Throughout the month of December, I’ll be participating in #reverb13: Reverb is a way to reflect on the past year and project into the next year with a prompt a day for 31 days.
Day 28 – Cry it out
What moment in 2013 brought tears to your eyes? Are you usually a crier? Or did tearing up take you by surprise?
I'm not usually a crier. Christmas night brought sad tears, and I kind of knew they'd be coming that night. I saw my grandpa for the first time since his stroke earlier this year.
I had thought about going home right after my dad said it happened, but my dad told me not to. And I listened. In reality, that may have been a good decision, as I don't think being there while he was in the hospital would have been beneficial for him, me, or my dad. But I wish I'd gone at some other point this year. Of course I can only blame myself for that. I didn't make time to get there to visit. I let long runs, social plans, out of town guests, and other trips serve as excuses not to go. Part of it was likely just not wanting to go -- not wanting to see my grandpa as he is now. And part of it was feeling like I didn't have to go -- having my dad assure me that he thought my grandpa will be with us for some time longer.
I'd of course heard a lot about how he was doing, but I hadn't called him since my dad said I wouldn't understand him. So in some ways I knew what to expect.
But seeing him was hard. Happy, yes, but mostly sad and hard. He is in a wheelchair and has a full-time caregiver who lives with him (a nice guy from Ukraine! I got to practice my few very rusty Russian phrases with him!). He has a feeding tube. He can't move the right side of his body. He's very hard to understand when he speaks.
All of that, I think I could deal with. But he's also very unhappy.
When we talked, he mentioned his frustration with not having the use of both arms, not being able to drive, etc. He just turned 90, but as of last year at Christmas, he was entirely self-sufficient, and he was even the go-to guy for many elderly people. My grandma died New Year's Eve 1989-1990, so he'd been on his own for more than 20 years. And being a sweet and funny older man, there were plenty of older women happy to have him help -- he drove them to the doctors', to the store, to see their families, etc. And now he's the one needing help. He also mentioned that almost all his savings have been used up in these months of full-time care, how quickly it goes. And he talked about food, and how hard it is for him not to be able to eat, and how much he misses that.
I couldn't help tearing up when we talked and during some of the Christmas festivities, I just excused myself back to my childhood bedroom, laid down on the bed and cried for a little while. It just breaks my heart to know that he's so unhappy. He doesn't deserve this. He fought in the Pacific! He lost his wife too young! He was a Teamster! He's a wonderful guy! He did so much for so many, not just our family.
Getting old is hard. This was just another reminder. And it's eye-opening in some ways. All of my other grandparents have gone very quickly -- none were in the hospital more than 2 days before they died, and all were fully self-sufficient until death/hospitalization.