Sunday, June 19, 2011

From the dark side: The end...a stir fry

Today is Father's day, I always struggle with Father's day mostly because of the past I have with my Dad. I thought maybe I would just sleep through the whole day until I was literally guilted out of my bed, forced to come downstairs and put on a smile. Since about 14:30 this afternoon my sister's voice, blaring as she bosses us around has had the same effect on me as nails on a chalkboard.

The reason I have been writing this all this about my grandmother is because this week we finally put her in a home. Granted she really should already been in a home years ago but my Mom just couldn't let go. Up until just recently my Mom was the centre of my grandmother's universe and she couldn't stand to be away from her. My mother believed that once my grandmother stopped responding to her love that then it would be time to let go. I think that my Mom carries a lot of guilt because it was that idea that led to disaster with my grandmother breaking her hip and her final decline into complete insanity. This led to a year of hell for our family that caused a breakdown of our relationships, isolation, depression and a whole lot of anger for all of us. If my grandmother was herself she would be horrified at all that happened.

Now for what I see as a true tragedy: My grandmother was raised to believe that her most important place was within the family. She may never have had a career, but she worked twice as hard for her family. She came from a wealthy farming family but received nothing except a small settlement in her parents will...all because she was a girl and her husband was meant to take care of her.

My grandfather died penniless in a home (which was paid for by his brother) when I was 19. Standing over him in the final hours of his life, I felt nothing more than pity for him. I was more heartbroken by my Mom begging him to stay so she could spend more time with him. That was so awful. My beloved great- uncle died two months before I left for England. He had suffered a massive stroke the year before his death that left him a total invalid, unable to speak. Our family had raced across the country when that happened. I sat with him in the hospital throughout the night squeezing his hand and stroking his face trying to get my brain accept that my uncle, with his twinkling eyes, larger than life personality and booming voice was the same frail man that lay expressionless in that bed. It was a great day for him when he died. He loved God more than anything else on this earth and longed for the day when he could finally meet his maker.

My great- uncle had made a great success of the farm he inherited and it has now been passed onto his sons, one of which is my godfather. My grandmother's younger brother drank his farm and his money away. He died of cancer when I was 8. So my grandmother is the last one left. The last one from the glory days.

So in other words my poor grandmother is broke and even though she worked so hard. We could not afford to put her in a nice home or one that was even close buy. The home she is in now is very basic but comfortable for the price. But it is two hours away and my mother will only be able to see her once a month. My Mom has lived with my grandmother for most of her life except for her university years and the first 3 years she was married to my Dad.

It has been a mad dash to get my Grandmother ready. You will not believe how much stuff you need to buy to get someone ready for going into an old- age home. The night before she left I was in the kitchen chopping vegetables for a stir fry and I was listening to my Mother talk to my Grandmother about the home, how many friends she would make, how the nurses were going to spoil her and how good the food was. My Mom washed her hair, cut her nails and was rubbing cream on her hands. My grandmother kept thanking her. The stir fry was not quiet working out the way I wanted ( I added to many damn noodles!) and then it hit me. My grandmother has been alive the whole time I have been alive, she was there for everything and I mean everything. Years and years of everything was going to end with a stir fry?. This mostly likely was going to be her last meal with us. This was probably the last supper I would make for her.

We are took my Grandmother to that home for her die. Her road on this earth will end there. And while she may change homes or come for visits, you know what I mean. A page has been turned and we are now facing the final chapter. The landscape of our family will never be the same. And with the stir fry thought came the cold realisation. I will never hear my Grandmother call my name again, she will never make me another cup of tea, her stories have now gone.

I'm still angry as hell but I don't hate her anymore and I don't want to be angry either. But I guess the reason why I am afraid to let go of that anger is because behind all that rage there is a heart wrenching sadness and a tunnel of endless regret. I have racked my brain trying identify those times when we may have had a second chance for a good relationship. Maybe everyday was a second chance, maybe we were never meant to be. The irony is that if my grandmother had not had Alzheimer's we might have been very good friends.

On that last night, after everyone had gone to bed I went into her room to fetch Milo, who for some reason had taken to curling on my Grandmother's bed after she went to sleep. And there she lay tiny and fragile, a ghost of her former self. For some reason I thought about one Christmas when my Mom, sister and I were struggling to drag our potted Christmas tree into the house on a mat. My grandmother pushed us aside, took hold of the mat and dragged the whole thing in by herself quickly and with such apparent ease that all three of us were embarrassed by being shown up by a seventy- something woman. There are a lot of things I want to change about the past but none of that matters now. Saying "I love you" just felt to weird but I whispered to her how sorry I was. She didn't hear me of course. They say that the bitterest tears shed over a grave are for words left unsaid. I took Milo and left.

The next day she was gone, I stood in her room. Her bed was stripped and all her belongings were gone. Photographs of her now seem ancient, moments frozen in time. I am now part of her legacy. I hope and pray that I will learn from her mistakes and live my life well.


  1. Stephi, there is so much that I would like to say and yet have a hard time finding the words. I have enjoyed reading this, but I hate hearing how much your family has suffered. This situation has been a constant stress on your entire family and no one knows how they will react in such a situation. Perhaps, it was easier for you to be angry than to be hurt--or direct your true anger at the person responsible. I'm guilty of that myself. Maybe you have matured as a person and can see and understand this situation more clearly. We all have regrets, but unfortunately we cannot change our past--we can only learn from it and change our future. Be there for your mother because she is going to need you and maybe by doing so--you can honor your grandmother as well. Your entire family is in my thoughts. Thank you for sharing and being honest. I was moved. I hope writing this helps you.

  2. Thank- you Miss Running- You have inspired me a lot with the way you honor your Daddy especially since things were not easy for you growing up. I have a great admiration for for you. This is a very sad story but you are right,by being there for my mother I can honor my grandmother.

  3. I remember when my grandmother had to be put into a home and no matter how "nice" my mother and her siblings made it out to be, everyone knew (esp. my grandmother) that this was the beginning of the end...everyone felt helpless, guilty and extremely sad. I hope I never, ever have to face a decision like that for my father. You really honored your grandmother Stephi, because you DIDN'T sugar-coat your feelings about her and really everyone we love or are connected to in someways are full of ambivalence if we're honest which you were. I'm sorry for all of you that this was such a sad and painful process and sending all of you and your family many blessings.

  4. I hope your family is able to enjoy some peace now. And I hope healing comes for all of you.

    You may not believe it now, but I believe you did the best you could. You had feelings and emotions that you didn't know how to process or deal with. Or you felt like you just had to keep to yourself. Those become poison and make it difficult to be the people we want to be. Hopefully you will find forgiveness for yourself.

    I don't think you are a bad person. I believe you were in an incredibly difficult position with a lot of emotional baggage just doing the best you could.

    misssrobin --

  5. @ Wendy: Thank you, yes it is extremely difficult and very sad. When my Mom left her there she had one of her rare lucid moments and didn't want her to leave. She is also extremely afraid of dying to the whole thing has been very tragic and traumatic especially for my Mom. I can't imagine having to put my Mom in a home and I am praying that I will never have to face this situation with her. I can't imgaine how hard this myst be for my Mom.

    @Miss Robin: Thanks Miss Robin. I certainly hope that my Mom can find some peace now and overcome the guilt of leaving her in a home. We are praying for my grandmother to find some peace because she does not like being there. IT is such a hard situation