Getting Close

Just before 6:00 a.m. my mom woke me up because she thought that Grandpa was about to die. He was non-responsive and his breathing was very poor.

I’ve been sitting in this recliner next to my Grandpa’s bed for sixteen hours and he’s still hanging on. There were times when his breathing stopped for at least twenty seconds at a time and then would start back up again. Other times he’s asked about food and drink for the first time in about three weeks. His swallowing isn’t going so great now though so even when he’s thirsty it’s hard to get a good drink in him.

Thanks to the dementia he keeps forgetting what’s going on. He’ll say things like, “Maybe I’m so weak because I need food…” but he doesn’t understand that he hasn’t had more than a sip of juice or soup in almost a month. So we remind him that he hasn’t eaten and that seems to worry him. “That’s not good,” he says. We remind him about his Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and that it’s not getting better but he forgets that too. He’ll say, “Maybe those pills you give me will help…” but of course in order to take the pills he needs to be able to swallow.

We got a few pills in him just a little bit ago but it was a chore. The poor guy wanted nothing to do with the Juicy Juice he’s been drinking all week and swore that milk would be better. But with CHF when the heart starts failing it creates fluid buildup in his lungs so milk isn’t exactly the best choice since it can make him phlegmy.

Mom tried explaining to him that if he’s thirsty he should drink anything that’s wet and he agreed but then decided that he still didn’t want the juice. He says, “But I don’t want the juice.” She then told him that she didn’t care what he wanted and the look he gave me made me giggle. He looked at me like, “Did my daughter just tell me no?” 🙂 I watered down some milk for him and he handled it okay but of course it didn’t taste very good anyway because his sense of taste is off. He asked more about food and other things he couldn’t have and once again we explained why he couldn’t have them and why he wasn’t going to be getting any better.

It’s basically been like that all day with lots of napping in between. He’s still in there, still the goofy old man we all love so much, but he’s fading. I really hope that he can just let go sometime tonight so that he doesn’t have to go through another confusing day like this.

He’s ready even if he doesn’t remember telling us so, and as sad as it’ll be to see him go, we’re ready too. The living that he’s been doing for the last couple of weeks really isn’t quality. He’s seen all of his kids except for one, he’s seen almost all of the grand kids and great grand kids who live in the area, and he’s even seen his brand new great grandson via Facebook who was born just two days ago.

He’s talked about seeing people in heaven like my grandma, his brother, sister and his mom. Apparently he doesn’t think his dad is in heaven though, but maybe he’ll be pleasantly surprised. 🙂 Hopefully there Gramps will be able to eat all of the Filet-o-Fish and chocolate shakes that he wants, his ticker will be perfect, he’ll be able to walk without any assistance, and even better… he’ll be able to drive again!

I’ll admit, when we moved Grandpa in with us almost a year ago it was scary. I was worried about him getting hurt or dying on me when my mom wasn’t around to help me. Despite how hard the year has been though, I’m really glad we were able to have him here. He loved being able to visit with my brother’s crazy kids when they came to spend the night. He loved watching hour upon hour of Law & Order in his own living room while knowing that if he needed help we were just in the next room instead of a 30 minute drive away. He liked having the animals around even if he eventually forgot Sly’s name and just called him Big Cat and continuously pronounced Kia’s name wrong. Even the ongoing Ketchup Saga of 2012 is pretty funny now despite how annoying it was back when we were in the thick of it. (Gramps decided at one point that Heinz ketchup was too bitter for him but he claimed that it was because the ketchup was in his words, “rancid.” When we’d explain that the ketchup was brand new he’d point to the 57 on the Heinz logo and tell us that the bottle was from 1957. This happened almost daily for a while until we switched to the much sweeter Hunt’s brand. That eventually went rancid too and he just stopped eating ketchup.)

Sure, it’s been really, really hard on us. My mom not only had to quit nursing school just six weeks shy of finishing (she did get her LPN though, yay!) but she had to stop working and was pretty much here at home 24/7. I gave her respite as much as I could but of course with my own job I couldn’t do it as much as I would have liked. Hospice didn’t get into the mix until just a few months back and although they did help out and let her get out of the house a little some days, I wish I’d been able to help more or that other family would have helped more. But, what’s done is done and I know that my mom and I have given Gramps all he’s needed not just this past year but long before that. There’s no doubt in my mind that he knows just how much we love him.

Life for us is about to make a huge change again. Mom’s going to be able to go back to work, and we’ll go back to living in this house without a hospital bed in the living room. There won’t be an oxygen machine, syringes of morphine gel, and we won’t have to take turns leaving the house so that someone can stay here to Grandpa Sit. Of course we’ll miss him dearly, but we’ll also have so many great memories to keep in our hearts and for me at least, that’s the most important part and what I’m choosing to hold on to right now while sitting here next to him. He’s a pretty awesome guy and all of us who know him are blessed to have him in our lives and in our hearts.

Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. – YODA

10/13/12

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2 responses to “Getting Close

  • Kelly Valentine

    Beautiful post Kellie. I couldn’t get through it without crying. No one but those who have been through it knows how hard it is to do what you and your mom have done. My mom and I took care of my grandfather for 5 years. It is both exhausting and rewarding at the same time. As hard as it is to lose someone you love so dearly I hope you find comfort in knowing you made the end of his life as enjoyable as possible. You and your family continue to be in my thoughts and prayers through this difficult time.
    Hugs,
    Kel

    Like

  • tracy_a

    Thinking of you guys – what a loving family you are. Best wishes in the transition.

    Like

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