I just had a nightmare, in which my grandmother died. The thing is, in real life, the day is coming very quickly.
She was diagnosed with dementia a couple of years ago, November of 2016... which was a very bad month for me. It contained the first time someone had stolen from me, I got dumped by my first girlfriend, my first dog was killed, and my first time bomb began ticking.
As news from a doctor’s office was relieved down to us saying that my grandmother indeed have alzheimer’s disease my November just got a little worse. But it’s so much about how I feel.
Because it’s my first mayor loss, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to handle it. Hell, closest thing to be honest might’ve been my dog, but I went through the stages of grief surprisingly quickly.
But my grandmother is obviously different. She is the glue that holds our family together. As the most dynamic, active member or as the member we’re all worried about because of the sickness that hath taken over her brain. We’ve all heard of how couples also die pretty much in tandem, and I don’t see my grandfather with a big will to live either.
I don’t know how to feel... the next couple of years are going to be strange and rough... We’ve seen so much growth... expansion, largess from our family that decay just seems out of the picture. My grandmother will die having ten grandkids. Two engineers, a Political Scientist, two journalists, a chef, and an administrator... the rest are (and will still be) to young to even know what to study.
Maybe to an American grandmother that might feel like little. But she and my grandfather came from backward-ass towns and lived backward-ass lives fighting tooth and nail for everything they could have, with as little education as they did somehow manage to amass. At a point my grandfather was an illegal immigrant here, and has lived in so many places that he goes to sunday service in five different communities.
But I digress,
It’d be silly if I wasn’t willing to recognize that life can’t be just expansion, it can’t just be good. Bad is the contrast... contraction is the next thing to happen when you least expect it. It will be the mayor challenge my father faces, and I’m yet to know what to do.
So much me here, and it isn’t even about me.
It’s about her… but it’s hard. She’s felt terrible lately…. having the, seemingly, requisite suicidal thoughts that many patients have during earlier stages. She becomes a dire reminder that it all might end but we somehow must prevent it, even against her will. In her absence we discuss her health, almost exclusively beginning every sentence with “Very bad” as they describe odd acts by her.
Maybe she boiled dog shampoo, or did not recognize my aunt, or tried to eat a bar of soap. Maybe she walked around her room, in her house which she had lived in for forty years, emptying the cabinets. We don’t know. I never see her this way…. Her lucid days still outnumber the bad days.
Right now she just goes around, expecting everyone to kiss her in the cheek… not speaking. It has been her default since before 2016… In the fear that people might think she’s sicker, she doesn’t stand up as much as she usually does.
She was the most active member of my family… She taught me, and another four grandkids, how to drive, she taught us how to meditate, how to use a computer, so many things about empathy, love, understanding, and patience that alone I’m not sure we would’ve been able to understand. She was the soul of every gathering…
And now she barely registers, and I don’t know how to feel about it. But can I learn what to do?
To my ex her “November” was January of 2017. Her grandfather died suddenly and without much warning, followed by her grandmother six months later. I’ve asked her how she coped, in short, she didn’t.
An outburst of sentiment rushed through her as it unfolded. She suffered dearly, and her friends did not know how -or did not want- to help her. Neither did I. I just saw her fall into bigger, and bigger holes looking to fill that instability, that empty space that her grandparents held in her very divided family. If my grandmother is the glue to my family, her grandparents were the riveted, aluminium doubler-plate that covered huge ruptures in her family.
But I guess it’s not easily translated, and I’m just gonna have such a hard time understaning and coping this… Or maybe I won’t, but the hard time will be supporting my father, my uncle, and my aunt as they traverse this complicated part of their lives.
I just feel so threatened by all of this… I tend to be a very sentimental person but I just can’t be sentimental with my father… He was always such a distant figure, and I don’t know how I can help him cope with all of this. Hell, I’m not sure he even knows when I stopped dating with the aforementioned ex.
Some people find solace in religion. Today I went to the park with another friend whose grandfather died two days after she prepared a concert for him during the last week of 2018. She seemed OK. Completely different than my ex did.
“My grandfather died” Was the first thing she said, but before I could even answer, her eager Boxer had reached me and placed her paws on my stomach. “Oh that is my dog, Mokka”
Anyway, a few moments later she explained to me that he just wanted out. He was so ready to go, that she felt almost happy for him. Both herself and her grandfather had closure in a sense. She also would recount that he’d die on the day he was baptised and that “He was in the sky.” I never let her know about my grandmother’s condition.
Perhaps my irreligiosity makes it harder to process how she could possibly feel happy about a family member not being alive. I mean, maybe it was the best thing to do… Maybe he was in pain, and death was the closest and the most inevitable outcome. So why not let it happen? Why fight?
And I get that, I understand that humane ways might contradict immediate logic at times, but happiness? It’s a step too far. I know my grandmother feels bad, I know she will be in a lot of pain later on. But I won’t be happy at any point. Death is not dignified, death is hard, and inevitable… never dignified.
My dog could’ve died saving someone from a fire but instead he was murdered by a red light runner. In the end he died... There is no dignity to it. It’s always ugly. As much as I would like to sugar-coat it… I can’t.
But they know more than I know. Maybe I’ll trip around like my ex did, or maybe I’ll find a way to look at a brighter side. Or maybe neither. Maybe my grandmother deserves more than me trying to take a cheapscape out of this and copy those around me.
I’ll have to exit my comfort zone and show I can be dependable, show that even if cold on the outside I can feel the sorrow that my family will feel. But it leaves me with no option that just to brace for something I don’t understand.