Grandma

Got a call just about noon from my wife. Grandma fell out of bed last night.

I should stop a lot of people right there. They know me well enough to know that sounds like the set-up for one of my tasteless jokes. It is not. This is the legit, somewhat sad news.

About 2:30 or 3 she fell out of bed. The Fire Department was called by one of the caregivers (who is her daughter) when she could not get Grandma back into bed. They came and helped return Grandma to bed.

Later, when the primary caregiver, my cousin (and therefore also a granddaughter) went to get Grandma up, she noticed a large degree of unresponsiveness and promptly called the hospital. They shortly determined that in the fall, Grandma struck her head and it caused internal bleeding.

Her mind is shutting down, she cannot eat because her brain will not cause her to swallow, and the end is very, very near...they just don't know if it is two days, two weeks, two hours...but it is near.

I suppose I should be sad. From a certain standpoint, I am. I do not want to see her suffer. I wish the blow had just taken away her pains and infirmities instead of leaving a shell lingering.

But from another standpoint, I am not sad at all. She lived a long, full life of 93 years. She had a loving husband for about 60 of them. She had 9 kids and survived all but 2 of them.

That is what I think is one of the saddest parts. She had to bury two of her children; one in the 70s by his own hand, the other just a couple months ago.

Judging by the number of oxygen carts, limps, and other permanent medical aids, others of her children are likely to join Ben and Pat in the ranks of the deceased in the near future. Not something cheerful, I suppose, but certainly a recognition of reality. The kids are in their late 50s for the youngest and well into their 70s for the eldest. Age and infirmities are going to take a tremendous toll on this family soon and Grandma should not have to watch that.

I said a loving husband for 60+. I did not say wonderful. There was a time he might not have been before he quit drinking. I do not know too much about that period of their life, back in the Oklahoma/Arkansas region. I do know he changed a lot as evidenced by the classic family tale of the guy who came looking for him.

The family had moved to Healdsburg, California and this guy who had known Grandpa back east came looking for him. First he checked all the taverns, then the liquor store. When someone told them Grandpa did not drink, he first called them a liar, then thought he was the wrong Kenneth Barton.

But Grandpa did change. And together, he and Grandma raised 9 kids in years that saw the Great Depression, World War II and so forth.

Grandpa was a big gun in the cement industry. He was fired over a dozen times. (Old family joke...but true. The guy he worked for kept firing him and re-hiring him until Grandpa told him the next firing would be the last, that he was going where he was better treated. The guy fired him, Grandpa got a better job, the guy promised him the world to come back and Grandpa refused. His word was his bond.)

Well, masons made some money but perhaps not enough to fully support 9 kids. So Grandma did a lot of stuff to supplement the income. One thing she did, and did very well, was write. For years she would regularly get published with everything from poetry to small articles for magazines such as Ladies Home Journal. I wish I had access to her bibliography.

When I first remember being aware of Grandma, she was not my favorite person. Whereas Grandpa, like all the rest of the family I knew, was a hilarious guy ever ready with a joke, Grandma seemed to have no sense of humor at all.

In later years, this proved an assessment that was way off base. She had a terrific sense of humor and used it very well, but when I was 5 or 6 years old, I did not see it.

Grandpa used to take advantage of it. Like, they would be driving, and she would say, "Turn here, Kenneth" meaning the next driveway or street. He, to irritate her, would start to turn...into a curb. Or similar place. She would freak out, he would laugh and make the proper turn.

He also liked to needle her when answering the phone. She hated alcohol, presumably because of his past life, but that is pure conjecture on my part. Well, if he should answer a call of someone looking for her, he would always say something like, "Nah, Elizabeth can't come to the phone right now. She is out getting drunk."

This would always set him laughing and she would sigh with exasperation as he handed her the phone, then spend couple of minutes defending herself against the heinous charge he had laid on her.

Lest I give the wrong impression, they did love each other dearly. We always used to say Grandma was in poor health and was going to pass away any day and, when she did, Grandpa would die of grief.

Well...he died in 1995 and here, a mere 14 years later, it looks like her time is upon us.

I stayed with them for a few months about 1990 or 1991. I was going to PCC at the time and it enabled me to go to more classes. Well, she was the classic Grandmother, full of ways to spoil me with foods and stuff. I learned a great deal about cooking from her.

There are a lot of anecdotes I planned to put in here, but somehow I just cannot do it at the moment. I would love to share stuff about how she went from being someone I was intimidated by and thought did not like anyone to how, after I matured, she became the wonderful, sweet lady I will grieve losing in ways I did not grieve for Grandma Alda, who USED to be my favorite until I got wiser.

But somehow, at the moment, it just does not feel right.

What does feel right is saying, be at peace, Grandma. You have done great work not just with your kids but with your grand kids. Your passing will leave a great hole in our lives, but it is the way of this vale of tears. It is time for you to see Grandpa again, to share memories of your life together, and to leave regrets behind for all time.

Thank you for your example of faith, for your example of loving someone so deeply, thoroughly, and faithfully. Thank you for being you. I love you and will miss you, but it is time for you to rest.

2 comments:

pheromone girl said...

It must be heartbreaking to watch her failing. Suffering is not fair.

Does someone have her bibliography? I would love to read some of her Ladies Home Journal stories.

Riot Kitty said...

I'm sorry to hear about this - on the other hand, you are good to appreciate that she has had a long and interesting life, which is more than most of us will be able to say.

Hugs to you and your family.