Submitted by megan on Wed, 05/14/2008 - 12:43
Granny had been looking right at me just before I took this picture. As soon as she realized I had pulled a camera out of my bag, she went from an expectant smile to this wistful look. She doesn't like having her picture taken any more, but I think she looks beautiful. There is a grace and serenity about her, a hint of a smile that wouldn't leave, that makes me proud to be her granddaughter.
Yesterday was her birthday, her 94th. Originally, Amy and I had timed our trip so that we could spend part of her birthday with her. Instead, we started home yesterday around the time that the ambulance was supposed to show up at the hospital to take her to the nursing home. We could have gone in for another morning visit, but my father was going to see her off, and my uncle was going to be at the other end. We figured that there would be a lot of commotion already, and that the more people there were, the more commoting it would be.
Monday night we took her some fish and chips - "Oh this lovely!" she whisper squeaked, so tired of the sandwiches and soup and neverending carrots - and some birthday cake and ice cream, and we took over the Activities Room to have a party with my aunt and uncle, mom and dad there too. And sometimes also George, The Ward Wanderer.
Sitting up for a couple of hours tires Gran out. Having visitors tires Gran out. So after we finished up the cake and a bit of desultory conversation that was pretty evenly divided between planning what was going to happen to Granny and her stuff, and the difference between Brock Road and Brock Street and where each of them lead, Granny wanted to go to bed. Uncle Wayne and Aunt Marilyn went to pack her clothes up for the morning commute, Gran got taken to the bathroom, the four of us waited a bit.
I spent my time there very conscious of the fact that the coming half hour was not impossibly going to be the last half hour I had with my Gran.
When she was finally back in bed, after the waiting and the bathroom and the changing and what have you, after we had joined her there, it was time for the four of us to go. Gran was tired, the woman in the next bed was obviously upset there were so many of us.
"Okay, Granny, we should go." Amy and I both took a hand.
"Oh dears When?"
Talking with Granny has always been a bit of a guessing game, but new rules were added after her stroke a few years ago, with even more added after this last illness.
"Amy'll be back soon," I said.
"In July," Amy confirmed.
"Just a couple months."
Granny furrowed her forehead. "Maybe won't be then"
She had been playing variations on this theme all week. When you hear someone say this, your first reaction is to respond with "Oh, no! Of course not!" Which is what I'd said earlier in the visit, even though I was immediately sorry I had. Which is exactly what dad said right then.
"Oh Mom! You'll be with us for ages yet! You're not going anywhere!"
No words came out, but you could tell Granny didn't agree. It was a lie. She knew it was a lie. Maybe not a couple months, but ages? No. Not going anywhere? No. I used my free hand to stroke the back of the hand I was already holding. The skin there is loose, thin and soft. Like the finest grained sand, like sinking into down.
"Well, Gran, if you start doing poorly, Dad'll let us know right away and we'll be on the first bus to come see you. We'll definitely have another visit."
It's still a lie. She could drift quietly off in her sleep. She could have a stroke and die in a quick flood of blood through her brainpan. So I may well have lied, but it was a lie with a ring of the truth. The furrows smoothed out, her shoulders relaxed into the mattress. I felt like I had done right by her.
We told her we loved her and left the room. I looked back, but she was already looking out the window.