Sitting with Granny

Sepia toned photo from the early 1940s of a white family. My great-grandmother is on the left side with a crown braid, my great-grandfather is in the middle, my great uncle is on the right, and my grandmother is in the bottom center with two pigtail braids and a bow. My great-grandfather and great uncle smile while the females have semi-smiles on their faces.
Early 1940s family picture — Granny is center.

I was asked to sit with Granny. She has cancer and is on hospice. Her cancer was treated for a time but some of the treatments led to the deterioration of other parts of her body, which led to surgeries, which was leading to hospital stays, ambulance rides, and ER visits…eventually it all became too much. Her quality of life, that is a life that was focused on sitting at home being surrounded by family was more important than trying to kill a beast that had taken pain and body ravishment on credit.

She has always been a fighter. Fierce exterior, strong, private, kept to herself, independent — I cannot remember an occasion of her ever asking for help. I do not know if that is because she wanted to be fiercely independent or because she was thrust into this role as necessity for survival in the post-depression era. Though, I have learned in the last decade of my Pop being gone that if I ask her questions and talk to her adult to adult she will engage. I did not always feel like she wanted to talk with me when I was a child.

Because of hospice and what the cancer has done to Granny she is living with my mom and stepdad. It has been determined it is not safe for her to live at home alone. Nurses visit twice a week to help her shower, keep after her nails, and help her with anything she needs. Granny also has to use a walker which she seems to despise or sees it as a challenge to sneak in walks to the bathroom unaided.

Yet, I asked her yesterday about the adjustment. Was it difficult for her to depend on others? She told me no; she was used to it. But I had not asked her about the walker and she still looks for opportunities to stealth to the bathroom without it. She has had several falls — attempts to stand and/or walk and drops — the answer as to why this was happening was never discovered. This is why the walker has been deemed necessary and yet, she still gets in those sneak paces unassisted. I would like to know why she does this but I do not know if I would get an honest answer. I am not so sure she is not lying to herself about the adjustments.

I do know that she felt she could be left alone while my parents were away yesterday. She told me as much. She also conveyed that I did not have to stay until they returned, she would be ok. I think my presence made her feel like I was a babysitter rather than her granddaughter spending time with her ensuring that she was good. To me, there is not much of a difference with these scenarios except that in one she despises my attendance and in the other she is welcoming of my being there. It does not help that I feel I should be around more to visit but when I am there to visit she is often sleeping. Her eyes, her head get heavy — she is drowsy a lot. I struggle with being engaging but also allowing her the time to sleep or to be. She is not a conversationalist. I brought a book yesterday to read in the times her eyes would close. I think me reading cemented for her that I was a Granny sitter more than a caring granddaughter. I did let her know that I wanted to be there and she said she was happy to have me. But in how much of this scenario were we both lying to ourselves?

My primary motivation for being there was selfish. I was trying to help my mom and stepdad out because they asked but also hoping to learn from and about my Granny before she leaves the Earth. I think she wants people there who want to be there and only knows how to be quiet until prompted to speak her thoughts, her mind on something she is comfortable answering. She has learned a lifetime of keeping to herself and I think she desires connection but was brought up to believe that connection is something that you lie in wait for and is only bequeathed to those who have earned it.

Before I left yesterday, I told her I would do better next time. That I would think of ways we could get in trouble, spice it up a bit. She laughed. Again, I have to wonder if what I was saying was more about me than it was for her. I did learn that a lot of the ways I do things came from her — a quiet model of creativity and wonder.



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