Monday, March 22, 2010

Our wonderful, terrible trip to Minnesota....

Sorry this is going to be super long, wordy, and lacking in pictures. This is more for me to remember the details of this time but I'd love to share it with you also.

In case you did not hear/read the day after Bella's birthday we headed up to visit my grandparents. They live in MN. My dad was in town helping out with my grandpa and grandma. They need a lot of care and my aunt and uncle had been doing it alone for quite some time. My grandpa is very hard of hearing, has lots of aches, had a small stroke recently, and can only walk by taking small little shuffles due to bad hips and knees. He uses a walker to walk. Mentally though is fully functioning. My grandma is very, very frail. She has had a couple of strokes and was starting to show signs of dementia. She also walks with a walker. Due to the dementia and other things she was NOT able to cook, clean, or much of anything on her own any more. Earlier in February we wanted to go up for a visit when my brother and both parents were there but my aunt thought it would be too much. I was sad but God had other plans, and I'm now thankful it didn't work out for us to go at that time. Thankfully my dad returned to help out again because Grandma was falling a lot and was having days of not wanting to get out of bed. My aunt and uncle were due to travel to Ireland so my dad came to be with my grandparents while they were away. We thought this would be a perfect opportunity to make a trip up to see them.

We arrived Friday afternoon and had a lovely time just hanging out. I'm so sad because I didn't take any pictures......

.....except this one I took with my dad's camera, because we were just having such a great time hanging out and just watching the girls entertain my grandparents. Saturday afternoon my aunt and dad made a final decision to move my grandparents to an assisted living facility so they could have more assistance if they needed it. They decided to tell my grandma that afternoon. She had been falling a lot recently and the doctor guessed it was small strokes caused by the stress of the possibility of moving. When they told my grandma she laughed and said, "You're funny. That's wonderful." We were all very surprised by this response but apparently she knew something we did not.

Before my dad and aunt left to check on getting them moved grandma laid down for a nap. So Vince and I were in charge. I asked my dad what if she tried to get up herself and he said to let her. And my aunt just said if she fell to help her back up. We said ok but I had a very uneasy feeling about it. Around 4ish we heard a loud thud and ran in and sure enough grandma had fallen. We weren't sure what exactly she was trying to do because she was in a very awkward position and not in the right direction of her walker. She laid on her left side with her left arm back under her body. She was in a lot of pain. Vince and I were talking to her and she was with it but was hurting. We tried to sit her up but she was just in too much pain. I tried my dad on his phone several times but couldn't get him. When I came back to the room the hub's was on the floor, laying next to her, face to face, stroking her hair and talking with her.

I could not have been in love with him more than that very minute. He was so sweet and tender with her and took such good care of her.

My grandma asked for my grandpa, so we set him up in a chair next to her but there wasn't anything he could do, but talk to her. Finally when my aunt and dad returned they ran in to help. Like I said my grandma is really frail and hurts very easily so we were unsure how much pain she was really having. My dad and hubs lifted her to sitting position with a lot of protest from her. Finally they got her to standing position but she couldn't walk. She said her right leg hurt but she had fallen on her left but when we went to stand her she couldn't move her right leg. We decided to have her lay down for a bit and rest. I went and started dinner. We had given my grandma a bell to ring if she needed us and shortly after we had started to eat she rang it. I went and checked on her, now 6ish, and she said she was hungry. My dad and hubs went and sat her up. As soon as they did she immediately said she was tired and wanted to go to bed. My dad told her to rest and see if she was hungry again in a few minutes. My aunt went in there about 10-15 minutes later and called us in. Grandma was out of it and not speaking clearly. We brought the girls in the room to distract her and she couldn't see them. It was clear something was wrong.

We ended up calling the paramedics and by the time they arrived she wasn't speaking coherently. She wasn't moving one side of her body either. By the time they loaded her on the bed she had closed her eyes and wasn't responding to us.

My dad, aunt, grandpa, and myself headed to the hospital after them. When we arrived the doctor had 3 possibilities for us. It was either a bleeding stoke which would be the worst outcome, a regular stoke, or a seizure. When the results returned it was confirmed she had a bleeding stroke. They said based on the amount of bleeding it had been bleeding awhile and was what was probably causing all her falling. Sadly and strangely, this brought me relief, since I was feeling such guilt that all this had followed a fall during our watch. They said they could do surgery but she would probably not survive it and if she did wouldn't speak or have much function. They doubted any surgeon would agree to even perform the surgery. So we had a decision to make. The hardest thing for me was watching grandpa during all of this. He kept asking the doctor for options and the chance she could pull out of it and we just had to keep explaining it to him. The staff was gracious and it was just so interesting to be on this side of things after watching so many hospital type shows deal with these type of situations. So we prayed, talked, sang with grandma. At the beginning she was responding to us by squeezing our hands in one of her hands. By the time we left, 10:30ish, she wasn't responding any more.

Leaving was SO hard. I wanted so badly just to be with her and hold her hand until she was gone. But sadly we took grandpa home. My aunt stayed with grandma for the night. I prayed she would hold out until we could return in the morning but 7:30 that morning she passed away. My aunt was with her the entire night. Even though she had a temperature higher than they could register her heartbeat strong. In fact her heart beat almost 10 minutes after she had stopped breathing.

