28 November 2013

OH GRAN

A month ago, I was having the best month of my life. I was traveling around, seeing Thailand and Israel for the first time. My husband and I experienced memories that will recall stories for decades to come. I started sharing some of those stories and lots of photographs though this blog. And then I stopped.

At the end of October, my grandmother went into the hospital and anything related to me ceased to exist. Her stroke was so mild that she didn’t even know she had a stroke until the doctor and the tests revealed her diagnosis. She was in her house on the same hill on which she has lived nearly 80 years and, to her, she just fell. She felt her cane give way when she was walking on the ground floor of her three-level home and she just fell down.

Her fall happened in the morning but she didn’t feel any pain so she didn’t use that fancy medical alert button she wears around her neck. In the evening, when she tried to go upstairs where her bedroom and bathroom are located, she had trouble lifting a leg and realized she had a problem. But, Gran says, the doctor’s office was closed so she didn’t want to bother anyone since she couldn’t see her doctor anyway (and she still didn’t use that fancy medical alert button), so she waited until morning.

The next morning she did call a neighbor and advised that she needed to go to the hospital. Two weeks later, she was released with the caveat that she could not return to the multi-level home in which she has resided for 63 years.

I flew home while she was still in the hospital and spent some time with her before she was released. My family and I helped her get situated into temporary housing until we were able to find a suitable assisted living facility. Fortunately, I had already begun researching senior living communities while I was home over the summer so I knew which ones were top contenders, which ones were crap and which ones I had not yet seen. I made some appointments and I shared my findings.

For a woman of the Great Depression, my grandmother has more money than she lets on but it still isn’t enough to pay for years in an assisted living facility. The money we need to support her needs in a qualified care center makes all of us nervous but I know that God will provide.

So much of my time and energy has been devoted to my grandmother in the past few weeks that I have nearly alienated myself from friends, family members outside of the immediate vicinity and, really, any other commitments I have considered making – even blog time.

A few days ago, I was ready to crash. Gran had picked a place to which she would move and we went for a visit. She loved it so much that she told stories for hours and introduced herself to everyone she met in the hall. “Hi, I’m Helen,” she would say. “I’m moving in Monday!” That made me happy. But I knew that there was still a lot of work to do.

Gran, being from the Depression era, has kept everything anyone in the world could possibly need for something someday and has to my recollection never spent a dollar on any items she needed for herself. Any money in savings was spent on house repairs throughout the years; we had to buy her underclothes, socks a new outfit or two for Christmas and birthday presents because she simply would not buy those things for herself.

She was leaving everything she knew – her town, her hill, her birds, her gardens, her deer, her neighbors, her great grandkids next door – and she was trading them for a dorm room. To make the move more welcoming, we brought some furniture and decorative pieces she wanted from her house but I also wanted to get her some new things that I knew she would never consider buying in order to make her new home something special.

We bought a new shower mat and curtain, monogramed hand towels, accessories to match; we bought new bedding, a new sofa and some curtains. We also bought her some flowers that she could keep indoors and we have plans to place a bird feeder outside her window.

Knowing that she was moving in on a Monday, I just kept thinking that I had to make it until that Monday – last Monday. She would move in Monday, get situated and then Tuesday I could relax because it would all be over. Gran would be in her new place and I could focus on spending a day with a lifelong friend, just relaxing old-school-road-trip style. I had to just keep pushing to get everything signed, filed, purchased, moved in, arranged and hung so that she would be happy and so that I could rest. I just needed to make it to Tuesday.

Last Friday I hit a wall. I was so overwhelmed and as I was driving in the car after dropping off the first of three loads to be taken to her new home, and I just started talking. “God,” I said. “I don’t know what I need today, but I know you do, so please just bless me and give me wisdom to get through this day. I thank you for your grace that flows in like waves and I receive it.” That was it. I didn’t know what I was going to face that day and I certainly didn’t know how I was going to deal with any of it, but I knew that if I let Him take control, I would survive the day, and I just needed to survive that day.

