As some of you may know, my grandma now lives where I work. She lives at Franke Tobey Jones which is a retirement/assisted living home for the elderly. I am a server and work in all of the dining rooms (although now I mostly work in the bistro). My grandma Wise isn’t in great condition, as I am sure that you have figured out, but the last few months have been a huge struggle for my family and I, especially for my mother and uncles.
I used to frequently work in the Healthcare dining area (where my grandmother now eats, as well as lives in Health Care) which is the highest level of care that they can receive. The first day that I worked in Healthcare and saw them wheeling Grandma in on a wheelchair into the dining room, I almost lost it. I mean, I sort of did lose it for a few seconds because I ended up crying a little, but I had to get over it and go up to her and greet her with a smile and a hug. My coworker asked me if I was okay but I just didn’t really reply. That was probably one of the worst days of work for me because I could tell she was out of it, wanted to go home, and just didn’t belong there (she had not adjusted yet). She was still able to walk, at least!
As the months have gone by since she moved in in October, things have only gone downhill (but what did I expect, really). I can’t imagine everything that she is feeling with the dementia and everything, but sometimes I just feel like a complete bipolar wreck at work. Much of the time, I have a decent time with my coworkers and stay so busy that I don’t have time to see her or even think about her. But when I do start thinking about what is going on with my grandma literally on the other side of the wall from where I am standing, it makes me feel so depressed. Depressed that I haven’t visited her, depressed at the thought of visiting her, depressed that she has to be here, depressed because I know she is isolated by her own brain deteriorating, and depressed because this is happening only a matter of feet away from me yet I am laughing and making jokes with my coworkers, have I no respect? It’s a bipolar feeling because I can feel so content at one minute but then with the flip of a switch in my brain I feel so much pain, empathy, fear, and despair all at the same time. I feel so guilty whenever I don’t visit her, but it’s just as hard to visit with her because it hurts to know how badly she is doing (because you can easily tell that she is declining cognitively and physically). There isn’t much conversation or connection, You’re just trying to be there for someone who can’t give much emotional feedback. And that is NOT her fault. And now I feel guilty because I am focusing so much on how I feel–yeesh could I be more selfish? I love my grandma so much and I want to try to make her last weeks/months/years count, if even just a little bit.
She has never been a very emotional person toward me, instead I have seen her more as almost having the traits of a man (haha…that sounds so weird). And I mean that in the way that she has always been so stoic, constant, opinionated, determined and predictable yet completely satisfied and kind. She had to go to a psychiatric hospital for a few weeks a little while ago and ended up slapping one of the nurses that works there which just made me laugh because she has always had so much spunk and determination. She did not want those nurses messing with her!
This is not necessarily something that I wanted to write about–I needed to write about it. This had to be expressed somewhere. There are so many facets to death, dementia, and how these relate to family dynamics that I barely even scratched the surface.
But this is how I feel. This is me now. I am hoping for a better tomorrow.
I love my grandma.
And I love you for reading this.