My dad, grandpa, and I returned at 8:30 to say a final farewell. My grandpa got dressed up in a suit to head to the hospital. He said he wanted her to be proud of him. Grandma looked so beautiful. She actually looked younger and her coloring was stunning. She looked content and peaceful. Oh watching grandpa grieve was so hard. This summer they would have been married 65 years. He was having such a hard time saying goodbye. Oh I can't even accurately describe the scene. I have pictures of it that I will forever cherish. Just the pain and love on one person's face, all at once, was so...I'm not sure of the correct word.

By 10:30 grandpa was tired and my aunt took him home. My dad and I stayed back to make sure grandma was taken care of. Then the craziness began. My dad and aunt had a million calls to make and things to do. We were scheduled to leave after lunch. The hubs had to go back to work but I was feeling very torn. Thankfully the hubs graciously allowed the girls and I to stay up for the week. I wanted to be there to help, grieve, and just be there for grandpa. So, with our two outfits of clothing each, the girls and I stayed.

We talked to Bella about what happened to Gigi. We said that she had a long, wonderful life but was sick and went to be with Jesus. She was sad, cried, and said she missed her. But she was easily comforted and now and then mentions that Gigi is in heaven. It was touching and hard all at once. What a moment to share with your daughter for the first time.

Grandpa was so different during the following week. First couple of days he just sat around, doing nothing. He slept a lot and was in tears most of the day or the minute he saw something or was reminded of grandma. When he did finally do something he read. He either read his bible or a book called, "A Better Country: Preparing for Heaven," written by Dan Schaeffer. My heart just ached for him. I tried to talk and distract him when I could. I think the girls were a happy distraction for him. Even if he didn't interact with them, I think he enjoyed their presence and noise. One afternoon Bella climbed in to his lap and fell asleep, it was such a precious site.

The rest of the week consisted of trying to be there for gramps, many, many phone calls and plans, trying to keeps the girl from going crazy and be a bit of a distraction for grandpa but not too much of a bother, help put together a slide show for the memorial service, make meals, and help keep the place clean. But I'm so glad I stayed. I will always remember and cherish the time with my grandpa. My aunt's husband, my uncle, arrived home Monday from the trip she was suppose to be on but thankfully had cancelled, my mom arrived Tuesday, one of my aunts and uncles arrived Wednesday, and pretty much the rest of the clan arrived by Thursday evening, including the hubs. I have 11 cousins and literally every single one of them came. Everyone came in except for the spouse of one of my cousins, even two of my cousins from Canada. It meant the world for us to be there for grandma, and for grandpa.

Friday was a very hard day. We had the service at 2. But it was a beautiful time. All the great stories and memories of grandma. In going through pictures for the slide show I feel like I learned so much about grandma and her younger years. Just looking at them I feel like I could see what she was thinking and feeling. My aunt, two uncles, and dad said wonderful things about their mom. And my brother and cousin, Kellan, had beautiful things to say also. I never would have had the strength to do what they did and it was so touching. At one point Kellan pointed out something about each of the 11 grandchildren that we had gotten from her. She said that I got my great mothering skills from her, which I can only pray is true for she was truly the model to be. Soon I will do another post and introduce you to my grandma.

Immediately after the memorial I felt like grandpa was different. He was still obviously hurting but he was more alert, walked a little better, stood a little straighter, and was doing more than just sitting. He wanted to hang with the family and be a part of things. I just feel like all week he was dreading Friday and had this weight that was crushing him and now that it was over, although still broken, he could breath again.

Friday night, though we were all emotionally exhausted, the whole family spent the evening together at my aunt's in-laws house. It had been almost 10 years since we were all together. So although sad circumstance brought us together, we made the most of the time together. Saturday night, again we all spent time together and the best thing of all... threw me a little birthday bash (my birthday was the next day)! It was unexpected and wonderful. I am never with family for my birthday, since they are usually recently in town for the girls' birthdays, and this one I was literally with ALL of my family. That night we all played games together late in to the night.

The next morning the family that was left came over to say goodbye to us and give birthday wishes. After lunch we made our exit. It was so hard to leave for many reasons. Some family was still there and I didn't want to leave them. I didn't want to leave grandpa. He was still hurting so much. I so badly wanted to continue to be there for him. And I just don't want it to be the last time I see him.

So although one of the hardest weekends/trips we've had, it was also one of the best. What an amazing blessing we were there and the girls had that time with grandma. And how awesome I got to spend my 30th birthday will all my wonderful family!

I'll miss you forever Gramcraker.


Kate said...

Thanks for sharing all of this with us Barclay! Your Grandmother seemed like a wonderful woman! I am sure your family is so thankful for your time with them, and for the girls!

Kelly said...

Oh Barclay, I am so glad you shared all this! So much of it reminds me of Jacob's Pawpaw after Nanny passed away in December. I know it's so so hard. It's wonderful though how all the family could come and be together. I know that meant so much to your grandpa. I'm praying for your family.

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    I used to be an elementary teacher but am now a stay-at-home mommy with three sweet baby girls. Bella is 6, Brynn is 4, and Brooklyn is 1. We also have a sweet Golden Retriever named Beckham. I have been married to the love of my life, Vincent, for almost 12 years. Although I hate the cold I am a Chicago girl through and through. And thats about all I've got!

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