Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Not Quite a Thousand Pages

It’s 3:26a, an ungodly hour if you ask me.  But, I can’t sleep.  My boyfriend is leaving for his Austria trip in less than two hours, and my grandmother is alone (well, family-less) in a nursing home because she fractured a vertebra in her back and a couple other more minor things that led up to finding the fracture.  

I was excited for yesterday to be boring.  Even now as I write this, I feel selfish and self-centered.  Oh, poor me, yesterday wasn’t boring so now I have a long entry I have to write. I would write a thousand pages if it would mean my grandmother could have her facilities back and be home enjoying her life with my grandfather.

I went to work and took mundane pictures for another blog I'm working on and realized I forgot my phone.   I went home to get it before going to the nursing home.  My phone is only ever almost dead or fully charged at home, left plugged in. It is annoying for the handful of people that call me and I’m sorry.

I turned the wrong way once exiting Highway 1, but eventually found my way back to the dark street where the nursing home was seated.  The sky was turning dark and the clouds were very dark hues of orange and purple, but I couldn’t take a good picture with my less than optimal Lumix and big cars and buses drowning my shots in their headlights and metal bodies.  I just headed into the building.

My mom said I could just sign in at the front desk and go up and see my grandmother.  She was wiping her eyes when I walked into her room and I wondered if she’d been crying or if her eyes were tearing from just lying down for a long time.  I hoped she wasn’t crying.  My mom had left me a message about an hour and a half prior, and I thought she might still be there, but my grandmother was alone.

She greeted me and told me that no one had come to visit her all day.

“Not even Ba!” she exclaimed, angrily.

I knew this wasn’t true, but it broke my heart.

“I don’t even know why I’m here!” she spat. “I’m fine! They’re not doing anything for me here! I just want to go home. I hate it here.”

I tried to explain that she needed to get stronger first, but she wouldn’t accept any sort of explanation.

“I could be lying down at home! What is the difference? There’s nothing for me here!”

I began to tell her the story of why she was there, how we had to come to her house and force her out of bed so we could take her to the ER and how she screamed at us and kicked her husband.

“I kicked Ba?” she asked softly.

I nodded and tried to explain the rest in an effort to get her to understand how important it was that she stay and get better, but I started to cry.  She handed me a tissue, but she still wasn’t having it.  A few minutes in, she had to use the restroom and I helped her to the portable seated toilet that was next to her bed.  Gingerly, she put her shoes on and got up out of bed much more easily then I’d seen her do the past few days, but still wincing.  I ran to get some toilet paper for her.

When she was through and back in bed, I called my mother.  Since my grandmother seemed much stronger than before, I wondered at what point she would be able to go home.  My mom explained that she needed to be able to walk around more easily and go to the bathroom on her own.

“Try showing her the origami cranes you made her. She likes those.  And she remembered that you made her that chapstick. Just try to distract her and talk in a calming voice,” my mom advised.

I tried explaining to my grandmother what she had to do in order to leave, but she was just as angry as ever.

“Will you please tell them I want to go home? If I don’t get to go home, I’m going to walk out of here like this!” she said, pointing at her hospital gown. “I don’t care! I’ll find some way and I’ll never go back to them ever!”

She went on like this for a while.  I tried to show her the cranes.

“I don’t care about that,” she said, shoving it away.

I finally decided to try and distract her with some pictures.  I tried to load the flicker mobile site up on my phone, but it was buggy.  I was able to get a few pictures up, but during the waiting silence, she had to go to the restroom again, which I think, in addition to the break in yelling since I had stopped responding, distracted her. I let her go by herself, because I wanted her to build up strength so she could go home sooner.  She was surprisingly strong, but I could still tell her back and stomach were in pain from the vertebra fracture.

Once she was in bed again, I showed her the photos.  She smiled and cooed over them as she always does, and seemed to be in a better mood afterward.  She started telling me about when I was a baby, which always cheers her up.  However, she was getting her stories mixed up again.  Instead of correcting her, I just nodded and smiled and let her finish.  I was pretty sure this story was about my dad.

“When you were a little baby, you loved to look out the window. We were on the ground floor in our apartment on Trenton street and every day this American woman would see you staring out the window and she’d come by and give you a dollar.  Eventually, I got a glass piggy bank and we put all your dollars in there. One day, the whole piggy bank was full from all the dollars the American woman had given you.”

