Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A True Thanksgiving

We had a real traditional Thanksgiving this year. Not only did my
brothers, their spouses, and their children come to my parents' house,
but once again my grandfather ended up in the hospital.

I know that I've mentioned this before (and I would totally link to
the other stories if I was writing this from my computer rather than
at work where I can't get access to Blogger) but my grandfather,
father's father, has been in the hospital a lot around Thanksgiving.
It's like every two or three years he goes in.

The last time was 2011. He had an infection in his foot and wound up
having two toes removed. He was out of his house and either at a
hospital or in a "rehab" center until just before 2012 started. (I
know that the story in on this blog somewhere. I really do wish I
could link it.)

So, the Saturday before Thanksgiving I moved back in with my parents.
I got hired back at the prison in Cowtown out in the personnel
department. The brother who lives in Oregon and his family arrived in
Cowtown noonish that day, as well. On Tuesday, I think, it was
decided, that they were all going to visit my grandparents in the care
home while I was at work.

Around 9AM that Tuesday, my family family received a phone call from
the home asking how my grandpa was. My mom asked why. She was told
that Grandpa had been taken to the hospital in the early morning
hours. Everyone packed up, a little earlier than planned, and headed
to the hospital to see Grandpa and then over to the home to see
Grandma and then back to the hospital.

Of course, I didn't learn any of this until I got back to an empty
house that evening and called my mom to find out what was going on.

Grandpa was in the hospital, this time, because he blood was low. They
found no open wounds on him. His abdomen didn't hurt and his poop
wasn't bloody; they could have scoped his stomach for ulcers, but he's
93 years old. One thought was that he was bleeding internally, but
nothing was tender. There was talk about leukemia, but no tests were
run. And the doctor mentioned that when people get old their marrow
sometimes just stops producing blood cells.

The hospital gave Grandpa three units of blood. That's about three
pints. About six cups. About one quarter of the amount of blood in the
average adult human. The hospital wanted him to stay for a while after
the final unit was given, but Grandpa is such an asshole that they let
my parents take him back to the home. My brother's family drove back
to Cowtown. Our parents stayed in a hotel so they could take my
grandpa back to the hospital for tests in the morning.

I didn't see them until the next evening, but I got the full scoop.
The parents didn't take anyone to the hospital and instead they talked
to Hospice and introduced the Hospice person to Grandpa. This causes
my grandpa to freak out a little and he wants to get my grandma's
opinion, which is a huge problem.

If my grandma doesn't have Alzheimer's then she has a severe case of
dementia. She's lucky though because her normal personality is
friendly and sweet. She wants to get to know you and even if she
doesn't understand what you're saying she is truly interested in
listening to you. She smiles and handles small talk like a pro. Even
on days when she loses her words and can't speak in complete sentences
she stays pleasant. She doesn't always understand or can't communicate
especially when it's something that's hugely important and requires
critical thinking. When Grandpa started to talk to her about Hospice
and letting go, she freaked out.

She'd already been having some trouble, anyway. She's restless in the
room she shares with my grandpa. She's up and down and moving things
and is generally disruptive when Grandpa is trying to watch TV or in
the middle of the night. She knows to go to the bathroom, but doesn't
always understand how to use what needs to be used and leaves messes
or throws used toilet paper in the hamper or sink or bathtub. She
wanders into other people's rooms and moves or takes things. She eats
off of other people's plates or smears her food on the floor and walls
of the dining room. The ladies at the home have taken to bringing her
along on their rounds so they can watch her. Before Thanksgiving, the
idea of moving her either out of the shared room or to another home
had been mentioned.

Thanksgiving Day there were no calls from the home. It was a calm day
on the grandparents' front.

On Friday my parents and my brother, along with his wife, who lives in
Los Angeles, drove down to the home to see my grandparents. Grandpa
had to go back to the hospital to have his blood drawn. My brother,
who is almost a medical doctor, spoke with our grandpa's doctor with
our dad. His blood level wasn't low, but it wasn't as high as it had
been after the transfusions on Tuesday. Grandpa would probably have to
go back in a few weeks for more blood or just let himself go.

Fortunately, things were good at the home. Grandma was personable and
my sister-in-law played the piano. Things were okay until the guys got
back and Grandpa, again, tried to talk about end of life issues and
get my grandma involved. Again, she got upset.

The next day, the brothers, their significant others, and the children
all left, four to the north and two to the south. In the evening
Grandpa called and spoke with Dad. He had decided that he was going to
get the transfusions and stay alive as long as possible.

My grandpa is an atheist. An atheist who is afraid to die. In college
he started out as a seminary student, but he's too analytical and
without any real proof or feeling of KNOWING in his gut he switched to
psychology, he was of the B. F. Skinner variety, and told himself that
there is no higher power and nothing after this life; if there was
something, he said he would be pleasantly surprised.

He was okay with this way of thinking until about 15 years ago. I
guess he just realized that he was old and would die one day, I don't
really know, but suddenly he was really interested in those TV
psychics, like John Edward, who spoke with their audiences about
family they'd lost, family currently in the afterlife. Grandpa didn't
obsess over these celebrity psychics, but their message that there was
an afterlife comforted him. He was skeptical, though. He didn't
believe with all his heart that an afterlife existed because there was
no physical evidence that had been confirmed by means he trusted. Deep
inside he still believed that there is nothing after we die. And this
scares him.

So, when my grandpa spoke with Dad on Saturday and said he want
extraordinary means to stay alive, I wasn't surprised, even though it
went against everything Grandpa had stated over the years. Grandpa
tried to rationalize by saying that Grandma needed him. Emotionally,
she may need him, but he doesn't notice the problems she causes unless
she's disturbing him and even when he does notice all he does is yell
at her and call in the ladies to get her out of the room. According to
my dad, Grandpa taking such extraordinary means to stay alive is
against everything my grandpa has said when talking about end of life

What makes it even harder is that my grandpa expects my parents to
drive him to the hospital and back each time he needs a transfusion.
Both of my parents said they can't do it. My grandpa lives over an
hour away from my parents and the transfusions would have to take
place on a weekday. One unit of blood takes about three hours to be
absorbed. With the pick-up and drop-off that's at least six hours. A
lost day of work. And since both parents work with students it's a day
of prep and appointments lost, too.

The week after Thanksgiving, Tuesday or Wednesday, the home called and
said that Grandma has to be moved somewhere else. She can no longer
stay at this home because she's disturbing the other residents too
much and she's upsetting my grandpa too much and there's no way to get
her under control. She has to go.

My grandparents moved into this current home at the end of September.
A new place has been found, but we have to wait for rooms to become
available. Grandpa is insisting on going to be with Grandma. They will
not be sleeping in the same room. The new place will cost twice as
much as the current place. Grandpa keeps talking about dying and
moving to Grandma, upsetting her.

I really wish I had a way to wrap this up. Something witty or
meaningful. I don't though. My head is stuffy from a lingering cold,
all this crap that I've been writing since yesterday, and my new job.

Besides, this is life. There really isn't an end.

1 comment:

RETA said...

Good to put all the words down and unload your thoughts. This situation is incredibly difficult. The suffering of aged parents & grandparents is such a heartache and challenge for the entire family. I hope these things get resolved and that all of you can rest a little. I wish you well.

RETA@ http://evenhaazer.blogspot.com