Yesterday my dad and I visited my grandmother (his mother), who has been in a nursing home since my grandfather died three years ago. She can’t stand up, she can’t walk, she mumbles a bit and is incredulously thin. We can’t know for sure if she ‘remembers’ us or just sees kind people. So sometimes, yes, there’s the occasional thought of ‘shouldn’t she just die of old age now?’
This is a hard thought, as it isn’t particularly nice to ‘wish’ someone dead, but also because we’re not sure whether she would feel better alive. It’s easy to pass judgement but it’s impossible to say someone incapable of communication or taking care of herself doesn’t ‘want’ to live.
My mom and dad visit my grandmother a few times a week and the question of whether she remembers us has changed into acknowledging this doesn’t matter, what matters is if she’s happy or sad that day. Basic emotions count. When we went to visit it was a very hot day and my dad and I walked her around the block in her wheelchair, pointing out colourful flowers and small children playing outside (she adores those). Although she doesn’t do much, she does clearly respond to these sights, both with happy noises and approving sounds. And who are we to say that she can’t find joy in simple things like those?
When we went back inside, my dad went to the toilet for a second and my grandmother wheeled herself over to me, took my hands and said “too bad”. It was hard trying to guess what she meant, but I think I know she was trying to sort of apologise. To let me know that she liked that we were here but couldn’t really entertain or take care of us (like the hostess she used to be) anymore but that it was okay. I responded with all the basic positive sounding words I knew and told her that we had a great day and a great walk and the weather was nice and the flowers pretty and that those things counted for something. Then we just laughed a little.
I’m still varying in thoughts about my grandmother. One day I wish she could just rest and the other day I’m thinking about her simple life, wheeling through the halls of the nursing home and eating grapes and it seems okay. Not great, but not entirely sad either. Point is, there’s still excitement and sadness swirling around in her head and we should never forget that. However weak, she’s still alive in spirit.
I wonder how she’ll do.