face her. I was not prepared at all to see how she looked

When I finally gained the courage to walk into her room at the nursing home..My Grammy was not who was laying in that bed, the skeleton of someone else was there, her eyes were vacant, that vibrant perfect red hair was stringy & gray..gone was that twinkle.. that smile.. those words of encouragement.

Who laid there, was someone I didn't know..one look at the women who laid there, and you could tell, this was someone who was wanting to say her goodbyes... but was being forced to live, not on her own will either.

I lifted her frail hand.. kissed her cheek.. and told her I loved her... she turned her face towards me.. and said my name. I cried. Ive heard it said that Alzheimer's patients right before death come back to the present. They know who is around them, they know what is going on. I don't know if that is true. But Grammy knew me.. she hadn't known anyone for many years. My Mom was her sister. My oldest cousin was my Grammy's niece not Granddaughter and when I had visited her years before I was my cousin.

She hung on for the 2 days that I was there. We talked.. like the old days from so many years before. I was 6 yrs old again.. My Grammy was taking me to Woolworth's to the soda fountain for my sweet treat while she had her 2 cigarettes and her cup of coffee....

She remembered me. She knew exactly who I was. I would sit there, tell her how beautiful she was and how much I loved her. She would tell me she loved me and to be a good girl, and she told me that she would always be watching over me.

The day I had to leave... she grabbed my hand and said
"It's time baby.. I love you always and forever"

I drove home that afternoon.... I got the phone call the next morning
Grammy was gone

I named my daughter after her and I honestly believe that Grammy is there.. my daughter has her eyes.. that twinkle... and that piss and vinegar...

She's watching over me
I do hope I have made her proud!

I love you Grammy... Always and Forever

4 comments:

Krystal said...

I also lost my Ma'am Ma to Alzheimer's. It's like loosing them twice.

You were blessed to have her.

lurker in columbus said...

This tribute was beautiful, Barney. I'm sure she's looking down watching over you and yours, and I believe she is proud.

My bubbe (yiddish for grammy) lived with us for many decades. Simplier times and I hope to do the same.

Barney said...

Lurker...
I cant read your blog????

How do I go about getting invited?

Thanx to both of you...

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