Friday, January 1, 2010

New York City (and Grandmother)

After spending New Years Eve watching all things New York, I remembered a story I had in my "completed" stories folder. It is a couple years old and I never did anything with it, but I figured why not post it here. It doesn't appear that I have many followers of this blog, but when I re-read the story, I thought it was decent. So, here is part one. I'll post the the final part in the next couple days.

“Why am I in here? When will I be able to go home?” Grandmother asked me.

“The Doctor says you need to stay in here until you have your strength back. Then we’ll be able to take you out during the day,” I said.

That was the party line and until further notice, that is what we all told her. The truth was she was going to be there for the rest of her life. “There” being the Alzheimer’s unit at the Country View Life Care Center in Massachusetts

Six weeks ago the phone rang. It was my mother calling from the hospital to provide an update on my grandmother, who had experienced a mild heart attack the night before. For the last sixteen or her ninety-four years she had lived in an in-law apartment attached to my parent’s house.

“How’s Grandmother?”

“She’s doing okay. She’ll be in here for a couple more days.”

“How’s Dad doing?”

“He’s alright. He’s down at the cafeteria. It’s been a long day.”

“Let me know when she’s getting out. I’ll come down and visit her with the kids.”

“Well, I need to talk to you about that. They’ve have been doing a lot of tests and they think it would be best if she went to a nursing home. She’s really weak and is going to need rehabilitation to regain some strength.”

“Is she going to be in there forever?”

“At least until she can get her strength back. She’s been slipping a lot more lately. She’s not taking her medication and she really needs full-time care.”

I hated that word “slipping”. It meant she was in that dreadful state of coherency one minute and oblivion the next. Five days later, she was transferred to the nursing home. This is not how she wanted to go out in life and it didn’t help that for the most part she knew what was happening. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. She was supposed to pass away peacefully, go to heaven and leave us all with an everlasting pleasant image and fond memories.

Now I was left wondering if she asked me to put a pillow over her face, would I do it.

I could hear Keith Jackson, the famous football announcer in my head.

“Grandmother takes the kickoff in the end zone, breaks a tackle, finds an opening, she’s across midfield, she might go all the way. She’s at the twenty, the ten. Lordey lordey! Unbelievable, she fumbled at the six yard line. The old gal just didn’t have it in her to go the distance. Alzheimer’s grabs the ball and takes over on downs.”

Six weeks had gone by. My parents visited her every day. My two brothers and I visited her when we could, usually with our kids in tow. We pulled together as best we could. Thanksgiving wasn’t the same without her. When I considered that some of the patients there never had visitors, I guess she was fortunate.

We walked into the room and she looked great dressed in a black skirt and pink sweater under a black blazer. A string of faux pearls were hanging around her neck. I gave her a long hug and both the kids gave her a kiss.

“You look spectacular,” I told her.

“So do all of you,” she said.

I was wearing a suit and tie. My daughter had on a black dress and my son had on navy slacks and a sweater. Usually, they would have protested about wearing these clothes, but they knew this was a special day.

“You ready?”

“Where are we going?” she said.

I winced, until I realized she was asking the kids a rhetorical question.

“New York City,” my son said.

“Okay then, let’s go,” I said.

“Don’t forget your walker,” my daughter said.

She glared at it vehemently but pacified us and shuffled over to it.

“Don’t worry its going in the trunk as soon as we pull out of here,” I said, winking at her.

I helped her with her overcoat and she put on a brown, faux fur Cossack hat.

We left her room and made our way down the hall. I thought of Grandfather, who had passed away twenty-five years ago. I knew he was watching over us, proud that we were taking care of her.

We exited the main door as the sun was just starting to come up. It was cold outside, but for December it was above average. As soon as the door closed I grabbed the walker from her.

“Good riddance,” I said. “Guys, take Grandmother’s hand.”

They each grabbed a hand and we made our way across the parking lot. It was going to be a four hour ride and although we could have fit in my Jeep, I rented a fully loaded Chevy Tahoe for the trip. I knew this was going to be the last time we would be able to something like this and we were going in style.

The kids climbed in the back and I opened the passenger door to let her in.

“Your chariot awaits.”

“Will you sit back here with us?” my daughter asked.

“I’d love to sit with my little chickies.”

It was a wonderful ride. We listed to Christmas songs the whole time. We had chocolates and doughnuts to eat, and hot cocoa topped with whipped cream to drink. A few times during the ride, during certain songs, I got choked up. I kept it together for the most part, except during the crescendo of “O Holy Night” when the clandestine tears flowed.


  1. Sean,
    You need to find a home for this touching story. It was touching. I'm sure anyone who has been touched by Altheimers would feel the same as me.

    Best wishes in 2010!

    I loved your somment on Janet's blog!

  2. Sharon,

    Thanks so much. Wish I could give you a prize for being the first to comment on the blog. I just posted the rest of the story. It is a terrible disease, that just gets worse. Best 2010 wishes and success to you as well.