Monday, June 6, 2016

A Tribute to My Grandmother

My grandmother passed away recently.  She was 90 years old.  She suffered from Alzheimer's so she hasn't been "with us" for a few years.  It was horrible watching the downward spiral.  My grandma was extremely intelligent and when she realized her words were no longer making sense, she just stopped talking.  It was heart breaking.  I always worried that having Alzheimer's felt like waking up from surgery.  I have a hard time with anesthesia (and have about seven surgeries under my belt).  My brain seems to wake up faster than my mouth.  So people will ask me questions, and I can answer in my mind but I can't get my mouth to comply and say what I need it to say.  Please tell me that Alzheimer's is not like that.  It would be a living nightmare.

I always loved my grandma.  She was extremely religious and conservative.  (Nothing like me for those of you who know me.)  However, she taught me an appreciation for books, hard work and the outdoors.  My grandparents owned an apricot ranch in Brentwood.  We would cut apricots to lay out for drying and that's how we could make extra spending money.  My grandma loved to hike and camp.  I had the interesting grandma -- she always had stark white hair and would drive a convertible.

Part of my job to prepare for the funeral was creating a photo slideshow.  The family sent me over 2,000 photos to go through.  At first I was overwhelmed.  I worried I wouldn't have time to look through all of these photos in time for the funeral.  However, as I dove in, I realized I was so intrigued by all of the adventures my grandmother clearly went on that I didn't care if I had to stay up all night -- I wanted to see them all!

My conservative grandma was just like me.  Or I was just like her.  Her smiling eyes.  Her laughing mouth.  Her head often thrown back.  We are like twins.  Sure, she was still much more conservative and her causes were so different than my own.  But we are still the same.  We love having a cause and we will fight tooth and nail for it.

During the funeral, my mom read a quote about being the kind of woman that, when you wake up, the devil says, oh no, she's up!  Sure, in my grandma's sense, she was talking about how passionate my grandma was about turning people on to religion.  I, on the other hand, enjoy giving the devil a run for his money.  That being said, just because I don't go to church every Sunday doesn't mean I'm a terrible person.  In my mind, the end result is the same:  we are both wild women with strong opinions.  I couldn't imagine myself any other way.  My mom pulled me aside after the funeral to say how my personality, of all the grandkids, was most like my grandma's.  And I saw myself in all of those photos from the 1940's and 1950's.  Even my friend who helped me put the slideshow together said she could see me in those photos.  It was...nice, I guess is the right word?  I felt so much distance from my grandmother in her final years and this brought me close to her again.

Now I want to change the subject a bit...and it's dark.  I want to talk about why we have more compassion for our animals than we do for our people.  We would never allow a dog to suffer the way we allow ourselves to.  I understand that the answer comes down to the likelihood of abuse of power if we were allowed to essentially put our sick and elderly "to sleep."  I know some states have assisted suicide, and I imagine in some situations, it is absolutely the right answer for those people to choose.  But what happens with dementia and Alzheimer's?  When is the right time to make the choice and take those pills?  You have to make that decision and take them when your mind is still somewhat healthy and aware.  But having watched my grandma's descent...I think I would take those pills.  Or would I?  We all want to live.  Our bodies are designed to survive.  I imagine every day I may tell myself, today's a good day, maybe I'll take it tomorrow.  Then when tomorrow finally arrived, and my brain had advanced past the point of being able to make that decision, what happens?  I don't want to live as a shell inside a facility, eating up tens of thousands of dollars each month.  I don't want my family, or rest home staff, to have to change my diaper, force feed me or shower me.

Sorry for the aside, but it has been weighing on my mind.  I hope I never have to deal with making that decision, and I feel for everyone dealing with this right now.

For the most part, I just wanted to pay tribute to my grandmother.  She taught me to be strong and opinionated.  She may not approve of all of my choices, but she has to appreciate that she taught me to stand up for what I think is right.  From one wild woman to another, thank you for paving the way.  I look forward to seeing you again someday!

No comments:

Post a Comment