Last week, my grandmother was admitted to the hospital. It was determined that she has congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and was bleeding internally. Over the last week, the doctors have discovered she has a cancerous mass in her colon and her kidneys are failing. She was already legally blind, and uses a hearing aid to hear. Her mind is as sharp as ever.
Hubby and I went to visit her in the hospital last Friday. The family is unsure if she will be moved to a continuing care facility or not. We are pretty sure, though, that she will not be going back to the home she shares with my grandfather.
When Hubby and I announced our engagement, we did it on Father's Day. I sat next to Papa, and asked him to give me away at our wedding. There was never any question in my mind of who should fulfill that role. When the day came, and we made that walk down the aisle, I remember him just taking slow, deep breaths as I patted his arm.
My grandfather has Dementia. This weekend, I learned the difference between Dementia and Alzheimers. Sometimes, my grandfather seems quite lucid. My Aunt had been caring for him at her house while my grandmother is in the hospital. She brings him to the hospital to visit his wife. He asks my grandmother when she is coming home from the hospital.
After they moved to Michigan for a bit, Papa used to fish with me off the dock of their home on the Kalamazoo River. He would bait the hook for me, then show me where to drop my line in the water. The two of us would just sit out there on the dock, waitin' for the fish to bite.
Friday when we arrived, my grandfather was casually perched against the window sill, with his hands braced on the guardrail of my grandmother's hospital bed. He was quiet, lost in his own thoughts, not really saying much. He doesn't say much these days, I guess.
In the evenings after supper, Papa and I sometimes went for walks down the quiet gravel road near their house. I don't remember all we used to talk about on those walks, but it was great just having him to myself for a bit.
I sidled up next to him, nudged him hello, and remained there. After a little while, he stood up slowly and leaned forward, grasping towards the foot of my grandmother's hospital bed. Hubby helped guide my grandfather's hand to the footboard as I stood next to him with my hand on his back. That's when something happened and my grandfather slowly began to collapse. I couldn't hold him up myself and Hubby jumped in and kept him from falling while my Aunt ran for help. I began to bring a chair over for Hubby to put him into, then went to look for the emergency button to press -- my mind not really processing what was happening.
I remember Papa took us ice skating a time or two. He was a good skater, and I'll never forget gliding along, concentrating on not falling, when Papa skated up behind me and whooshed me up into the air, startling a scream out of me.
Hubby got him into the chair, and within seconds the room was full of hospital staff. My grandfather was slowly laid out on the floor, his vitals checked, and his health assessed. He remained conscious, but not really there. After a minute or so, he appeared to "come back" (if that makes sense) and was able to answer the doctor's questions. Shortly after that, he was taken down to the emergency room to be monitored and tested.
The doctors admitted him to the hospital to monitor his heart for a couple of days. My grandfather was dehydrated, slightly anemic and fatigued. The doctors can find no other reason for his collapse Friday afternoon.
Not too long ago, whenever I saw Papa, he would give me a hug, then lean back and smile and say "It's always good to see you, Kel. You know we love you."
I haven't visited with my grandparents as much as I should have. Friday was the first time I truly realized the man I knew as my grandfather is lost. The man that remains is lost, too. He does not like hospitals, and I can only presume that with my grandmother in the hospital, and him being away from home, he is feeling confused... and I want to help him. I want to help him so very badly, and I don't know how.
Sunday, I learned that my grandmother is filling with fluid. The doctors will not be doing any further tests on her, and they are currently waiting for nature to take it's course. She is quite lucid and very aware of what is happening. She and her children have set things in motion to find a nursing home for my grandfather. Hospice has been contacted for the both of them.
Life has a way of going on and on... birthday parties are planned, holidays are celebrated, children are nursed through illness... and people we love are leaving us.
Like I told Punkin tonight, all we can do is make sure, every day, our friends and family know that we love them. We never know what life will bring us tomorrow.