Sunday, September 5, 2010


Did I mention my Grandma passed away this week?

She had a stroke on June 28th. It caused dementia to set in for her, but after a couple weeks she was back on the band-wagon, playing scrabble and such, though still a little confused.  About 3 weeks after her 1st stroke, she had another small stroke. This may as well have negated any progress she had made. She again lost some strength, but could still talk. Her mind was in another place. 

She got  a UTI around that same time. Turns out, while a young woman just feels the painful urge to pee 24/7 with a UTI, older women tend to go temporarily out of their mind instead. This was unnerving, but after the UTI passed, she began to "stabilize" once more.

Spencer and I were lucky enough to have planned into the end of our European adventure a visit to Grammy. We were going to spend the entire day with her. But, after her strokes, it became obvious that we could and should only spend a handful of hours with her at her care facility. 

So we went with my mom - who has been taking care of Grammy all summer - with lunch. We ate outside in the warm New York sun.  I ate Indian food, Spencer had sushi, mom had a sandwich and we got a roast beef on kemmelweck sandwich for Grammy. We got her an iced tea. She managed the bottle okay, but her hands were so unsteady that we got her a cup with a straw instead.  It was lovely to be with her. She seemed thrilled to see Spencer and me, and made conversation well enough, but talked herself in circles more or less the whole time.

This picture was taken only hours before she had her last stroke.

She was sweet to see. It was mostly the Grammy I've known my whole life, and that was enough for me.  While on that trip, we made the decision to move her out to Utah to be here with the majority of the family. Spencer and I came home, but my dad and mom stayed to pack up her apartment, and make arrangements to fly her out here and get her settled in a senior care home with "enhanced memory care."

About 12 hours before they were all supposed to come home, she had another massive stroke that disabled her left side (her strongest side) and her ability to speak.  All plans were cancelled. She went to the hospital immediately, where they ensured she would be in no pain, but they couldn't keep her hydrated or feed her because of her personal, legally understood "DNR" request. A day or two later they moved her to a lovely hospice facility and she passed away on Monday.

My sister and I made immediate plans to go back to New York. We flew out Tuesday morning, there was a memorial service on Wednesday morning, and we flew back Wednesday night. It was the most perfect service, and many of my Grammy's friends came.  

Thursday I jumped back into work. Same thing Friday. My parents and Spencer and I also had tickets for a Brian Stokes Mitchell concert on Friday. Saturday flew by - with tie-dye with friends, and tickets to "The Lion King" in Salt Lake City. 

We were sitting in our seats ready to start the show when, at the last minute, a woman and her elderly father came to sit in the two seats next to me. He was in a walker just like the one they gave my grandma at her rehab facility. We got out of the row for the man to walk in. He did so very cautiously, and his arms shook uncontrollably as he walked. His eyes were resilient behind his glasses, wrinkled face and white goatee. He reminded me so much of Grammy.

I realized, at the show, that in the rush of everything happening I hadn't really taken the time to absorb her passing. I was a puddle for the rest of the show. She would have enjoyed it so much, and I was overcome with sadness that she couldn't be there with me.

On the drive home, I lost it. And I cried myself to sleep.

My Grammy was an amazing woman.  She was strong and smart. She was beautiful and kind. She was spiritual and soft. She was hilarious, and witty. She raised my mom, aunt, and uncle completely alone, survived an abusive marriage, rose to the top of the chain in her workplace (first woman to do so!), and volunteered at charities, theaters and Ten Thousand Villages.  She dressed well, and always wore pink lipstick. She was almost 90 years old. 

I regret not doing more to be in touch with her. Now, the few calls I made and the emails I sent hardly seem sufficient. But I know she loves me. And she knows I love her. And I suppose that will have to be enough.

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