My Grandma: a timely reminder of the importance of family

Posted: December 5, 2012 in Family, Travel
Tags: , , , ,

It’s taken me over a week to decide whether writing about my current situation for my blog is the right thing to do.  My grandma is dying.  I am 27 and have not yet lost anyone this significant to me, something I’ve always felt very lucky about.  But here it is.  And I’ve just realised exactly how much this situation links with my decisions next year – my big year of travel and adventure – which first prompted this blog:

I am currently sitting in a chair at the nursing home where Grandma was taken just over a week ago.  Her decline has been gradual over the past six months or so: first with the discovery of cancer, then the decision not to operate then the gentle loss of independence culminating in full-time carers and, eventually, a respite period in a nursing home when things really became too difficult at home.  Only this respite isn’t a respite.  Although no-one is allowed/encouraged to give exact prognoses, we think it’s days, perhaps a week.  And as Grandma’s vision dims, her speech slurs and she spends less and less time awake, the family have rallied around to spend these precious few days together with her and to keep at least one of us with her at all times.  Tonight is my first night vigil.  It’s actually rather lovely to be with Grandma alone.  I’ve found things difficult the past two days as she seems to recognise me less and less.  But now, alone, I feel perhaps she does know who I am and that I’m here for her.

I could of course continue to explore my own feelings on this sad process or about how wonderful my Grandma is and all the beautiful things I’ve learned from her but I think that belongs elsewhere.  Here, really, there is space to consider what these days have done for the family.  Grandma is my mum’s mum and mum has one brother, Martin – my uncle.  He has two children – my cousins – who despite featuring in a few memories of growing up really haven’t been the extended family that some experience.  In fact, I really grew up wondering why my parents appeared to have such an aversion to their siblings and hoping that’d never happen to me and mine.

But now things are starting to change.  For a couple of months now, Mum has said how Grandma’s illness has allowed her brother and her to talk more than they ever had as adults before.  And now my sister and I too have had the chance to spend time with him and my cousin, Tom.  And it’s really bloody good.  A few days ago, my Grandma was rather distressed and despite muddling and delirium, was repeating several messages about how we must all build houses of love and love each other and take care of each other.  I really hope it is true that the final sense to go is hearing because if Grandma can hear us all together around her bed, getting to know each other, supporting each other, everyone rallying round…well, she would be (in her words) as happy as Larry!

Now, all this brings me to what I’m feeling about next year’s travels.  Yes, it is exciting and I have a lot to be grateful for and proud of and excited about.  But part of these travels are to go and find out whether I, like my brother, want to move to Australia (where my boyfriend is currently living).  I’ve been uncertain about this since he ‘got a head start’ and moved back to Brisbane last April but now…even more so.  I’ve always known family is important and the guilt I feel about being the second child to potentially head off southward and never return has caused more than one sleepless night.  But now more than ever: surely family – and being close to them – is more important than anything else.  Sure, have an adventure, see more, meet people, learn new things…but to never return? To have an annual week with the people that are most important to me rather than being a short drive away and seeing them once every few weeks?!

So, I think Grandma’s passing is timed quite well.  It’s not that it’s made my mind up (that’ll be the day!) but it has given me one hell of a reminder about the power and strength of family and the importance of closeness and shared experience.  I guess it’s just another piece of understanding to add as I meander through 2013 and make some decisions.  And hopefully, when Grandma is finally released from this body, she can be with me too.  Only a few days ago, she was able to communicate with me and she said ‘I think we’ll always be together, won’t we’.  I’m looking forward to it.

(Back dated Friday 30th Nov-Sat 1st Dec)



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