Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"You just can't imagine how hungry a body can get."

My grandmother had a stroke last week. Considering everything, she's doing amazingly well. When I visited yesterday, she was sitting in a wheelchair, drinking strawberry Ensure. She said "talk to me," and I found that I was out of words. I finally leaned into her ear and shouted some about teaching. It seems as if she is going to recover, something we wouldn't have imagined last week. I'm so conflicted though. Getting old in America is brutal.

My grandmother was moved from the hospital to a nursing home, as she can't return to her assisted living apartment. The hospital nursing home is temporary--while we look for a better place. There were four ladies in my grandmother's room. The one across from my grandmother asked me what time it was. She was waiting for lunch. "You just can't imagine how hungry a body can get," she told me. I offered to find someone to bring her a meal, but she told me there were 10 aides and over 100 patients and not to bother. The meal did come before I left. While I was in the hall, a nurse walked by with a baby and you could see each person's eyes brighten as the baby passed by--the baby also helpless, also needing constant care, but cute and portable.

Yesterday, we moved my grandmother's things out of her apartment. I took her table--it is lovely and I have been living for many years without one. But I said no to the nick-knacks, to all the elephants my grandmother has collected, with their trunks down, not up--a detail of vital importance to her. I should mention that I'm not entirely without a heart, I have a beautiful quilt my grandmother has made. But I am interested in the items that we cherish but others do not. In Finland, my aunt and I sorted through my grandfather's slides--this was about a year after his death--and we threw most away. They were pictures purchased (lovingly) from museum gift shops. They were also pictures he took of strangers, people he had met on his travels: a smiling tour guide, a church elder. We kept only the pictures that captured our faces or those we recognized. I thought of my photo albums, and how they will be viewed by others. Picture of Salzburg? Throw away. Picture of smiling pig advertisement? Throw away. Picture of cow? Throw away. Picture of graduation? Keep. (or so I hope)

6 comments:

Shana said...

Oh Sari, I'm sorry. My grandmother fell last fall just before A was born and ended up in the same kind of situation.. . the good news is that we did find a nice nursing home for her (though not nearly as nice as her assisted living apartment) and she's even able to have a private room. My aunt visits from time to time and is even able to bring a laptop so that grandma can talk to baby A over Skype. But I know what you mean, it is really hard and I wish there was a better system. Hang in there we're thinking about you!

Mommy said...

I'm sorry. My grandmother has been going through much the same thing, though on a bit smaller scale. And it was hard last year to see the way Dave's granny was treated. The elderly don't get nearly the care they deserve. The contrast between the care of Dave's granny (in the hospital in Knoxville), and Dylan (who was in NICU in Dallas at the same time) was stark and depressing.

Your grandmother is in our prayers, and you are too.

sonja said...

Don't worry, I won't throw away any pictures of you. :-) Of course, I expect you to outlive me by at least 3 years.

Writing Sisu said...

Ah, but here is the test Sonja, what would you do with all my other pictures--say my 20 pictures of Festung Hohensalzburg? And what about the yearbooks?

sonja said...

no comment

Writing Sisu said...

Oh yeah? Well, I'm giving you 15 copies of Southern Memories for your birthday--and I'm singing the Shoney's birthday song.