Sunday, November 11, 2007

Life is decidedly not fair

My mom often used to say it during those times I was complaining about the seeming inequities of life as perceived by my then childish mind and screaming that she wasn't being fair. "Life is not fair," she would say. I didn't understand what that meant then. I thought I learned what that meant in the years since. But I had no idea what that really meant until today.

A person should not have to outlive their mental faculties and physical capabilities. Children should not have to commit a parent to a nursing home against their will.

My parents and my uncle, who flew in from out of state, set out this morning to take my grandmother back to her former home state of Nebraska, to try to get her in to see her former doctors and to be closer to other family members and amid familiar surroundings for the final sad chapter of her life. They had to grudgingly admit that they are no longer able to care for their mother.

Hour to hour, minute to minute, she doesn't know who the people are that are around her, not even her own children. She sometimes masks the unfamiliarity by refusing to use people's names. She can be chatty and friendly, but the conversations are non-specific. She shows the cracks in the mental armor when asked specific questions or in other subtle ways.

Last night she was confused and scared, thinking that "her people" had dropped her off and hadn't come to take her home, even though we, her family, were gathered around her. She did not know who we were and it wasn't completely clear that she knew who she was.

This morning, she was lucid, and even chipper for a while. But when talk came of preparing to leave for their long journey, she got very upset and said she didn't want to go. She wanted to stay with her family. She knew she had been living there for years and said "This is my home."

She calmed down after a while and seemed downright chipper even. But when the time came for them to leave, she grew very agitated and upset.

"I don't want to go to Nebraska... This is my home... I want to stay with my family."

In turns my father and uncle tried to explain to her why they were doing what they were doing. They tried using reason to explain the unreasonable behavior she had been exhibiting. But she was beyond reason.

"You are killing me. You are killing me. Oh, no. Please, God no. ... God won't allow this to happen. He won't let you get away with this."

Amid the tears -- hers, theirs and our -- my dad and uncle pleaded with her to get into the wheelchair. She cried all the way to the car and once we got her into the car. I sat with her, my arm around her, while the final preparations were made, the last few items were placed in the car. It seemed such an empty gesture, but all I really could come up with to try to let her know that amid her pain and anguish that she was loved. I held things together until it was time for the final goodbyes.

As I got out of the van so my mom could slide in, I hugged my mother goodbye and held her as she sobbed. I told her it was going to be OK, though I had no conviction it would ever be OK again for any of us.


3rdtimesacharm ( 3T ) said...

I'm so sorry Gary! I can't imagine how painful that was for all of you. My grandmother suffered much the same; although I wasn't there when they went to fly her back East to be with my Aunt.

I know seeing the vibrant woman I once knew as Grandma deteriate made me horribly sad. She also hid a good deal of it, by never referring to us by names; we were all "honey" and "sweetie."

Your Mom was right, life isn't fair. I know very few people who have not been affected by this horrendous disease. (Paul lost his mother to alzheimers, as well)

For us, it's been many years since her passing. But now we just do our best to remember the good memories of Grandma Bea. The funny stories and all the love she gave to her family quietly and gently.

This is one of those things that I truly don't understand why God lets us outlive our mental capacities. (It's on my list of questions for Him one day)

My prayers are with your family and with your grandmother, my friend.



The G-man said...

Thanks T. I appreciate the thoughts and the kind words.

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