Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Granny Update - Part 561

My grandmother is 85 and one half. Her name is Yolande. She is dying.

Over 15 months ago, i started sending my relatives, colleagues and friends an email I named "Granny Update". My mother's mom, who had always been healthy with the exception of diabetes, was hospitalized. Because her condition seemed to change from night to day within a few days and depending on the doctor who was treating her, I jokingly changed the number on my updates from 1 to 2 and then drastically to 42, 73 and 98. This is the Granny Update - Part 561.

This grandmother is, low and behold, the best of grandmothers. Think unconditional love, wrapped in generosity, layered with unequaled patience, dipped in sweetness, and sugar coated. And sugar she loves!

My first memories of her go as far back as when i was 3 years old. She would babysit me when my mother went back to work after having me (and until I was in grade 4). She would make the beds after everyone was out of the house. "If the beds are made and there are no dirty dishes in the sink - the house looks clean", she would say. I still make my bed first thing when I get up. I hate dirty dishes in my sink but that's another story. After that, she'd have her coffee. And whatever she did, i had to do. So at the tender age of 3, I started enjoying cafe latte!

I remember that the color was vaguely beige-ish. There was more milk and sugar than coffee. But i would have my coffee with her in the morning. In the afternoon, I would paint her face. Not literally, but I would put so much makeup on her face that it looked more like paint by numbers than makeup! She would sit there and be my model. For hours. If there was a song I particularly liked, she would play it for me over, and over, and over, and over again. And again. She never seemed to mind.

She took me to the local park and pool. She would not dare wear a bathing suit nor swim, but I remember seeing her dipping her legs in the water while I would play next to her. She loved it when I would play pedicurist! A very familiar scent which reminds me of my grandma is Noxema. OMG, the countless jars I put on her feet! She would never get tired of getting her feet and legs massaged and creamed. She would laugh and twist from my ticklish tiny fingers going between her toes. She didn't seem surprised when, nearly 18 years later, I became an esthetician. In the afternoon, she'd have tea. So would I.

I am told (I was too young to remember) that I had a bottle and pacifier at my grandmother's, even after my parents confiscated those at home. My mom tells me that I would never ask for them at home, as if I already knew that those where special "grandma treats". My mom only found out after dropping my older sister and I at my grandmother's one evening. She'd forgotten something and found us with a bottle in hand and pacifier in mouth. Oops! What we liked, my grandma would give.

For a few years already, we've known she had heart failure and a tendency to have water on her lungs. She was medicated for that. In addition, in the last year, she has been diagnosed with: myelodysplastic anemia, ovarian cancer, chronic water in and on her lungs and, lately, with a beginning of kidney failure due to all the meds meant to reduce the water on her lungs. She had a bypass last April and would also need a heart valve replacement. Her heart is now functioning at 20% when, at her age, it should average around 50%. She is so full of water that her kneecaps are double their usual size. Pressing against her skin leaves an instant print because the tissues are engorged with water (think sticking your thumb in Silly Putty). She is so terrified of choking and drowning in her own lung fluid that she no longer goes to bed. She sleeps sitting on a chair.

Medically, nothing can be done to save her. All that can be done is to keep her "comfortable" until her heart is too tired to beat once more. At least four times, we rushed her to the hospital to receive a blood transfusion (due to her myelodysplastic anemia) and the blood count was so low that we were told that "her heart should have stopped". Sometimes I think she's made out of steel. With a heart of gold. And spirits of concrete. This week-end, she was informed that she would never leave the hospital. She was living in her own apartment only 2 months ago and still making veggie soup for us at least once a week.

She is entirely and completely lucid. She understands every little thing that is going on. She thinks she will get better. I want to hold her and tell her that, although I wish it from the bottom of my heart, it will not happen. This time, she will not get better.

When I visit her in the hospital, she is coiffed, usually wearing earrings and makeup. In the afternoon on week-ends, we play cards (Tock!). On my lunch hours during the week, we just talk. She enjoys when I visit her; she loves it when I go at night for "the closing shift" (until 9 pm - when visits are over). That means that I wash her legs, her feet and massage them with cream. Of course, she is the only ederly woman on the floor with pedicured toes. "My granddaughter is an esthetician", she happily informs the nurses and aids complimenting her. Before I leave, I apply her eye contour cream and facial moisturizer. "I find I have under-eye bags when you don't put my eye cream", she tells me. She has me tweeze the few undesirable hairs that her chin has grown accustomed to in the last years. She is proud and wants to be at her best, always.

I love her. I love her to death.

1 comment:

  1. Oh that is such a sweet, happy story and heartbreaking at the same time. I wish the best to you and your grandmother. I don't remember a lot about any of my grandparents since I grew up in a different country...but I always wished that I had stories just like yours.