When I stressed about furniture, God provided furniture – a free bed that had recently been donated to the facility and a $250 couch with five pillows from an actual furniture store that I could pick up that night. When I stressed about getting things done in time to meet deadlines I had already set for myself, He provided not only the time to do those things but also the ability to find what I needed efficiently and effortlessly. When I worried that Gran would not be happy, she turned to me and said things like, “Oh, this is bigger than what I expected,” when she saw her 350-square-foot room.

When I felt like I was ready to break, living on nothing other than adrenaline, I got into my car and suddenly found my radio turned to a local Christian station. This is the crazy part because, though I like the Christian stations, I hadn’t actually been listening to one that day. I had been listening to country music that brought back a homey feeling (I grew up outside of Nashville). I know which station I was listening to and it was definitely not Cleveland’s The Fish. But, all of a sudden, I heard familiar piano keys and the words came on and I glanced at the station: 95.5 FM.

                I’m tired, I’m worn
                My heart is heavy
                From the work it takes to keep on breathing

                I’ve made mistakes
                I’ve let my heart fail
                My soul feels crushed
                By the weight of this world
(note: eyes were totally watering by this point as I said, oh my gosh, yes…I am worn out! I do feel crushed by the weight of all of this!)

                And I know that you can give me rest
(it’s true, I do know where to find rest but for some reason I just keep worrying and pushing myself to my limit)

                So I cry out with all that I have left

                Let me see redemption win
                Let me know the struggle ends
                That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn

                I want to know a song can rise
                From the ashes of a broken life
                And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
                Cuz I’m worn


                I know I need
                To life my eyes up
                But I’m too weak
                Life just won’t let up
(ah, yes, this too makes sense)

                And I know that you can give me rest
                So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
                Let me know the struggle ends
                That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn

                I want to know a song can rise
                From the ashes of a broken life
                And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
                Cuz I’m worn

                And my prayers are wearing thin
                I’m worn even before the day begins
                I’m worn, I’ve lost my will to fight
                I’m worn, so haven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
                Let me know the struggle ends
                That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn

                I want to know a song can rise
                From the ashes of a broken life
                And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
                Yes all that’s dead inside will be reborn
                Though I’m worn
                Yeah I’m worn

At that, I mellowed out a bit, took a lot of deep breaths and reassured myself that it would all be OK. Thanks God. You knew what I needed to hear right when I needed to hear it. Thanks for getting me and knowing me so well.

The move was tiring but we had a lot of help and my poor husband has survived a tired, cranky, worn out wife who made him help with the move and assist me in rearranging Gran’s room no less than a dozen times. He sometimes grabbed me by both shoulders saying things like, “Focus. I know what you’re doing but shouldn’t Gran have a say in where her couch goes?”

In the end, I decided I knew best and, really, I wanted everything to be done and beautiful so that she didn’t have to worry about where stuff went, so I arranged the room to my own perfect standard and then she had me switch the bed and the couch when she got there. Grr Paul.

When we left the hill Monday, I started looking around at the leaves and the snow on the ground, thinking what this feeling might be like for Gran. I peeked over to the lake’s bank, thinking about the times I spent walking around the water, and I recalled some of her stories that centered around that lake.

She was brought up in one tiny house on the hill, and moved into her current home just up the street when she was pregnant with my mom. Her sister lived just next to the tiny house where Gran grew up but died last year. Her grandson, my cousin, lives in the house next door with his wife and two kids. What it must feel like to be away from all that after so many, many, many, many, many, many years.

I got sentimental as I turned out of the driveway, angled around the bend and came to the stop sign at the end of the road. I hid my tears behind sunglasses as I explained that Gran was not banned from the hill and that she could absolutely come back and visit as much as she wants. She looked over at me and said, “Don’t forget that load of laundry in the dryer.” Right.

I turned left and headed toward the doctor, getting teary eyed once again. As if I were new to Salem and had never lived there, gone to school there or lived in the same house as my grandmother for more than a decade, Gran decided to tell me where to go. “Now, the best way to get to the doctor’s office is to go straight up Ellsworth and turn on Third Street.” “O.K. Gran.”


1 comment: