Friday, September 21, 2012

I Promise I Will See You Again!

The heat and drought of summer finally seem to be ending... and with the first couple of "cool snaps," I realized that Mam-ma's little house dresses were not going to be sufficiently warm for these autumn/winter days. So I decided to sort through all of her clothing that I brought home and see what I could find that would look nice, be warm, and stand up to an afternoon nap in bed. I found enough knits and velour and "sweats" to create outfits for eight days, and I hung the matching pants/tops/jackets together and toted them to the ALF, where I placed them in the closet alongside the house dresses and sweaters. I instructed the aides to use their best judgment, but on cooler days, please dress Mam-ma in pants. I also took warm pajamas for night-time.

Mam-ma has seemed okay, physically, but she has gotten steadily worse with her ability to get any words out. I sat with her on the porch one beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, and she was clearly restless. She normally loves the porch and being outside, but not this day. I finally gave up after about 30 minutes or more and took her back inside, and an aide put her to bed for a nap.

The next time I visited was probably the following Wednesday. My dad's first cousin had died in Texas, and the family was returning his body to Arkansas for burial. I told Mam-ma that he had passed away... and that he had been in a nursing home for a long time following a stroke, so this was not unexpected. She took it well, I thought.

Friday, I took the warm clothes. As I arrived, Mam-ma was being wheeled to speech therapy. I told the therapist I had work to do in the apartment, and that I would come down and get Mam-ma later. The therapist said, "Give us about an hour." Not long after she and Mam-ma left, some cousins arrived to visit. They had driven in from Texas for the visitation and funeral for the cousin who passed away. I kept them in the apartment for about 30 minutes, and then we went to the therapy room. The therapist told me Mam-ma was very tired ... that she had been falling asleep in the therapy session.

We went back to the apartment, and I positioned Mam-ma to talk with the cousins. I had told them to talk TO her... and she would respond with nods and such... and to talk to each other. After I got Mam-ma settled, I resumed my cleaning and sorting. You could have heard crickets. Nobody said anything. It was awful... and Mam-ma closed her eyes and either went to sleep - or she pretended to be sleeping. The cousins left, and I had an aide put Mam-ma to bed for a nap.

Later, I learned that yet another set of cousins had visited Friday morning (Mam-ma said they had not come). This cousin told me that she and her husband knelt in the floor in front of my grandmother and talked to her about old times... when they went with her and my grandfather and my dad to Indiana to work in the factories... funny things my grandfather used to say. She said Mam-ma smiled a lot - and even laughed a few times. THIS is how you talk to someone who cannot speak! And these cousins visited again on Tuesday before they left to return to their home in Texas. I was so grateful for their visits.

My mom visited Mam-ma a few times in the last 2 weeks, and so did my sister and I, and each time, we felt that her speech was certainly no better - and maybe worse... and that she was frustrated. The Hospice nurse told me that when she visited, Mam-ma cried and cried. Then on Tuesday, my mother-in-law had an "episode" that the doctors feel may have been a TIA. At age 86, with a strong family history of strokes, the ER doc admitted her to the hospital for observation and more tests. I am not sure the floor nurses were glad to see me again, but we were back, and they dealt with it!

So with all that had gone on this week, I had not visited Mam-ma all week... until today. I arrived at her apartment around 1:00 p.m. She was just leaving the dining room with her good friend, Bessie. I asked if she wanted to stay in her wheelchair, get in her recliner, or go to bed. She couldn't tell me. Finally I discerned she wanted in her recliner, and I told her to press her call button for an aide. She did, and she added, "I've got to go to the bathroom." The aide helped her with the bathroom and transferring into her recliner.

I sat on the bed, across from my grandmother's recliner. I tried to think of things to tell her... about a funeral visitation I had just attended for my high school Sunday school teacher... about the delicious muffins I made from a Pinterest recipe. I asked her if the cousins from Texas visited again (I knew they did)... and we talked about how nice it was to see them. Then she pointed her finger at me and tried to speak. She would open her mouth, point her finger, then close her mouth tightly as if she were disgusted, and put her hand down again. This scenario repeated over and again for about 30 minutes. I sat... and sat... and tried to guess. Once she got out "I tell you what..."

Finally, she got out something about "pressuring me..." and "pressuring you..." and I asked, "Someone is pressuring you?" Yes. "Pressuring you for what?" She couldn't tell me. I asked WHO is pressuring you... she couldn't tell me, but there was lots of pointing and trying. I guessed... the cousins? the aides? family members? Hospice? None of those. She was finally able to get out... "don't want to move." I surmised that she had it in her mind that she was going to have to move from the ALF. So I asked questions along this line, and she nodded "yes" - this was the problem.

I reassured her as best I could that I am in charge... and I'm not signing anything for her to move... that if she lives a day or 10 years, she can stay in her apartment. She seemed to be satisfied with my response. We talked about how much the aides love her, and she said something really funny... "Well, don't take this the wrong way... but these girls like me." In other words, "I'm special, and I know it!" That was a huge sentence for her... and very funny.

One day this week I talked with our nephew Timothy, and he begged to come to our house. "Aunt Debbie... I need to come to your house," he would say. "I don't want to stay in Texas." I assured him over and again that very soon, we will see each other again. But I don't know how "soon" this will be... and to a three-year-old, a week is an eternity. It must be the same for 100-year-olds, too, because as I hugged Mam-ma and kissed her "good-bye" today, she started to cry. "I... can't... hardly... stand... it..." she sobbed. I sat back down and looked at her... "You can't hardly stand what?" "I... can't... hardly... stand... it when you leave," she replied.

Now I realize that my grandmother still likes to press my buttons... and she doesn't do this to anyone else who visits... but in that moment, I was right back reassuring Timothy that we will see each other again soon. "I'll be back soon," I explained to her. "I've been gone a lot this week, and I'm so behind at home. I have a lot I need to do there." Again, I was explaining things to her much like I explained to Timmy that he has "work" to do to help his mom with his little sister and brother. Oh, the parallels continue to amaze me!

Granted, the sentences my grandmother uttered today were HUGE in the scheme of things of late... and I'm not sure if speech therapy gets the credit, or if it was a fluke.  I know that there is still incredible frustration there... and few words.  I am studying the Book of James, and one of the passages in recent days dealt with patience... and God's timing.  Today, my lesson was on the power - and importance - of humble, faithful prayer.  I am constantly reminded that I am not truly in control... and that's a good thing.  Meanwhile, I am trusting God's promises... including the one that I will see loved ones again... both on this earth, and in heaven.  And so I pray... and wait... and hope.


Journeyin' Lady... said...

You are an inspiration and a true blessing to your family. I can feel the love you have for them in your writing. Blessings to you.

Debbie Robus said...

Journeyin' Lady... I have just been reading some old posts and found your sweet comment. I found it at just the right time, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. God bless and keep you!