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I was in the middle of my sophomore year of high school when this all went down. I was at home, sick with the flu, when my mom raced down the stairs shouting about how my grandma had a stroke.
Just a year ago, I couldn’t imagine this woman who was my grandmother having anything related to that. She was bright and eccentric; full of life.
After a week or so, we visited her. She looked weak, nowhere close to herself. Seeing her like that was hard. We were supposed to say our goodbyes and let her say them back. She was going to die. The doctors said it right then and there.
So, we did just that. We said our goodbyes, made promises to her.
That didn’t mean we gave up hope.
We prayed, wished, pleaded—whatever you want to call it—for her to get a second chance. This was a woman who beat cancer twice and danced around like radiation treatment didn’t affect her at all for our sake. This woman set money aside for birthdays every month with her 12 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren, and 4 children of her own. Everyone had to have a party in her eyes.
This woman was the light of the world in so many eyes. Kind hearted, charitable, giving, caring, etc.
We all got our wish. She survived the night. And after a long going debate that passed from when she started her second treatment for her second course of cancer, she agreed to get the tube for her stomach. The feeding one. The one that took away partial liberty she had and the one she didn’t want anything to do with.
Happiness filled everyone, but I began to wonder how long it lasted.
She went to a facility that was a nursing home, and it was there that I realize she was slowly dying.
She couldn’t move half of her body, she started losing mobility, etc. We visited very often.
It was within the first couple months there something hit me hard that had me thinking, “She’s beyond off.” She addressed my dad as a grandchild, her own son. She did it a couple times, ended up calling him a different name a few.
The word Dementia started turning in my head and as a then 16-year-old, I was just hoping it was something already discovered by doctors that she had. Clearly they noticed this, right?
The word wasn’t spoken by a healthcare professional until several months later. I remember being angry. They should’ve seen the signs that we kept seeing.
My grandmother was losing her mind. She was calling people by the wrong name, she was confusing reality from her dreams and imagination, and she would talk of the far past like it happened yesterday.
How do you tell a woman she can’t go home because there’s no way for her to go home?
We had to lie and say she was at the hospital and could go home soon. Didn’t stop the crying, but it prevented further heartbreak.
She got worse as the months passed. She stopped speaking often. Her mind slowly died away and reduced her to just curious stares and fidgeting.
My mother stayed with her often while we were at school, trying to help her recover her mentality and motor abilities. She would bring flash cards and coloring books, toys that made sound so she could hold something and play with it in her hand even if she couldn’t see the object. My grandma just grew tired at the efforts and gave up. We couldn’t blame her.
Her mentality matched that of a child’s towards the end. She was a victim of a stroke after all.
Through the course of those very hard nine months, I started wondering would it have been best if she passed soon after the stroke—rather than pleading for a life she couldn’t return to and just come back to the course of her losing herself? Did we all finally experience the long going phrase, “Be careful with what you wish for”?
I don’t know whether it was her herself that pulled through for us that night, but if it was, I regret making her do so. In it, she lost herself and her freedom and expression. She lost her mind.
I witnessed my grandmother slowly die over the course of nine months, and part of me believes she would’ve been suffering less had she let go shortly after the stroke.
I don’t let those nine months replace my memories of her; it was like a separate version of my grandma. Instead, I remember the woman who danced around and would clap and stomp happily if she got excited, who would call me “Doll” whenever I was around.
So in other words, be careful with the things you wish for. There’s always room for regret and the what if’s.