I thought this was a strange story and wondered how much of it was true.  A dollar was a lot of money when my dad was a kid, and I can’t imagine that some woman would have enough money that she would give a curious little Chinese child a dollar every day that she saw him for no reason whatsoever.

Then, she started telling me the story of how she met my grandfather again, and I thought I’d record it because I like seeing her when she’s happy and telling me a story. It’s short because I only had my little Lumix.




“He was the nicest person I ever met,” she kept saying. My grandfather is one of the most kind-hearted souls, and was even more so when his mind was sharp. Now, it appears his obsessive compulsive tendencies have filled in the parts of his brain that have gone, and he does a number of strange things instead.

My grandmother was calm at this point and she seemed to be getting a little bit sleepy even.  I turned her light out for her and asked if she wanted the remote for her television.

“No, thank you, I’m not watching it. Are you going to turn the other lights off for me?” she asked.

I told her I could not, that they were her neighbors’ lights. She peered back at me quizzically, not understanding who or why her neighbors were there and I tried to explain briefly again.

“Are you going to sleep here?”

“No,” I answered, and I felt like someone had skewered me in the chest with a sword made of guilt.

She paused and then asked me, “Is your mom picking you up?”

“No, I drove myself.”

“Oh, you better get going then. It’s getting late.”

I tucked her in and told her I would be back tomorrow and she smiled back at me. I told her that I loved her.

“I love you, too,” she replied, holding my hand.

I reached down and gave her a gentle hug and she kissed me on the cheek.

Slowly I walked out of the room and pushed the button for the elevator.  While I was waiting, I started 
talking to the head nurse. I guess my grandmother heard me and she started calling out.

“Is anyone there? Who’s there?”

My brows furrowed and I walked back into the room.

“It’s me, Grandma, I’m here.”

“Why am I here? Where am I? Am I at home?” she asked me.  She looked so frightened.

“No,” I answered haltingly. “You’re… in a hospital. You fractured your back…”

“Oh,” she replied, looking sad and somewhat defeated. “Is there someone I can talk to?”

“You mean like, a nurse?”

“Yes, can I talk to one?”

I nodded and told her I’d be back.  I walked quickly out into the hallway back to the head nurse and asked her if someone could come talk to my grandmother.  She said she would try and I went back to her room.  She needed to use the restroom again so I helped her.  I got her back into bed and tucked her in.  She seemed better and I told her I loved her again and that I would be back in the morning and I felt so horrible about lying but I knew she’d forget anyway, and that my parents would be there.

I walked back to the elevator and the head nurse saw me. I think she told me not to worry or something. Something brief and chatty, but I broke down into tears which eventually turned into gasping sobs.  I tried to explain that my grandparents had helped raise me and that I wished I could stay with her. The nurse tried to assuage me, telling me I had done my best, that I had to live my life too, that things happen for a reason.  She patted my shoulder as I wiped my eyes on my sleeves and tried to stop at least the gasping.  When she asked if I felt better, I lied and said yes.  I really just had succeeded in stopping crying for a minute so I could get into the elevator and out the door, where I could continue my sobbing on the dark street on the way to my car, and then inside the car on my way home.

Afram came down the garage stairs as I drove in, and he gave me a hug at which point the gasping and stifled whimpers began anew, into his chest.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered to me. “I should have come with you.”

“It’s okay,” I choked, shaking my head.

After putting my stuff down, we sat on the couch and I told him the whole story, tears streaming the whole time.  He held me tightly and put his face against mine.  Somewhere near the end of my story, I heard sniffling. I waited until I was finished to turn around and look at him.

“I’m not crying,” he joked, and wiped his eyes with his thumb and forefinger.

I had never seen Afram cry before.  I felt guilty for upsetting him.  And I loved him all the more.

“I wish I could win the lottery,” I said sadly, after we’d been sitting there for a while. “Then I could spend all my time taking care of my grandparents and I wouldn’t have to leave my grandma.  She looked so scared. I just kept thinking about how I’d feel if I was all alone somewhere and I didn’t know why and I thought my family didn’t even come visit me.”

Afram nodded.

“I lied to her. I told her I would be back tomorrow morning.”

“If that’s not a white lie, I don’t know what is,” he said, with all the compassion in the world.

As I write this, I just checked the megamillions homepage.  It’s up to $83M from $72M, i.e. I didn’t win. I suppose it would be too easy.

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