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A mummy-hand holding, (former) biker gang affiliating, hippie influenced semi crunchy granola mom's ramblings and reminisings on an off-kilter life

Friday, October 3, 2014

this is why i don't do disaster recovery

My paternal grandma, Nanny, is a sweet 94 year old British lady who still serves tea at four o'clock. Except not today. We went to visit her today and she sat in her chair, frail and papery, her eyes milky and dull. She stuttered out a scratchy mumble of words that sounded like a raven's caw and sandpaper. She clawed for a tissue and clutched her stomach with as much poise as could be mustered. "I am a bit nauseous, I don't feel well" she rattled. My uncle grabbed her a pan (in case she needed to vomit) and she clutched it and shook her head, sighing. She had not eaten all day and refused to let more than water grace her lips, a small and mostly full glass sat next to her as it had all morning.

My mom started to tear up, offering a warm beer to my Uncle (a former alcoholic). He declined and she silently served up some rice to my son. Nanny refused the rice, her hand shook and she had to make an effort to say, "I love you but no food" to my mother.

My mom pulled me aside, not a religious one (unlike my staunch Catholic nanny) and mumbled something about me telling her the angels were here for her. I blew it off as too morbid, but as my uncle was finally able to convince her to go take a nap, and she could not even get to standing, I knew it could be the last time I would see her. A certain urgency and silence hung in the air. Shit, I have never seen anyone close to death before. Especially not this close. mother.

My grandpa decided right then to call the doctor, but at 96 he is a bit senile and quite deaf. He was getting nowhere. I wanted to help, but had two small children to chase after in a home full of glass figurines, family too distraught to watch them. My cousin's wife stepped in, and I guided her through things since my Nanny and I go to the same hospital. As usual, they did not have any appointments for the next month and wanted to funnel a dying woman through the hours-long urgent care process. I helped demand a PA or RN, and they magically found an appointment tomorrow morning, praise God. If there is a tomorrow morning. I helped provide medication informations and birthdates and breathed a sigh of relief. mother.

Nanny was finally convinced she needed rest, after grabbing frantically at her shirt and trying desperately to say something but uttering only a breathy rattle. mother.

Shit. She was going to bed. I had to say my gooodbyes, but you know, without saying goodbye, here come the angels, and all that. I grabbed her hand, feather light and neither hot or cold...unreal, really, and held it. "Remember I got you a cross from the Vatican?" And she weakly fidgeted where a necklace would be. Crap. How is this a help? "Well, we go to church now. The boys, too. They know Jesus." Crap. Where am I going with this? How is this helping? How is this closure? "I am praying for your health. Angels." I pause. Shit. My mom kept mentioning them in my ear and here I had had verbal angel diarrhea. I sent a quick prayer to God, silently in my head. Then I worried because I thought a curse word and thought angels were a dumb thing to say. Was that blasphemy? I trudged on. "Jesus's warmth is hugging you. Umm..because...I pray for you to feel better. The angels...umm...my kids have them. We all have angels. And Jesus." I am sweating. My nanny smiles and I wonder if she can even hear or understand what I am saying, especially cause my verbal diarrhea is confusing even me, and I am feeling guilty about associating angels with diarrhea. Then I think about how angel diarrrhea would be like diamonds or something and shit! Last words to your nanny! C'mon! Wait is she smiling because I am making a complete idiot of myself? mother.

I dug a whole and have to gracefully pull myself out. "Right, Josh?" I say, pulling at my toddler. "You like baby Jesus right? Baby Jesus?" And my uncle interrupts me and gently takes her hand. "Let us take you to bed" he says, and I stand and move to the side, secretly letting a tear slide down my cheek. mother.

This is why I don't do disaster recovery. I suck under pressure and death is far too foreign to me. mother.

postscript, as of early Friday morning upon finishing this post, she has been admitted to the emergency room, no further details. I hope that whenever she passes, be it today or years from now, that she goes without pain, only peace and a smile on her face. I wish I had got to know her better, we really only developed a bond in the past few years, as some senility set in, so I never really got to know her. But at least I knew her and know her and love her.


  1. That sucks about your Nana but I know what you are going through. I feel so useless at times like that, like what do you say that sounds right?

  2. Sometimes just making the effort at saying what people need to hear is more important than saying it smoothly.

  3. I agree with Kristin, it's making the effort that is important. I bet your Nanny loved every word you said, because what she heard was love.

  4. It's important to be there, and the words themselves don't matter much. There's no one right thing to say. I am sorry.

  5. I agree. The words themselves aren't what's important.

  6. I am sorry for what you are going through right now. You brought me back to last spring when I sat at my own 92 year old grandmother's bedside and watched her fade away. Your descriptions of her condition, while painful, are so accurate. I too was a rambling fool, but like the others said, I believe it is your presence that matters much more than any words you do or do not utter. Sending (((hugs))).

  7. You were there and in the end that's all that matters.