Grandma is losing her leg after 10 weeks in the hospital with a short stint in a rehab center. The bacterial infection has come back with a vengeance (for the fourth time) and this time will take her leg.
The doctor gave her three choices: amputate one leg, both legs (the other foot has started to change color) or get on hospice. My Uncle stood next to her as the doctor spoke and she cried uncontrollably – the first time I’ve ever heard of her being anything else but composed.
We’ve never had a hallmark grandmother/grandchild relationship and never will, but despite our differences she has taught me an important lesson nevertheless…
Janet Irene Ruth was born a little after the Great Depression and that’s about all I know of her upbringing. She had a sister and got married relatively young.
Unfortunately Janet married a man who loved the bottle and beating his family. My mother and uncle were a product of their marriage. Janet eventually left her husband when my Mom was in her preteens, but her oblivion and disconnection from reality stayed.
Grandma would call the house phone every week to talk to Mom and if one of her grandkids accidentally answered the phone instead, she’d skip over pleasentries and demand we put our mother on the phone.
A weekend visit from Grandma meant preparation for nonsenseical demands that I could never get right. She liked to bark orders and being the oldest, I got the brunt of it. “Help your mother with the dishes, Shannon. Go check on your sister, Shannon. Did you take the dogs of a walk, Shannon? Get me my drink, Shannon.”
I would vent to my mom about how unfair she was being and my mom would say, “She’s just confused, her mother raised me so she thinks it’s her job to raise you. I’ll remind her once more it’s not her job.”
Grandma never failed to comment on my weight each time she visited and was a firm believer that gum before dinner meant a spoiled appetite. She was not the grammy who kissed boo-boos or hid York peppermint patties in her cubbards for you to find.
But that’s not how I’ll only remember her.
On nights me and my siblings slept over, Grandma and I would cuddle up on her armchair to read a story. She’d grab whichever suitable kid book lying around and have me read it out-loud.
She also had a closet full of shoes and clothes she’d let me play dress-up in.
I’d clunk down the hallway in heels two sizes too big for my feet wearing her dress slip like a summer wrap. She’d clap, tell me I looked gorgeous and instruct I go find another outfit to dazzle in.
She’d also let me sit at her desk and play on the typewriter. “Write me a story,” she’d say. I’d clack away, pushing the keys down as hard as I could to write her a short story. I’d shout, “Ok, Grandma I’m done!” and she’d turn her attention back to me and say, “Alright, read it to me!”
It didn’t matter how many times I scuffed her shoes down the wooden hallway or how long I clacked away at the typewriter. If I had more gas in the tank for another story or fashion show, she’d clap or listen for as long as necessary.
In those moments she got it right. She was the Hallmark grandparent and for those moments of “grandparent clarity,” I look past her shortcomings and can truly say I really do love and adore my Grandma, because at the end of the day no-one else can be her.
It’s been six years since I’ve seen her and a lot has changed. Our last conversation proved her mind is on a loop and her sense of time has warped, but our relationship has recently made a gray area in my world seem a little brighter and easier to understand.
I suffer from my own type of disconnection. Instead of being oblivious to life truths and reality like Grandma, I’m terrible at understanding the value in relationship connections outside of my small circle. I’ve written about my disconnection in another blog, you can catch up here.
It’s incredibly difficult for me to tolerate people who I deem as unworthy of my time. I’ve learned my [friendship] test is a tough one to pass (I’m working on it, don’t worry ;)) and this makes me sound like an ass, but this test of who I let in and out is how I’ve kept myself safe for so many years.
But this strict test doesn’t have bend for people you’re forced to have contact with on an every day basis that you don’t want to have contact with, and this is where ol’ Grandma gave me some perspective.
I accepted my Grandma for who she was a long time ago and stopped holding her to the standard of grandparents I had in my head, instead I appreciated her for who she was in my life and loving her came easier.
Letting go takes on a whole new meeting when you understand its content.
A few weeks ago I was able to finally get Grams on FaceTime while she was trying to recuperate at the hospital. Nothing like seeing reality for it to hit you.
Grandma is very sick.
As of yet, Grams has opted to amputate (above the knee) her right leg and will go into surgery within the next 24-48 hours. I worry she won’t wake up from the procedure and if she does, I’m not certain she’ll survive the post-op.
Thousands of miles separate us so I won’t be able to give her an encouraging hug before she goes under, but I can hope she’ll sense these next pile of words and feel me with her.
I love you Grandma.