Thursday, February 5, 2015

Saying Goodbye

I apologize in advance for how rambling and not making sense this post may be. I am still trying to make sense of it all.

I am an only child and an only grandchild. Since 2002, I have had only one grandparent, my Nana. My mom's mother. She is one of the most incredible women I have ever known and has always been my biggest supporter and friend. I get more of myself from her than I do from my mother. If you look at pictures of my Nana from when she was my age, we are practically identical. My Nana has had many health problems in her life. Diabetes, thyroid disease, heart surgeries, bad knees- you name it, she's got it. My Nana unfortunately also has Alzheimer's and Dementia. Over the last decade, she has been on a steady decline and it has been incredibly heartbreaking to watch. First she would forget random things, then people, etc. She always knew who my mother and I were. Several years ago, she got up in the middle of the night to make herself a cup of tea, turned the stove on, forgot what she was doing and didn't light it, and just went to bed with the gas on. Thank G-d one of her neighbors smelled it and called security who were able to unlock her door and check on her and turn the stove off! At that moment, our lives changed in a big way. We could no longer say "oh grandma's just forgetful." Slowly things began to get worse. She could no longer communicate with people (she could not tell Russian and English apart and would get frustrated and start screaming when people did not understand what she was trying to tell them), then she started mumbling all together. Then she slowly started forgetting me. This was the most heartbreaking thing. When Terry and I got married, we knew we had to get married in Manhattan so that it would be a short cab ride from her apartment. No matter what, I needed my Nana there with me on my big day. After our ceremony, I went over to talk to her where she was sitting with her sister and aide and some family friends. As I'm standing there in my wedding dress, she tells me that it's time for me to grow up and settle down and get married. I wanted to both laugh and cry at the same time.

She has gone through a steady stream of home health aides and eventually required someone to be with her 24/7. After she fell and was hospitalized, she was admitted to a nursing home. Within the last year or so, the decline has only gotten worse. She stopped recognizing my mother. She could not get any visitors because any "new face" made her hysterical and she would scream and it would upset her and mess up her whole routine. She could no longer talk or move or feed herself. The last few times I went to New York to visit my family, I didn't even get to see her. The last time I saw her, my visit upset her so much and made her uncomfortable because she did not understand why this stranger woman was in her room or showing her pictures. I understand it's not her, it's the disease, but yea, it hurts. A whole lot.

My Nana used to be fluent in 3 languages. She is the woman who took me to McDonald's the first day it opened in the U.S.S.R.. The one who would pick me up at the school bus stop in elementary school and who would go to parents' days and school fairs when my parents couldn't make it. The one who took me on a trip to Vermont and to the Ben & Jerry's factory. The woman who I spent all my summers with back in Russia and who would take me to the bazaars in Uzbekistan for watermelon daily. The woman who saved up for years of her life just so she could buy me my wedding dress.

Even though she is still alive, for the past 1-2 years, my Nana has pretty much been in a vegetative state. Earlier this week, she came down with a bad infection and was rushed to the ER. She has been on strong IV antibiotics and fluids and constant care, but it is not enough. She is being transferred to hospice care tomorrow and I have an early morning flight to New York so I can say goodbye to her. The doctors are giving her a few days to two weeks at most. I can't think about this without starting to well up. The doctors think that she has meningitis which is doubly difficult for me to deal with. One of my college roommates passed away from meningitis, so I feel like I am being forced to relive the worst week of my life.

My mother has started making funeral arrangements, and everything is pretty much set (down to what outfit I will be wearing- thanks mom) other than the date. I hate having to do this. It feels so awful and wrong. The way people have been talking about her, it seems like she is already dead and she is still here. I want more time with my Nana but I know that even if she survives this, I will never get my Nana back. I want her to not be in pain anymore and to get to see my grandpa again.