Last night, my friend Kathy took me out to dinner, somewhat spontaneously, at one of the nicest places in town
. It is a place that my grandmother and I used to frequent when I was taking care of her, and being there reminded me of being with her, especially when we ordered this dessert that she and I used to share, a creme bruele trio (vanilla, chocolate, almond amaratto). Kathy is quiting smoking, and I'm so inspired by her drive to take better care of herself and to be constantly making steps forward to grow in her life.
So, when I left, I was inspired to do something that I thought I wouldn't ever do again. I went to visit Grandma
. I almost gave up before getting in because a bunch of the doors were locked because it was after 6pm. But, I finally got in and went down to see her. Even though she was in her pajamas in bed and the lights were out, she responded to me this time, not out of fear, but relating to me as another human being. I don't think that she recognized me, although there were some inclings that maybe she did: she kept trying to tell me things that I couldn't make out - like something about books and that she wants to be together and something about a baby (she used to confuse me with my sister, who has a toddler). And when I told her that I was going to see her daughter, she really responded. I can't quite explain what it was, but I could tell that this meant something to her.
When I got back to the car, I called my sister and asked her if she wanted to help me bring Mom to see Grandma
. She gave me a hard time about it at first, telling me that she thinks she may have a bit of a cold. I told her that lots of residents at Mom's have colds and that she does fine,
and that if Grandma got sick, it might be a blessing.
"What do you mean by that?" my sister angrily responded. I wanted to say firmly that um, hello, Grandma is in end stage of Alzheimer's, that she's suffering, that she is clearly going to die sometime soon (well could take up to a couple years). I told Julie to just tell me if she was in or not, and she said she'd call me back.
She finally calls when I'm walking on to Mom's floor to tell me that she's in. I tell her to go to Grandma's, get her hearing aids in, turn on the light, move the mattress thing that is next to her bed in case she falls out (even though there's a bar up, I think Grandma wails around a lot).
So, I high tail Mom over there (it is about 20 minutes between Mom and Grandma's). I ask Mom if she'd like to visit her mother and explain that Grandma is getting old and that she hasn't been feeling well. Mom asks me what she should say to her mother and asks if Grandma knows that Mom is in this facility. I tell Mom that she can tell her Mom all about it when she sees her. Mom asks how long Grandma has been in her home, and I tell her "since she's been back from Florida (because Mom has very little sense of time, so she won't realize that Grandma doesn't live at her house anymore)." I try to keep everything honest, but easier to digest.
By this time, it is dark outside, and Mom is a little confused about what we're doing. Mom looks a little nervous when she sees that we're this hospital looking nursing home. But, she clearly wants to see her Mom. When she walks into Grandma's room, my sister is there with her 5 year old daughter. Mom walks up to Grandma and says "hi mom. Its [name]. I love you." She repeats "I love you" several times. It was so sweet to watch.
My sister was really good about doing a smoke and mirrors of everything's fine. She kept saying, "well Grandma looks pretty tired because its late, but I know she's really happy to see you." Grandma still talked a little bit, but was about ready to sleep at this point. I think it was good though to have that excuse that Grandma's not communicating well because its late and she's tired instead of because she no longer has the ability.
We didn't stay long. We all kissed Grandma goodbye. When Mom and I walked out, I asked her, "What do you think?" Mom said, "its hard to see her like that." But, she didn't cry; she took it pretty well. I suggested that we all go out for ice cream, in order to give Mom a happy memory in her head before bed.
Mom really enjoyed it; we got her key lime and macademia nut frozen custard (some of her favorite). When she finished, my sister said, "are you done"? Mom: "Just a minute." She took out the spoon and drank the last bit of melted custard.
When I took her back, she told one of the care managers that it was hard to see her mother. Mom didn't want to go to bed, even though it was past her regular bedtime. So, I put on a Barbara Streisand concert DVD, and we called my Dad so she could tell him hello.
Finally, I got her to bed around 10:30pm. Then, I went to find the med tech to get her melatonin, but he told me that there is no melatonin to give her because they ran out. He showed me a large pile of medications that had run out and said he didn't know when the pharmacy was going to get there to refill them. I asked, well is there some sort of other sleeping pill that we can give her? He gave me the run around, so finally I just went across the street to a 24 hour pharmacy and bought some. It was so ridiuclous, and I didn't want her to wake up and think about her Mom and be upset. But, I didn't get out of there until 11:00!
Mom didn't mind being woken up though. After I gave her the pill and kissed her goodnight, she said "aren't you forgetting something?" I said, "of course, I need to tuck you in." So, I ruffled her sheets and gave her a kiss and said "I love you. Have sweet dreams." Then, she went right to sleep.
Thanks Kathy, for your support and your inspiration. I'm so glad that I took Mom to see Grandma.