Monday, November 07, 2005

I’m on my way home, sitting at the Portland airport and enjoying a chai latte while I wait for my flight.
All in all it was a good trip, I got to visit my grandparents and relax. Those are always good things. It stormed every day I was here, so we stayed in for the most part. Saturday night the storm was so bad that it knocked down two 100 foot trees on the road so I did get to participate in some heavy duty clean up on Sunday.
Although it was a good trip, it was also a hard one that has taken an emotional toll on me. My grandma has inoperable cancer and has been on chemotherapy for 14 months now. I last saw her eight months ago and she had lost a little bit of weight at that point, maybe 10 lbs., and would get tired after being up & doing stuff around the house after about 30 minutes or so and she’d lost her hair, but overall she was doing alright and looked okay. I was not prepared for how she’s doing now. Shes down to 100 lbs, is tired after walking to the bathroom, sleeps 12 or more hours a day and spends most of the rest of the day lying on the couch. I wasnt ready to see her this weak and fatigued. She’s always been so energetic and gregarious. Every time I’ve come up here to visit her before we’ve always done at least one day of “marathon shopping”. We went shopping Saturday, but after walking into the store and looking through two clothing racks, she was spent.
Her spirits are still up, but her body is slowing down.
The slower pace of this trip allowed me to really see in depth the tenderness between my grandparents that I’ve only caught little glimpses of before.
Both were raised on farms in south western Nebraska, and my Grandpa was raised with the belief that you show your love of your family by providing for them. Giving them a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, and food on the table. Although he’s retired from GTE (now Verizon) he’s returned to his farming roots and raises trees here outside of Portland so every time I’ve been up here to visit he’s still outside working to be sure to provide for his wife although their retirement savings are sufficient. This trip, I can see that he has slowed down his own pace to match that of grandma. In the mornings, he gets up and makes his pot of coffee and does some of the household chores and drives down to the mailboxes to pick up the newspaper. After he’s back, once he hears Grandma start to wake up he makes her a pot of tea and toast for breakfast. Throughout the day he also makes her lunch, dinner, and snacks since the Dr. would like to see her put some weight back on before she starts her next round of chemotherapy. He calls her “Beautiful”, “Gorgeous”, and my favorite, “Lovey”.
In addition to the cancer, Grandma also has Macular Degeneration. She can still see well enough to read large signs, but can no longer read the books that she has always loved - even in large print. Every night, Grandpa will read to her so that she can still enjoy the stories that she has always loved.
Its good to know that after 50-some-odd years of marriage they still share this tenderness and affection for one another. But at the same time I’m heartbroken. I know that the love they have for one another is infinite, but these moments of tenderness and caring are finite. Thats been the hardest part about this trip. This weekend I saw my grandfather cry for the first time that I can ever remember. He said that he’s not ready to say goodbye to his wife. Thats been the hardest part of this trip. Seeing how much of a toll this illness has taken on both my grandma and my grandpa.


carrie said...

how heartbreaking! i'm so, so sorry to hear about this. i have a 96yo grandfather, and it's hard to say goodbye knowing that it might be your last.

Tara said...

That's so very sad. It's so nice to here of enduring love, though.

kimananda said...

It sounds like your grandparents have such a special relationship. And after more than 50 years together. How many of us these days will ever be together with someone for that long?

Vanessa said...

Thank you all for your kind words.
I promise, I'll have a happier post (with photos!) tonight when I get home

Marissa said...

My gosh, I'm inspired and hopeful after reading your story about the love your grandparents have for each other! How blessed they are! What a sweetheart your Grandpa is, and your Grandma is so lucky. It must be so much easier for her (and the rest of the family) to go through this with his love and excellent care. How sweet that he reads to her at night. Oh you got me all vahklempt! I'm glad you got to spend quality time with them!
Happy Thanksgiving!!