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Today in My History

2000:  Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String
2001:  The Bride was a Real Bitch
2002:  Here We Come a-Caroling
2003:  Lesbian Porn
2004:  Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
Party Girl
2006Six Weird Things
2007:  Chunk on a Chair

2008:  Ho Ho Ho and a Bah Humbug
2009:  Who Invited the Grinch?
2010:  Baubles, Bangles, Bright Shiny Beads
Monday Stealing

Our 2012 Christmas Letter

Bitter Hack
: 12/10
"The Bacchae"

Books Read in 2012
 Updated: 12/13
"A Christmas Carol"

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20 December 2012

Grandma.jpg (42643 bytes)I don't remember how old my mother's mother was when she died.  Younger than my mother is now.  I also don't remember what year she died, but it must have been sometime between 1960 and 1962, because I remember the last time I saw her, my mother told her I was going to college.  I was going to be the first person in the family to attend college and though she could not talk by that time, she indicated that she was proud of me.

When I last saw her she was in a convalescent hospital, but she later had to be moved from there when she became aggressive.  This mild-mannered grandmother who even my mother didn't remember ever raising her voice or saying a bad word, began cursing other residents and being combative with everyone.

What happens to the brain when it snaps? What thoughts go through the brain when it doesn't work the way it has all of your life?

She was moved from the convalescent hospital to a mental hospital, which is where she died.  My mother often talks, with frustration even today, of going to visit her and being completely unable to understand what she was saying.  When my mother would arrive at the hospital, Grandma would be very excited to see her and begin chattering away trying to tell her lots of things.  My mother would sit there and say "Yes, Mom, I understand..." but my grandmother would realize that my mother did not, in fact, understand, and her excitement would beging to die, she would get depressed and indicate that she wanted to be taken back her room.

Whenever she tells that story, I wonder what exactly was going on inside Grandma's head.  Was she aware that she was not forming words?  Did she, in fact, have the words but be unable mechanically to form her mouth to speak them?  Might there have been another way of communicating with her, working to help her find a way to express herself? 

I don't remember how "with it" she was otherwise, so I still do wonder that, but I had a taste of my mother's frustration and helplessness today.

I drove over to see Bob this afternoon.  It's a nice drive, of just about an hour, which gives me an hour to listen to my audio book.  Peach had said she might be late getting there because she was waiting for a package she had to sign for.

Bob had been admitted back to the hospital earlier this week with what ultimately turned out to be a urinary tract infection.  Once they had his fever back down where it should be and his vitals stabilized, they returned him to the convalescent hospital.

When I arrived at his room, I was surprised to see that his bed had been lowered down as far as it would go, like a trundle bed.  He was also sleeping, and Peach was not there.

I had printed some photos yesterday and put them on a poster, thinking it might be a good thing to hang on his wall, so he could see familiar family faces when he looks at the wall.

Fortunately, I always have my Kindle with me, so I sat and read my book for about 30-40 minutes while Bob slept.  He might have slept the whole time, but someone came in to take his blood pressure and that woke him up.  He seemed disoriented for awhile but finally his eyes did seem to focus on me.  I said hello and told him who I was.   I don't know if he recognized me or not, but he eventually started talking, sometimes rather insistently, definitely making his point about...something, but unlike the last time we were there, when we could at least make out a word or two ("beer," for instance), I couldn't understand anything he said.

When it looked like he was focusing on my face, I tried showing him the photos, but he wasn't interested in looking at them, so I didn't push it, but left them there for Peach to do whatever she wants with them.  I tried to understand what he was saying, but he eventually, like my grandmother, stopped trying to talk.  Instead he rolled over on his side and tried to grab at the wall to pull himself up.  Peach says this is why his bed is on the floor, to prevent him from being successful in getting out of bed and breaking something.  The bed is right next to the wall on the side he was trying to get out, so he couldn't have anyway.

I tried moving pillows to make him more comfortable, but that didn't seem to be what he wanted either.  For one thing, it was clear at at this stage of his condition, there is not enough comprehension to even try to find another way to communicate with him, and I understood what my mother has been saying all these years.

About an hour after I got there, Peach still hadn't arrived, and Bob's brother and sister-in-law showed up to visit, so I told them I would let them have the visistor chairs and I would leave.  I got in the car and drove the hour back home again, thinking I hadn't really accomplished anything, and wasn't even able to be a support for Peach.   But I hope he knows that somebody (whether me or someone else) was there with him. 



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