Many of you know how important my maternal grandmother is to me. She used to be both a scientist and a teacher, knowing things about electrical engineering, about chemistry...when I was young, she was a source of endless information. She used to help me with every science fair project -- I'd run up long-distance bills talking to her as I worked on them -- and she'd sit with me as I explained what I was coding, and encourage me. She's an avid reader -- she introduced me to the Oz books, and it was her influence on my Uncle Bob that got him into science-fiction. We used to read an Oz book together every visit -- it was our special thing, and mom and dad knew time had to be set aside for that -- and we even were jointly members of the international Oz fan club. The one visit grandma had laryngitis and couldn't read, I -- with all the solemnity a six or seven-year-old could muster -- informed her we couldn't break tradition, and that therefore I would read the book to her this time. Grandma still laughs when she remembers that.
Whatever influence in my childhood there is that taught me to take all blame on myself, hold myself accountable for things, believe I don't measure up...grandma was the one counter, the one who told me I /could/ achieve things, that maybe I wasn't completely to blame for everything. Her influence -- the belief we should always help others, the belief that the way to make a difference in the world is to make a difference one life at a time -- is a big part of who I am. I tend to think of most of what's good in me is, either directly or indirectly, a product of her influence.
She shapes everyone around her; dad, who had an abusive father and a somewhat distant mother, really looked to mom's parents as his surrogate parental figures in a lot of ways until he and his mother reconciled.
Those of you who read my journal also know that her health is finally failing. She's old, she's got horrible arthritis, and there's a chance she has cancer (but she won't go in for a biopsy...she's seen two members of the family wither and become miserable under chemotherapy before they died, and she says she'd rather not know and face that possibility). Just in general, her health is getting bad. Mom's been out to see her, but Aunt Sally -- who lives with grandma -- is getting tired and worn down, being grandma's transportation and pair of able hands.
Dad and I were going to go out and stay with her sometime early this year, in February; we'd have a chance to be with her, since I've not seen her since my last visit back East, and dad hasn't seen her in even longer. Both of us have been deathly afraid that she'd pass on without us having a chance to see her again, as happened with grandpa; mom went back, saying she didn't want anyone else to see her father when he was so ill and that he didn't want people crowded around as if he were on his deathbed...and then he died, with Michael, dad and I unable to see him. And because immediately thereafter there was a driving snowstorm which prevented flights, we didn't even get to go back for the memorial...something, I admit, I still slightly resent my mother for. Grandma and grandpa had three children, but have only two grandchildren -- my brother Michael and I -- and I still feel it's wrong we weren't there.
Earlier this week, my mother told me that grandmother has pneumonia. It "wasn't too bad" yet, but she didn't think dad and I should go back while grandma's sick anymore, because grandma won't want people crowding her or making her feel like she's on her way out. She says grandmother is 'set in her ways' and that mom will know how to help, but dad and I would only be in the way. She says she thinks it's best for truly immediate family to be there right now. I know mom doesn't mean it this way, but it makes me -- and while he's not said so, I get the impression dad is the same -- feel that somehow we don't measure up. That we're not good enough to go back and say goodbye, not worthy in some way. Flawed.
Mom's going to go back shortly, though, because she wants to help out.
So for the past four days, I've been feeling really brittle and on-edge, thinking back to how eerily similar this is to grandpa's final weeks. Every time I get a phonecall, I dread who it might be, what news they might have. Everything else has seemed more trivial...something I just want to put aside and not deal with, in general.
Early this morning, my fears came true and I got the call.
Grandmother was taken to the hospital early this morning and put on a breathing apparatus because the pneumonia is reaching a threatening stage, and they're not completely certain she'll ever leave the hospital again...and mom, to help out, is flying back but has once again reiterated her ban on anyone else going back and stressing out her mother.
I snapped. I stress about things a lot, but usually the only person I yell at is myself; I can count on both hands the number of times in my life that I've snapped and lost my temper at someone /other/ than myself. I'm really not proud of my behavior this morning... but I broke down in tears, and I yelled at mom that if she robbed me of the chance to see grandma one last time, or any way of saying goodbye -- even if it ended up that it was just the memorial -- I would be really, really upset. In the end, that's what worries me the most. I know grandma's had a full life, and I know she's in pain and discomfort now, and I know that grandfather's waiting for her; I'll miss her, but I know it may be her time. But I can't face the idea of losing her without facing her, holding her hand, and telling her how much she's meant to me. How much she's influenced me.
Mom promised that when grandmother was out of the hospital, dad and I could go back to see her. I wish I could put more faith in it; it's the same promise I got when grandpa was in the hospital with heart trouble.
The phone call's over, and I just feel drained. The phone woke me up, but I have no energy to make my bed, get dressed, nor even any real appetite to bother with breakfast even if I did feel like doing anything.
I close my eyes, and I can remember, as a little kid, being tucked into mom and dad's bed with grandma, pillows piled up behind us and a makeshift bed-tray with tea (for grandma) and hot chocolate (for me), along with snacks. Cuddled up against grandma's side, her arm around me when it still had strength, as she read an Oz book to me.
And so I find myself sitting here, one of the Oz books on my desk...and I can't stop crying.
Edit: I don't think mom's trying to be selfish, and I don't think she even realizes how angry this makes me.I think her 'grandmother won't want people around because it will make her feel like she's on her deathbed' logic is actually /mom's/ motivation; if the family all gathers, it'll feel like it's saying goodbye, and I think mom really is trying to convince herself that grandma will come out of the hospital and have time yet still. And y'know, maybe she will, or maybe grandma doesn't want everyone to gather, but I can't know that. I'm thinking of calling Aunt Sally later and just having her /ask/ grandma whether or not she wants dad and I to come back earlier than planned.It doesn't change the fact that it makes me wonder what's wrong with me that I'm evidently not worthy of saying goodbye to someone so central to my life and who I am. :(