As a writer, you aren’t really supposed to ever succumb to writer’s block but the truth is, I’ve started this column over about a half a dozen times. I wanted to write something cheerful or funny about the latest adventures with the Beloved Boyfriend but I couldn’t. My mind has been somewhere else today.
That somewhere is about 35 miles away at the home of my grandparents. I’m an only child and the only grandchild my grandparents see on a daily basis. Because my family’s business is based at their house, I practically lived there when I was little. It’s those grandparents who provide me with the ground I plant each year, took me to Talladega for NASCAR races and raced me back so I wouldn’t miss class on Monday mornings when I was at Indiana University and allowed me to tame the barn cats when I was four. I loved going on our road trips, out to eat and heading to auctions with them, but there’s been none of that lately.
For the last 11 months or so, my world has been turned upside down. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the day after the November election. We loaded Grandma up in the car that day and took her to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with multiple hematomas ranging in size from golf balls to softballs. After a short stay in the hospital and 30 days in a rehab program at the local nursing home, we thought she was on the mend. We were wrong. Things kept getting worse.
Mom attends every doctor’s appointment she can. We want answers. Why can’t she eat? Why is she having trouble walking? And each time, we left with more medication and fewer answers. We tried home therapy — it didn’t go so well because Grandma, who used to keep the car running up and down highway every day, wasn’t interested in doing physical therapy. She really wasn’t interested in doing anything she used to love doing — not even taking the dogs, Freddie and Ellie, on trips.
Over the last 11 months, I’ve become a caregiver rather than co-pilot for a trip to town. I was never meant to be a caregiver. I care fiercely. I have to find a way to remedy the situation and I’m failing at this one. Mom has the bulk of duties with doctors and fields all of Grandma’s 50 phone calls a day asking where the dogs are or where Rabbit (my grandpa) is. I’ve become the mean one — the one that’s always “making” Grandma do something she doesn’t want to do. Thursday night around 10 p.m., I was the bad guy for trying to get her to take her medicine and eat a cookie. Friday morning I was the bad guy for making her drink a glass of water and asking that she get dressed. My guess is that Sunday evening, I’ll be the bad guy again — I’m just not sure why just yet. Over the last 11 months, I’ve had to sit and watch my once vibrant grandmother slowly fade and she’s been replaced by someone who constantly tells me to “just leave her alone” — but I can’t do that and I also can’t fix her. It’s heartbreaking and frustrating.
I know lots of people who are great caregivers — patient, kind and emotionally tough as nails. I’m not sure I could ever really be one of those caregivers but I kind of envy them. They make it look easy.