Just Keep Me Company

Gram enjoying her food!

Getting old. It is inevitable. This is the story of my beautiful grandmother and choices that most every family has to make one day. Tough choices. Aging parents. Love. Understanding. Patience. Acceptance. Sacrifice. 
It was the last day living in her house and she didn’t know it. Her last coffee made on her own, just like she’s been doing for so many years. Eggs and toast. Read the newspaper and watch TV. The routine that she’s had for all of these years came to an end that day.
I wonder if she would have done anything different, had she known. Probably not. Perhaps she would have savored those sweet moments a little longer – her last lingering moments of living on her own in her home, surrounded by the familiarity of her possessions. 
Dementia had reared its ugly head and affected her brain. Sometimes she was completely lucid and other times, not so much. She had her good days and bad ones too. She would forget things she just heard but then remember details of days long gone. It is the way it works. She acknowledged the fact that her mind just wasn’t what it once was and acknowledged that there was nothing that she could do about it. That had to be a difficult realization. One that I cannot imagine. It made me love her more, if that was possible.
Everything took her longer to do now. She slept a lot. Ached a lot. Walking had become difficult, but she pushed herself to do it anyway.
Then the fall.
She didn’t mean to fall. I mean, who does, anyway? She laid there for quite some time, unable to get herself back up. She cried for help, but no one could hear her. Part of the problem of living alone.
Finally, she was able to call her son (my father) and as he rushed over there, he called an ambulance for her. They had to crawl through a window to get to her and by the time he got there, they were ready to transport her to the hospital.
He had been dreading this moment to come. In the back of his mind, he could foresee it happening. And then it did. He knew it was coming, it was just a matter of time. It starts with one incident and then from that day on, nothing is ever the same.
His mother’s health had been declining daily, but she was still able to manage on her own. Until one day she could not. That’s how that works.
When she woke up in the hospital, she thought that she would get better and go back home to her own comfort. She said many times, “If I can’t live in my own house, I don’t want to live.” The days passed and she didn’t get much better. Instead, she got worse.
They moved her to a rehab facility to, you know, make her better. Days turned into a month and she could not walk. She has to have 2 aides with her to help her but she could now feed herself. Oh, how she loves to eat!! We always joke that Felicia can eat more than anyone any of us have ever known. For as small and delicate as her frame had become, she somehow could still pack a ton of food into that stomach of hers. That brought her some joy.
The reality of it though is that her life now consisted of laying in her bed (but it wasn’t her bed) or sitting up in a chair (but it wasn’t her chair).
Her children talked regularly to each other while they tried to figure out the best plan of action for her. What is best? Does anyone have the ability to take her into their home? So many hard decisions had to come. Everyone agreed on one thing though – she could never go back to her own home.
Her security. Her independence. Her peace. Her own bed and coffee and eggs. Her couch and her comfy spots. The front porch that she sat on and watched the world go by. All of those things would never be seen or experienced again by her again and that, my friends, is freakin heartbreaking.
If she would have only known. 
Then the talk.
“Mom, you won’t be able to go back home again. I am sorry.”
Hearing those words were unbearable to her, I am sure. She would have to accept that for the rest of her life, her world was going to be much different than she had hoped.
Blankly, she stared at her son as she tried to comprehend the words to gently spoken to her. Did she understand?

“Just keep me company.” she said. “Just keep me company.”
She was scared.
His heart broke that day and so did mine. It was a powerful lesson in vulnerability, aging and acknowledging the unknown. Uncharted territory for most people. The reality of her situation smacked the family right in the face – hard. It won’t ever be the same. That is hard to deal with…but we must.
Days we all knew would most likely come, but still wished they would never arrive. I know you know what I am talking about.
She had already lost her husband of 50+ years, all of her friends, her siblings…she outlived them all. In the final stages of her life, she doesn’t want to be alone. I don’t blame her. 
And so we will do just that, Gram. Keep you company.

Thank you so much for reading today. I hope that I made you smile and think a little bit. To reach me, visit SALending.com

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