Sunday morning, while visiting down here in Florida for Thanksgiving, my husband and I found my grandmother, the only living relative I still have from my father’s family, on the floor suffering from a severe stroke.
By 8:45 am I was rushing in the ambulance sure she wouldn’t survive the trip. By Tuesday she’d regained almost all of her lost functionality (she just turned 90 on November 1st!) except her ability to swallow.
And now we’re stuck in this incredibly painful limbo waiting to see if she’ll regain that. I’m left facing the reality that she may never be able to return home independent again. And, since she has so far refused the prospect of a feeding tube, I’m stuck facing the reality of the frailness of her situation and that she may not survive this hurdle at all. And, as her medical power of attorney, her fate is suddenly completely in my hands.
Only one thing is certain… it looks like I’ll be in Florida much longer than I originally planned.
After we lost my father at age 58 in 2010, I thought things couldn’t ever possibly be worse. He went through hell and back for over 16 months. A heart attack, a severe stroke leaving him mostly brain-dead and paralyzed entirely on his left side, and eventually a stage 4 diagnosis of biliary system cancer. I gave up my dream career in India right after graduating college to stay home to care for him. After all, his family had always been small and there was no one else.
And to this day I am haunted by all the projects in life he left unfinished. All the dreams he left unfulfilled…
But the truth is I’m no stranger to difficult, unorthodox, and extremely painful situations. It’s almost eerie how much I knew by 21 about long-term medical care, extreme grief, personal depression, and the loss of a loved one. In my Dad’s case I did not only lose a father but a best friend, a business partner, and the person I relied on most to help me through my own personal troubles. There are large chunks of my life from those two years during his illnesses I don’t remember at all. Months of my life than are merely a blur.
I’ve never opened up this much about it here but I feel like it’s finally time to share. Or rather, impossible NOT to share anymore.
And the truth of my father’s ordeal is I actually survived. And, eventually after many years, thrived.
If anything, trials of this nature teach us our own inner strength. And ever since 2010 I’ve had extreme confidence in my ability to weather any storm that comes. After all, I went through hell and back with my father at a time when most college kids may have never stepped up to the plate.
Shit storms seem to be my forte.
My all-too-familiar companion.
Especially after losing my beloved grandfather last December, my amazing Nana this past February, and my husband’s own 91 year-old grandfather just last month. Let’s just say 2016 has not been a great year for either of our families.
But now I find myself back where I was in 2010…
The eldest family member capable of making the important decisions. The medical power of attorney expected to know my family’s medical history and long-term life wishes. The one who remembers to bring medicine lists and pacemaker cards with me to the hospital. The one who has more doctors and lawyers in her contact list than friends (seriously!). The one who just wants to have something even remotely resembling a “normal life”. The one who doesn’t want to have to price out nursing homes, pay the property taxes on family member’s homes, or face the prospect that my grandmother’s only option may end up being hospice care.
I’ll be honest. The depression has been real. The pain real. The confusion, the terror, the loneliness… At times I wish I had more friends who understood what this really feels like. I find myself becoming closer with 60-year-olds taking care of their own ailing parents than friends my own age. I feel older than I am. I feel — at times — robbed of my youth. Much of this started when I was just 21 and now, at 29, I’m still facing many of the same hurdles, just cloaked in a different face.
For now all I can do is keep calm and carry on. I have no monopoly on pain or self-pity. I’m not the first person to have this much asked of them this young and I won’t be the last. And feeling sorry for myself only makes it twice as hard to do what my family needs me to do and to do it well.
So for now I’m going to continue to post here with my usual schedule. Thankfully I managed to shoot a lot of extra work last month so I have a lot of beautiful content I still want to share. Just know that behind the happiness I always try to nurture here on Sed Bona, things are much harder than they appear. Things hurt. I hurt. Life hurts.
And it’s time to be real about that with you.
Sometimes, reality just bites…