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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Learning To Say Goodbye...

There are many ways someone can leave. Sometimes you get the chance to say goodbye. Sometimes you don't. Saying goodbye doesn't get any easier with age. It is hard! I hate goodbyes. 

When my sister was leaving to live in another state, I cried like a little 'ol baby. It was before FB and the internet in general allowed us to connect and share so easily. I didn't know when I would get to see her again. 

Last week, I got the call that the time is nearing for my grandma to leave us. This kind of goodbye is even harder. It's permanent. It's forever. 

I won't lie and say we have been super close, because the fact is I didn't grow up with a doting grandmother spoiling me with goodies and hugs. Not that she would have if we lived closer. My dad was in the military when I was little and we moved around several times and when we finally settled, we were across the country from grandma and we only saw her occasionally when her and grandpa traveled and would stop and spend a few days or a week with us and the few times we visited them.

In a way I don't regret that one bit because the distance kept her from meddling in my parents relationship and possibly destroying it. Because we didn't live very close to either of their parents, my parents were on their own and had to work through problems and issues together. With no outside agitators, they managed to keep it together and raise three of us in a relatively stable atmosphere. If we had lived near either of my grandmothers, life would have been much different and things would not have turned out like they did.

One thing that that saddens me is that after moving here and living close to her, somehow my grandma just didn't seem able to have an adult relationship with any of us. Not even her own daughter. She has spent these years being fearful that we only wanted what was hers and were scheming to get belongings and money. I'm not sure it ever crossed her mind that we wanted a grandma that we could love and trust more than anything. A grandma we could have a relationship with. 

Her and grandpa's attitude and behavior over the years left us feeling uncomfortable and even unwelcome in their home. Theirs was never the house we just stopped by to say hi, kick off your shoes or get a warm loved feeling when you walked in. We were left feeling more like intruders quite a lot of the time. They welcomed strangers much more readily.

My grandma was always pretty active. She was also a young grandma since my mom was getting married and starting her own family at 16. I know she hated the thought that she was "grandma" so young. She was pregnant with my uncle at the same time that my mom was pregnant with my brother. 

There were good and fun times. We stayed the summer with her when I was around 6 years old. She got out and did things with us. She would get her wagon and hook it up to her little tractor and ride us around, take us to the lake to go swimming, take us to town and stop and the "rock" store..... one day that summer she was coming back home and a large turtle was sitting in the road. She didn't want it to get hit so she got it and brought it back so we could see it before turning it loose on their property. She definitely had her moments where she was fun to be around.

She has also been an incredibly strong woman. She was briefly married a first time to a man that soon after their wedding began abusing her. At a time when woman didn't stand up for themselves or leave such situations for fear of what people would think, she did. Grandpa was career Navy and was stationed all over the place so for many years she packed up the whole family and went where ever he was sent to... even a stint in Japan. 

Twenty seven years ago, she became paralyzed. It was sudden and terrifying for all of us. We had just moved here several months prior. We had lived with them for a short time before renting a house of our own. She was the same on the go grandma we had known her to be and in a matter of days she was in wheelchair. Blood clots had wrapped around her spine and choked off the blood supply. I honestly thought her strength and stubbornness would pull her out of that chair and she would walk again. For awhile, it sure seemed that way. She went to therapy, she worked and she used a walker instead of using the wheelchair whenever she could. There was a fiery, determined look in her eyes back then.

After several years the fire dimmed and she resigned herself to the wheelchair. She lost hope that she would walk again and she became pretty reliant on the attention it commanded. It just became easier to let others do everything for her. Having been told from the start that she would not live very long in that condition, grandpa had resigned himself to doing whatever she wanted. No one expected her to live longer than about five years or so.

In the last two years or so, her eyes have had a sadness behind them. I think she sort of grasped the tragedy of the relationships she has had with us. Not just me, but the whole family. They both pushed the people that cared the most, the furthest away. 

Now even the sadness has been replaced. With fear. Last week she had a fairly massive stroke. It has left her further weakened and mostly unable to talk. Most of her speech comes out garbled, slurred and unintelligible. As she tries to speak, I can see the fear as well as frustration in her eyes. She knows what she is saying, but she can also tell that it isn't coming out right. She just grips my hand and doesn't want to let go

 When she speaks, I can make out that she is telling me she loves me over and over. It literally makes me cry to type that, because that is all I ever really wanted from her...  hearing that and being shown that years ago would have made such an enormous difference! 

But the past is gone. All we can do is be there for her and for Grandpa. It's an uncertain future. We don't know from moment to moment how this will go or what will happen. Grandma is scared and so are we..... It's a goodbye that is imminent, but without a certain time stamp. 

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