If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me panicking slightly over the weekend. My Gran, who I’ve written about before here, was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of her local hospital– the same hospital I spent my last four days with my husband in.
The same ICU. The same nurses. Different bed… but only by one, and that’s all I can think when I walk in– thank goodness she is in a different bed, thank god because I know it’s ridiculous, but I couldn’t do it if she were in that first bed, second bay on the left….
But she’s not. Second bed, third bay… almost the same view of the elevated nurses station in the centre of the ward, but not quite.
Same waiting room. Quiet laughter this time, very few tears, no screaming arguments where blame is thrown and I get a security escort to my mate’s car because the nurses are worried someone will be waiting for me… (and I’d forgotten, mercifully, all about that until the nurse who called the guard mentions it to my mum… that what she remembers most about me, and she is still concerned, even now, with how I am coping.)
Flimsy hospital gown on and in that moment, with it swishing it against my feet, my mind flashes to a woman, (me) unable to stop crying, feeling ridiculous as she talks to her husband the same way she always has, (“I’ll be back in five minutes, babe… I promise.”) even though she knows by now he can’t hear her…
What could have become a rolling wave of a flashback ceases instantly… later, I’ll cry for her, for that woman. But there’s a wall there, a membrane (blocked heart chakra) up against her pain… because she doesn’t exist anymore, and I view her simple sweetness with sad amazement… she was such a lovely, gentle person. (”You’re just… harder” says my mum, not unkindly, and because I ask, “that’s the main difference I see with you… you’re just not as soft anymore, with the kids. But you have to be… You can’t afford to get hurt…” And that feels just like a tragedy, when you’re even afraid to love your own children because your basis of love has been knocked clean away from you.)
It’s suggested I don’t go, but the idea of not going doesn’t occur to me… actually, I think it does, and at one point on the horrible long drive in there for the first time, not knowing how I will react to the hospital ward that I still see in my nightmares, the five year old in my head begins screaming hysterically “What are you doing, Lori? What are we doing?? The ICU, the ICU! Why would you do this to me, to us?!”; and there’s nothing I can do for her but let her hide her eyes, hands clamped over her ears, snuggled into her favorite blanket while what’s left of me is brave.
And I feel brave, a little bit, especially when I discover how easy this is… but then I realize it’s only easy compared to last time, anything would be easy compared to that. My gran, she’s conscious, not ventilated, and that helps- a lot, more than I care to admit because I don’t like to imagine that, someone I love with a machine breathing into their chest cavity for them…
I know, she told me last time she was hospitalized, that my gran suffers from anxiety, especially late at night in hospital when she’s lonely, and I know the only ease for that type of anxiety is company.
And I know how much it hurts when people deny you that company because they’re afraid… even when you understand, it still hurts. And as I said, this is different, so different, leaving the world at eighty to be with your husband who you’ve longed for for almost thirty years, having lived most of that life happy and independent… That’s a different thing to leaving the way Tony did.
My Gran, she’s all kinds of awesome. She’s funny and tough and down to earth, with common sense and practicality. She’s never had a license but never asked much for help either– like most of the women of her generation, she seems to clad in war–issue steel.
She turned eighty last Christmas Day (I was about eighteen when i discovered she only got one present as a child, not two, and since then I’ve made a point of two presents, two cards, every year.) At her eightieth birthday party she danced and drank and was surrounded by the people who loved her… a week later she was ill, and she hasn’t really recovered since.
After being resus’ed on Thursday afternoon, she was transferred to the ICU. My mum and uncle gave the order for Do Not Resus and medication is for comfort only… I was expecting to say goodbye over the weekend.
I have seriously underestimated my gran. As of last night she’s sitting up in bed, talking, and managed to score a TV so she could catch up on Dancing With The Stars.
I wish I could say that was as promising as it sounds… it’s not. With her heart functioning at less than the percent, we’re just playing the waiting game… I’m not sure how I’ll deal with that, anymore than I knew how I would handle this.
I have a habit of underestimating myself, and the stoic voice in my mind will tell me, if I let it, that here is nothing brave about this– visiting your grandmother in hospital is simply maintaining the status quo. I think I know better, and I keep capsules of compliments to swallow later, in case I forget.
The nurse I remember most from Tony’s last nights, the same one who told me I must have had the most beautiful dream, because I was smiling in my sleep; she remembers me, too. I remember her saying to me at the time what a good job I was doing, and I remember wondering what she’d seen to be able to classify someone as doing a bad job… I think it spoke to my testament that I could have been so angry, if I’d wanted to- I could have stayed away from the hospital completely and not held his hand and told him I forgave him, I still loved him.
The nurse reiterates that again to my mum this time around– that I did a good job, did what needed to be done and let my husband go in peace… I was brave. And she still thinks I’m brave now, all the nurses do, just to be able to walk into the ICU makes me brave.
And that makes things better… some acknowledgment from a witness who’s outside my emotional whirlpool that I’m not being overly–dramatic, and this really was distressing by all parameters.
But so far, so good… typing this out, I’m actually slightly amazed at myself. But when it comes down to it, the ICU is just another geographical location… just a place, just a spot on a hospital map, with no more significance than that.