Monday, September 12, 2016


So when I got the call on a Tuesday morning that my grandpa was not well, I got a plane ticket and flew home that day.  I only stayed a couple days.  The plan was that my husband would come on Friday or Saturday if I needed him to, but in the end, that wasn't the case.

When I packed, I pulled "my funeral dress" out of the closet.  I didn't pack it, but I hung it sideways so that my husband could pack it when he came if necessary.


(Very messy closet, it's been busy...)

Thankfully, not necessary.  My grandpa is pretty stable in general.  He's declining, and there's no chance he'll get better (maybe if I were more religious I'd believe a miracle could happen?  those seem pretty rare in the over-90 set though).  He won't be going home ever again, and he can't even be moved to a nursing home.  The only options are remaining in the hospital or going into hospice. 

I am so glad I went home though.  I'm also so glad I had the money to make it happen, and a job that was understanding.  I actually ended up working from the hospital room, so I didn't have to take sick time or vacation (not sure how it even works in our system).  Most days, I just sat next to him and held his hand, talked to him some, and worked.  I told my husband I'd be home, so he didn't need to come up.  But just getting to spend a few quality days there really meant a lot to me. 

I'm so glad that my grandpa knew I was there.  He smiled when he saw me.  It was a huge shock to see him.  He's been shrinking my whole life it seems, I think I passed him up in height when I was about 14, but he is tiny now.  He looked almost like a skeleton with skin.  In the two weeks before he went into the hospital and in his first week in the hospital (before they realized his g-tube had perforated his colon), he went from about 140 pounds to 108.  It was shocking and scary to see him.  He sleeps a lot, but when he's awake, he's alert -- and somewhat ornery. 

Here are the three things I want to remember:

1.  He said thank you when I put a blanket over him (after a nurse moved it to take vitals).
2.  I left the room as a nurse was going to change him, and on my way out, I told her that I was his granddaughter.  He said to the nurse as I was leaving, "she's my lawyer!" 
3.  He was frequently crabby when staff had to mess with him (taking vitals, etc.).  I think in a VA hospital, they're probably particularly used to dealing with this.  On the last full day I was there, a young male doctor came in.  As with all providers, he was very clear in saying what exactly he was going to do.  He said something like, "Leroy, I'm going to listen to your chest.  We've increased your fluids and I need to make sure you're doing okay."  My grandpa is pretty hard to understand since his stroke, but as the doctor was checking his heart/lungs with a stethoscope, my grandpa said something we didn't understand.  The doc asked him to repeat, and my grandpa asked, fairly clearly, "how'd you like it if I shove that up your ass?"  The doc didn't miss a beat and said "I don't think I'd like that at all.  Tell you what, I won't stick it up your ass and you don't stick it up mine." 

I came back to Dallas, and since then went to San Fran and Lake Tahoe for 6 days around Labor Day -- wow!  Then went to Philly later in the day on the day we got back from San Fran -- beating!  And this coming week, I'm working Colorado. 

I told my dad that I'd come back whenever he wanted me to, if grandpa's condition changes, or for the funeral, whenever that is.  This is so hard for my dad.  I've never gone through this before.  My other three grandparents died quickly, no prolonged illnesses.  Two of them were up and about one day, and gone by the next.  One was up and about (working on a catering job), then had a stroke or heart attack, was in the hospital and unconscious for about 2-4 days, then died.  So nothing like this, years in a wheelchair with a feeding tube after a stroke, and now weeks (or months?) in a hospital in a slow decline.  It might be easier to make a decision about hospice or ending his pain if my grandpa were declining mentally, but he's clearly still himself and alert at least some of the time. 

One of the scariest things was once when my grandpa turned away from me to see who was walking in the hospital room, and the back of his head looked so much like my dad.  I dread seeing my own parents get older, particularly to this point.


  1. Well first off I am glad your grandfather is still around ... but as you say it gets to a certain point where you start to wonder. I lost an uncle a few weeks ago who was 85, talking to my aunt she basically said by the end it was a relief for everyone, as his body had just given out. But before his 02 level dipped too low, he was his normal ornery, wise-cracking self - the guy I remember as a kid from the 70s and 80s. Except that he looked like a small, old, broken shell of his former hockey coach self.

    And I know I will be losing many more in the coming months ... possibly one or both of my parents, and also likely one of our friends who has been battling cancer for the last couple of years.

    And the big thing is that when I look at pictures of my Dad with his MG convertible back in ~1962, I see my older son (not even myself - I don't see myself that young), but my dad now is not terribly healthy, and wasn't able to travel for my uncle's funeral. Well ... reading that back, considering he was given the last rites 31 years ago at 45, I guess he is actually doing stellar! :D

    The other thing that struck me in your post was "I am so glad I went home". Very true - you are fortunate that everything allowed it to happen, and that you were able to make it happen. I struggled at first calling my aunt - I know what it is like when someone dies and everything is chaotic ... but I was so glad I called her. Just 10 minutes talking about life, all the kids and grandkids, and connecting. It meant everything.

    1. Sorry about your uncle, and the coming losses that you can see on the horizon, it's so hard. I bet it meant a lot to your aunt that you called. That connection and showing you care and you're thinking of the person just means so much.