Reposted from http://boyqandgirlq.blogspot.com/.
I love my Grandma (click for previous blog post) to pieces. When I was little we lived in the same town and ever since then she’s been very special to me. I call her Mom sometimes.
|She fell and broke her hip years ago. Surgery #1 wasn’t a total hip replacement, but her body wouldn’t heal up from the patch job. Surgery #2 was a total hip replacement (which I now know involves hammering a rod into the femur and putting an artificial ball joint at the top). Since then, that rod has become loose which has caused some horrible pain.
This time around, she doesn’t have my Grandpa’s unfailing optimism to bolster her spirits. This time around, I’m old enough to understand how serious surgery can be. Initially, I wasn’t going to go to her but it soon became clear that I might be of some help. I realized that she would be alone…alone in the hospital…alone as she was wheeled back into surgery…probably alone when she woke up.
Thanks to the benevolence of my mother-in-law, I was able to pick up in the middle of life and just go. My kids weren’t concerned about my absence at all because Grandma would be here to take care of them.
It was very difficult to get my Grandma to stop feeling guilty: “No, Nic, you don’t have to come. You have kids. You can’t come. Don’t worry.”
Finally, I changed tactics, “Listen, I’m coming to you no matter what. Do you want me to come before your surgery or afterwards?”
“Well, when you put it like that…I guess it might be nice to have someone come before to calm me down.“
I won’t ever forget seeing her standing at the airport waiting for me.
Or force-hugging my poor uncle (who abhors physical touch) with her.
Or how much their Kitty hates me.
Or celebrating her 77th birthday with her.
Or helping her with the computer.
Or cuddling with her.
Or listening to her play her piano.
Or the way she held my hand the night before surgery.
At her last doctor’s appointment before the big day, the orthopedic surgeon told Grandma-for the first time-that this wasn’t a typical hip surgery.
“So, this isn’t a small surgery. It’s a long, potentially difficult surgery. I haven’t done this surgery in years because it’s so uncommon. I called in a team of people to talk to about it and I’ve been doing my reading!”
Grandma wasn’t thrilled.
The night before we were supposed to pack a bag, wash with antibacterial soap, sleep in freshly laundered clothes, take certain medications, and be in bed by 8 o’clock. She puttered around the house. We had a few well-meaning visitors. She kept showing me her favorite pieces of jewelry so I would know what to save if she died. At 8:38, I heard the tell-tale click of Rummikub tiles from the kitchen. My uncle and Grandma play Rummikub pretty much every morning and sometimes late at night.
“Grandma! Are you playing Rummikub?!”
“Nic, I can’t hear you, can you come out here?”
“Grandma! You wanted to be in bed by 8!”
In the end, she told me to shush and let them play in peace. One last game, just in case.
When we got to the hospital the day of the surgery, she insisted on wearing her curlers.
We went back to the pre-op area and the bevy of staff there to take her history, take her blood, and, some of her dignity too. The surgeon and the anesthesiologist were there. They were cursory and didn’t take much time to reassure us. The anesthesiologist reminded Grandma how risky this sort of surgery could be, that she might need a blood transfusion, that she would be so terribly groggy afterwards…
“A blood transfusion?” She asked.
“Well, yeah–” He looked at her chart. “At…(pause because he had to check) 77, you’re not a spring chicken anymore.”
After he left, she looked up at me, insulted. “Not a spring chicken. Gee!”
These people were doing everything too fast. For them, this was just another day, another patient. They didn’t know how important she was.
The words stuck in my throat–You don’t know how important she is. You don’t know how important she is to me.