Who are the Grands?

They are 90 and 93, and they live each day like there is no tomorrow. Because there may not be. Their minds are not what they used to be and their bodies are breaking down bit by bit, but inside those old minds and bodies they are the same independent-minded young people that forged their own way in this world and made a good life for themselves. This is both a blessing and a challenge, as you'll see in the posts below. Welcome to our journey!

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Accepting that It's Going to be Okay

I like to fix things. The Grands like to fix things, too. When things are broken or not going right, we like to do something to make it better.

Maybe that's why we feel the way we do - out of control and sinking fast. I feel like we're on the Titanic in those last few hours when everyone knew it was sinking. We know that Grandma and I are going to end up on the lifeboat but Grandpa isn't. It's devastating to sit here and write this, knowing that he isn't going to survive this.

He's getting worse. His energy fluctuates and his pain is rising and he has intense itching at intervals throughout the day. He throws up a lot. It seems like his symptoms are always a step ahead of us. Last week he was incredibly sleepy, so much so that he couldn't keep his eyes open. It turned out he was being given only oral Benadryl for the itching, because Grandma and he had refused the cream. But I knew that Benadryl in combination with the Norcos he's taking would make him really really tired. So I called and everyone agreed to get him off the oral Benadryl and use the cream. The itching is related to his liver function so the oral and topical should work about the same. At least that's what I was told.

After he got off the oral Benadryl, he wasn't nearly as tired but then he was in excruciating pain. It was terrible. He couldn't stand the pain and the nurse was with someone so it took her a few minutes to get to him. When she came, she gave him another pain pill but it took about half an hour for him to feel better.

Then he started throwing up. He threw up all afternoon and all night. In the morning, I stopped by and he was still sick. So I went to the store and got him some bananas, applesauce, and toast. Most of the BRAT diet. And of course Vernor's ginger ale. He wanted to eat so he had some of the ginger ale and felt better. He wouldn't eat the toast so I ate it. I hadn't eaten all day and by that time it was 1 o'clock.

He had been itching, too. He said that when he rubbed his arm, it felt like sandpaper. That morning the nurse had done a great job helping him stop itch. She had scrubbed his skin wherever it was itching and then she put the topical cream on him. I told him that was wonderful because the sandpapery feel was from the toxins that his body was emitting through his skin. Since his liver isn't processing toxins very well anymore, they are coming out through his skin and his digestive tract. And they are affecting his thinking.

Because he's hallucinating now, too. He was sitting in his recliner and he thought he was driving his car. He kept trying to get the recliner to go. Grandma came out and saw him moving his hands and arms, and she said, "What are you doing?" He said, "I'm trying to get this thing to go. I gotta get to work." Grandma said, "Dad, you're not in a car." Then he could see that he wasn't. He was really upset about that, but he did feel better when I told him that it was related to his cancer. I said, "Grandpa, you're not losing your mind. The toxins are affecting your thinking, too."

But the itching continued. The itching had been bad before and it was getting worse. Grandma thinks this is because he's not getting the oral Benadryl but it's not. It's because the itching is getting worse.

Today Grandma had a complete meltdown because of Grandpa's itching. She was convinced that Grandpa needed oral Benadryl, that that would fix everything, and it was all my fault that he couldn't have it. She said that all the nurses told her that I was the one that wouldn't let him have it. She went completely nuts. It was awful. So I hung up the phone and called the RN coordinator, Lydia, my savior in dealing with Grandma. She went in to talk with her and they calmed down.

In the meantime, I called hospice and Lisa said that there is a medicine that is good for this itching. She would evaluate him on Wednesday and then call in the prescription. At the time, that seemed fine. But after a while, I realized that we probably needed that prescription right away. I called Lydia back and she called in to get that prescription. Hospice got it to her right away, but it was a while before the pharmacy was ready to deliver it. Several times in the evening, I called to see how the Grands were doing and if the medicine had come in. Every time, they were patient and caring with me. And I knew they were with Grandma, too. At 8:30, I learned that the medicine wouldn't be there until 10. I offered to go get it, but do you know the director of Bickford said she'd go get it. She got in her car and went to the pharmacy at 8:30 at night to get Grandpa his medicine.

By now he has it, and maybe he'll rest a little better tonight. We can only hope. Meanwhile, I sit here feeling lost and hurt that Grandma blamed me for his itching. His cancer symptoms are not my fault. Lydia said that sometimes people just need someone to blame. Who do I get to blame?

No one. There's no one to blame for this. It's not going to be okay, and there's really nothing any of us can do to change that.

When I was in high school, we had to take a class called Life and Death. It was a religion class (I went to a Catholic high school). We all called it Death and Dying, because it seemed like that was what it was really about. In that class, I first learned about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's stages of grief. I know there's been some change to it over the years, but her research is still the foundation of our understanding of how we cope with death. If I remember right, the stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, isolation and acceptance. I may be missing one, but this is most of them. I think it's safe to say that I am past bargaining but I'm not at acceptance. I am having to face that it's never going to get better. But I'm not okay with it.

My grandma still thinks she can control this by raging against her perceived opponents (me and the nurses), demanding that people give him pills, and trying to fix the symptoms. But none of that is going to work, because he isn't going to get better.

As I'm writing this last sentence, I think about Heaven and I realize that nothing could be more false. I realize he's going to be better off than he ever has been before. He's going to be in Heaven where there is no more pain, no more suffering, no more loneliness, and no more sorrow. We won't be there with him just yet, but what is 50 years compared to eternity? I'll be there, too, within a blink of an eye. That's what I think when I think about Heaven.

But then I think about earth and I realize that 50 years is a long time. It's hard to accept that it's okay that he's dying, that it's going to be okay because he's going to Heaven. But I think what's hardest to accept is that I'm going to be okay without him. I've never lived without him, and I just can't imagine what it will be like.

I know I'm a grown woman but he's my grandpa. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was growing up. The Grands were the only ones that provided me with any stability. So now, as I face losing my grandpa, I am losing the only source of stability I ever had as a child. Somewhere inside of me is a little girl who has always known that Grandpa was there. Grandpa would always be there to lean on and take care of things. Grandpa would always know what to say at just the right moment.

Who can I lean on now? I turn my head to the left, and I see my favorite picture of Jesus. I'll lean on Him, and everything will be okay.

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