January 23, 2009

Change Of Plans

Things didn't go exactly as we had planned yesterday. Warren did bring me a delicious cinnamon croissant. We did get our fireplace fixed (we'll be able to use it for the first time tonight!). But we did not visit my grandmother at the hospital in the morning like I thought we would. Instead we went to the ER at a local hospital because Jerry fractured his wrist!

We were seconds away from getting into the car to make the drive down to Laguna Hills to see my grandma when I heard a loud crash, an even louder scream and Jerry screeched, "I broke my wrist!" So we did go to a hospital. Just not the one we'd planned on going to. It's only a small fracture and he doesn't need a cast--just a splint--so we got off pretty easy.

Since Jerry wasn't feeling great (and because we had to be around when the fireplace guy finished), we changed our plans and figured we'd visit my grandma the following day (that would have been today) and we spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning house in preparation for our guests.

All day I had butterflies in my stomach--and I'm not talking about the nice, fluttery kind you get when you fall in love. I'm talking about the butterflies that feel like they're eating away at your insides. I'm talking vicious butterflies with spiky wings and fangs. I just had a horrible feeling that my grandma wouldn't make it through the night. So I wasn't all that surprised when my mom called around 8:45 and said my aunt didn't think grandma would last much longer.

My parents were about and hour from L.A. at that point. My brother and his girlfriend had dropped off their dog (I did say we'd have a very full house!) and went on to Anaheim where her friend lives, but at that point we all headed for the hospital. Warren, Jerry and I arrived around 10 p.m. She looked old and frail, of course. But that was no surprise because I'd been to visit her twice last week. What surprised me was how happy she looked. And how beautiful. She was radiant, even through the oxygen mask.

My uncle (the crazy one--every family has one, right?) was there too. He's my grandma's youngest and he'd gone back to her house that afternoon and made struedel for her from her own recipe. He said she scarfed it down, too. My aunt (her second daughter) and uncle had been with her for the last few days, making sure she was getting anything she wanted--including an In-N-Out burger and beer (thickened because she can't have liquids) for dinner the previous night.

Being in that hospital room, and watching my family members sit by my grandma and hold her hand, and tell her stories, make her laugh, and argue over who she likes better Wayne Newton or Elvis (it was Wayne) made me feel so much better. She looked happy. "Are you happy?" I asked. I had to make sure. She nodded and gave a toothless smile.

She was urrounded by her family. How could she not be happy, right? She got to touch Cora (I don't say see because she's blind now) and Carson, my sister's kids who have been out of the country for two and a half years. And she even got to rub my sister's and my brother's girlfriend's pregnant bellies, effectively welcoming great-grandchildren numbers sixteen and seventeen into the family. There were still eleven people there when we left for the long drive home around midnight.

Yesterday morning I felt sad for my grandma. When I heard she had signed the DNR (even though I knew it was the right choice) I felt like she had given up. And my grandma just doesn't give up. Ever. But after seeing her I felt differently. The nurse had given her a shot of morphine earlier in the day but Grandma said she didn't want anymore. It made her feel like somebody else, she'd said. She wanted to feel like herself. And so she was. A frailer, toothless, less mobile self, perhaps, but the essence of my grandma still shone through loud and clear.

It's still early and I haven't yet heard how she did during the night. I don't feel sad for her today, though. After seeing her last night, I know she's at peace with the place she's come to in life. I know she's happy.

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