Waiting for the inevitable

My grandpa isn’t doing well. He’s been declining for a while, but this morning his doctor – a long term family friend, best man (I think) in my parents’ wedding, and my brother’s namesake – called my dad at work to tell him how bad things have gotten.

My grandparents still live in the split-level house they built in the 50s, when my mom was a little girl. Most days Grandpa, age 91, doesn’t get down the stairs – and Grandma, age 93, brings food to him, helps him bathe, and changes his diapers. After six decades as a housewife, she is a nurse again.

For years we’ve tried to convince them to move out of this house that is really too much for them to manage. For years my parents have tried to convince them to hire a caretaker instead of relying on a (miraculous, wonderful) neighbor and a series of college-aged girls that help with the cleaning and yardwork. Mom is going over for the weekend to make another attempt at this argument.

Four years ago, when we were in the midst of our nation-wide job search, Grandpa took a fall. I remember locking myself in the studio and crying and wondering if I really wanted to move to, say, Boone, where getting home in case of emergency would require a full day of travel. We live 7 hours away, but we might as well be on the other side of the world for all the good I can do right now.

In this way, old age is cruel: there’s little more to do that sit and wait, knowing that he won’t be with us sooner rather than later, but knowing there’s nothing we can do to forestall this inevitability. There are interventions for injury and disease. There are no interventions for just being OAD, as Grandma puts it: Old And Decrepit.

I am so thankful for having my grandparents in my life for all of my life. My dad’s parents are barely a memory at this point – I met my grandma once when I was a small child, and my grandpa passed away when I was in high school – but my mom’s parents have always been there for holidays and birthdays and long visits in the summer time – and, of late, for rambling conversations about Detroit. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that they won’t always be there.

With Grandpa!
1980

Jen and Grandpa
2006

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0 thoughts on “Waiting for the inevitable

  1. I’m so sorry.
    Reading this I can feel the deep love you feel for both your grandparents. I truly believe that the most important thing we leave behind after we’re gone is love. I know it doesn’t help right now, but it sounds like your grandpa has given and received a lot of that in his lifetime.
    Still, it’s so hard and frustrating I know. *hug*

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  2. Oh E, I’m so sorry. The same thing happened with my Grandpa, and I was too far away to get back to see him. It’s hard, because we see them as so strong and invincible growing up, and then old age really robs that from them. Kind of rocks your world when that happens.
    I’m sending hugs your way.

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  3. Having cared for my grandmother towards the end of her life, it is a draining experience. While it was nothing approaching what your grandparents are going through, the similarity arises from the fact that the decline can be so gradual that people in the situation do not realize how much trouble that they are in till it’s too late. For myself, I asked for help when it had gone too far out of my ability; it was then that things got back into balance and got better.

    For your grandparents, they are a generation that fears hospitals and essentially wants to die at home surrounded by their things. It’s not an unusual sort of belief or feeling since that is what they grew up with; good memories of family dying at home, bad memories of them dying in hospitals.

    Unfortunately, it may take something so overtly bad to really change the situation where either your Grandma will finally see it for what it is or your parents will have force a change. It’s not going to be easy or pretty, but sometimes the right thing isn’t.

    My best wishes to you and your family during this very trying time.

    (If you want to contact me for more information or to talk, use my email address in my comment to send me a message.)

    Like

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