Monday, July 30, 2012

She was a Swan

My sincere apologies for going so long without blogging.  These past few weeks have been a little rough to say the least.  Very shortly after my last post, my maternal Grandmother went into the hospital and, within the day, into hospice care.  About 6 months ago, doctors found a few large tumors in her brain, later diagnosed as adenocarcinoma, and though they tried a few things, she just decided that she was tired and wanted to spend the rest of her time being comfortable.  We knew from the beginning that there wasn’t much to be done, so as heartbreaking as it was, it was calming to know that she’d made that decision. 

I was able to get home a week after she went in, and on the same day that she was moved to the Aurora House, a wonderful 2 bed hospice home in Spencerport, NY.  I spent a week and a day visiting with her, talking to her, and doing my best to be an extra support for my Mom.  She was kept unbelievably comfortable, receiving constant care by each pair of hospice volunteers, who rotated every 4 hours.  They were incredibly supportive for my family- keeping track of who we were, and most importantly, keeping informed about the day to day details about my Grandma and family- a surprising task considering we rarely saw the same individuals more than once or twice.  I can’t express how comforting, peaceful, warm, and touching this hospice organization is.  I have lost a handful of people in my life, but have never been present for the process and these wonderful people who volunteer their time made it more peaceful than I could hope.  She passed comfortably late one night, with my Mom by her side.

It’s hard to really believe that she’s gone now.  She was such a lively person- even more so than I ever really took the time to think about before now.  She was a strong woman.  She was graceful and had so much poise.  But she was a goofball too.  She would do things and make jokes that seemed out of place coming from an older woman (and CALLING her an older woman is not something she would appreciate!).  Years ago, she went to my cousin’s game and wanted to surprise everyone by dressing in a mascot costume.  After failing to acquire a mascot costume, she decided to wear a random costume (I think it was a penguin) and wandered around the game, incognito! Why? Just for fun, of course.   She often made light of things that most people would be broadsided by- whether she didn’t get bothered, or wouldn’t let anyone see her bothered, I’m not entirely sure.  But she was definitely stubborn!  We often had a lot of “Ohhh, Grandma” moments.

As a child, teenager, and young woman, I sometimes struggled with my relationship with her.  I never disliked her by any means, but we were very different.  I was a huge tomboy- rarely ever wearing make-up, dressy clothes, couldn’t do anything fancy with my hair (still can’t really), and I hated the idea of carrying a purse.  I wanted to be a farm girl and play in the dirt and grass with horses and dogs.  And, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a MAJOR nerd.  Though I honestly did try (a little), there wasn’t much about me growing up that was remotely “girly.”  And to sum it up, my Grandma just didn’t get it.  She was a girly girl through and through.  Always dressed nice, hair done, nails done; shoes and purses galore.  She even raised two girly girl daughters.  And I was her ONLY grand-daughter to shower with girly girl dressings!  She was understandably a bit thrown.

I don’t quite remember at what point that changed.  It may have been gradual.  I started to find my inner girl- or at least my version of it.  She was thrilled the first time she saw me carry a purse.  But that wasn’t all of it.  Sometime during finishing college with honors with some research under my belt; sometime around starting graduate school in a PhD program; sometime around me really finding myself and figuring out who I was, she really did too.  She started to “get” me.  It’s hard to explain even still, but over the past few years, I really felt that she saw my life- who and where I was in my life, and that it was who I really wanted to be.  And she was proud of me.  Not because I did what SHE thought I should do.  Not because I became who SHE thought I should be.  But because as an early 20 something, I had decided what I loved, I reached for it, and I was doing it.  It may not seem that big of a deal.  People are proud of their loved ones every day.  But the ability to step back from your own eyes, from how you see the world and how it should be, to even take the time to try and see another person’s perspective; that’s not something that a lot of people are capable of, or willing to do.  I will always have that with my Grandma, and thankfully, I was able to tell her on her last day with us how much that meant to me. 

 I hope that I can learn to be more like her in some ways.  Take things a little less seriously sometimes.  Have a little more poise.  And, of course, let my inner girly girl shine every now and then.  Most of all, I hope that I can always do my best to understand other people- the way their brains work and their perspective on the world- such an easy thing to forget, but what rewarding results we get when we just take the time.