August 13th, 2012
“We’re born in diapers and we die in diapers,” infamous words from my cowboy grandpa Rusty as my mom, aunt, grandma and I hovered over his deathbed.
“You four look like a buncha buzzards waitin’ to finish me off. Come here woman,” he said to my gram. She climbed into bed with him, the 250 lb. cattle hand whittled down to 150 by cancer, and he spooned her. His nose burrowed in her thick, coarse, short white hair, his arm pulling her close. I’ll never forget that tableau. Man and wife. Grandpa Rusty still a man even if he was wearing a diaper. Men are men until they are no more.
My grandma, at 99, begins her slow descent. She’s in diapers now. I helped put them on her last night. Helped her caregiver transfer her from her wheelchair into her hospital bed. She’s still at home and comfortable. She goes in and out a bit and wants to control everything, which can be frustrating. ”Shannon? Are you going to bed? Where will you sleep? In the den? With me? Are you leaving? You should go to bed.” ”Shannon, are you eating? If you open the refrigerator be sure to close it. Did you close it? Is it closed? Why do I hear the refrigerator humming like it’s open? Are you still eating?”
I’m impatient. Get me back to my technology. My Facebook. My Twitter. My blog. My instant gratification. Get me back to sunshine and exercise and dancing and shopping and watching my kids in a play. Get me back to party throwing, chicken roasting, gin tippling, lovemaking, minivan racing. Get me out of the tiny world of a diminishing life.
Then there’s my grandmother’s caretaker, Lola. Lola is stunning. She’s 60 but looks 45. She’s a head turner. Full lips, almond shaped eyes, perfect hair and make-up and a trim physique. She cares for my grandma six days a week. How do you do this? I want to ask. You could still have a man, you could travel, you could do any number of things with your looks and personality and joie de vivre. But she brings light to my grandma’s darkening world and lets the rest of us feel good about resuming our lives because we know grandma’s in loving hands.
Sometimes I’m unhumble-able. I’m young enough to think I’ll live forever. I’m eager to devour more life. I have the eye of the tiger. I’m still learning. I’m still meeting new people and forging new connections. But when I watch Lola handle my grandmother with profound patience and grace it knocks me flat. There are angels among us. And life is a hero’s journey. And there is a reason why. And I’m just a speck of sand in God’s eye.
Kisses to all of you caring for elderly loved ones, and sick loved ones and little loved ones. How do you do it?
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