20 June 2008

Death Watch 2008

Still on...it's wierd, waiting for someone to die.

Grandpa is out of the hospital, after a month of being there for 2 somewhat lengthy stays, back at the nursing home. They had put him on a feeding tube because there were signs of recovery if he could just get his strength back. Then another stroke hits and the doctor thinks this was a big one. It's just that it seems he's had so many little ones over the last few weeks, a bigger one doesn't seem to be that different. The doctor recommends he be put on hospice. So I guess it's finally happening. At least at the nursing home grandma can ride her scooter over from their apartment and visit and sit with him. And with hospice, those nurses will be there not just for grandpa, but for grandma as well, helping her to cope with the adjustment that her husband of 63 years will be leaving soon. Hospice hasn't been officially signed up yet; my uncle is flying up for a visit next weekend and I think they wanted to give grandpa a week, see if there's any hint of a change, and then dad, his brother, and grandma can make things official together.

I feel kind of an-emotional about this. Grandpa is 90. NINETY. That's old, he's lived a full life. I hope grandpa goes soon, I think it would be worse for everyone if he hung on by a thread for ages. He comes from hearty stock - both his parents lived into their 90s. And the fact that he's diabetic, fat, had multiple skin cancers, etc. and made it this far is also impressive - we joke that if he actually took care of himself, he wouldn't made it to 100 easy.He's a good guy. Was a good guy, since as dad tells it, the only sign he's shown of his former self was showing a hint of a smile when the USOpen was on his hospital room tv. That was over a week ago. I want him to be able to die with dignity. He has all the proper paperwork for DNR and whatnot, so it's not like he's going to be a vegetable hooked up to tubes for weeks or months leaving someone with the depressing decision to un-hook him.

Is it bad that I look forward to his passing? He and grandma helped start their church back in the 1950s, so when he does go, I envision a lovely memorial service there, with all the people in the church pitching in with finger foods and desserts for a reception in the church basement afterwards. There will be stories about him, his legendary status at the neighborhood pool, his navy stories, stories of him as a dad to my dad and uncle growing up with lots of other people's kids at that church. People will be thrilled to pieces to meet Natalie, which will be the one sunny spot in the day, as grandma (her great-grandma) will show her off with such pride. It'll be said, but filled with laughter and comforting voices.

Death is a wierd thing. As Christians, there's no doubt about where he's going, that's not the issue. When it's sudden and unexpected, it's shocking regardless of the person's age. Busia died at home thanksgiving morning. She was up and at 'em till that morning when she felt short of breath, went to lay down and never got up. Nevermind that this was 11 years after a quadruple bypass surgery, so it's not like we didn't expect it - she just never went through that infirm stage where you have the chance to prepare for it. The only other death that has truly affected me was when my friend's husband died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 32 and after only 10 months of marriage. That was and still is horrible and something that affects all of us in our little circle of friends, especially as we remembered Joel a few weeks ago on the 4 year anniversary of his passing.

Which leaves grandpa as the only death so far in my life that is something where we have time to prepare for it. But how do you prepare? Is it simply taking a deep breath and saying "Ok. This is it" ? I suppose I could start baking cookies for a reception and storing them in the freezer, or getting some things together including a nice outfit to wear to the church and having it at the ready. Jim is going to Chicago next week - what if he dies this weekend and I have to go up there alone (well, with Natalie...) to help out? I haven't shed a tear, I'm not sure if I will. I want to be there for my family, to help them out when they are helping grandma out and planning arrangements. I've always been a background kind of person - while they deal with things I'm happy to be the one preparing meals or cleaning up in anticipation of guests. Kind of makes me a smidge sad that we aren't jewish, as I really like the idea of sitting shiva. There are expectations of mourning in judaism and other cultures/religions, but as protestants, there's not much.

Anyway, I think I'm starting to ramble. We'll see where the next few days or weeks lead us.

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