Every journal I have ever started begins with a history of me. "It is for posterity", I have told myself repeatedly. Unfortunately, since I write in a journal every two years or so, my personal history gets longer and more daunting to put on to paper. This time I have decided to type my journal and not bombard anyone who might be reading it with a personal biography right up front. My hope is that bits and pieces will seep into this blog slowly over time until my life experiences culminate into something that looks like a finished puzzle. However, since my life experiences, in the correct order, look nothing like a finished puzzle now (I'm 23) I will just have to hope for the best over time.
That being said, my life is dangerously happy most of the time. I have a great husband, I love my job, and I have a cute little house. Now before you decide to barf and stop reading let me tell you that the road to this particular peaceful juncture in my life was not rock free. My one and only story for this week is about a big huge rock.
When my husband and I got married in October (close to two years ago) I was in the middle of my full year of student teaching and Nick (my husband) was starting his first year of college period. Student teaching, for those of you who have never had to do it, is ridiculously inconvenient. You work the hours of a normal teacher (like 10 a day when you don't know what you are doing) then you spend several hours doing homework and/or going to class. Then you find time to a have a job that actually pays money so that you can eat. Now, I was incredibly lucky to have a new husband who fully supported me getting my degree and in support of said venture magnanimously volunteered to work and go to school (both full time) while I did my year long student teaching. Unfortunately, things were still going to be tight. We looked at apartments all over the place and came to the conclusion that we could have walls and a ceiling or food. At this point I decided we needed help, which is not always an easy thing to ask for. Nick went to my Grandma, who lived alone, and asked if she would be willing to let us live in her basement in exchange for cooking, yard work, cleaning, company, and security. She readily agreed and we moved in with Grandma right after our honeymoon.
Sounds like every newly weds dream right? I was grateful and sad at the same time. I was grateful that we had a safe place to live, I was glad that we had the opportunity to save some money, and I was thankful that Grandma was so gracious about the whole situation. I was sad because I knew that the first year of marriage only comes once and it was frustrating to have less privacy than I thought I ought to.
Fast forward through year one of marriage. It was still wonderful despite the circumstances, lest you be wondering. However, the stories from that puzzle piece are for another time. This story is about Grandma. When we moved in Grandma was driving herself, paying her own bills, grocery shopping, and cooking about half of the time. By the next October (1 year) her license had been taken away, she was beginning to forget bills and/or double pay them, she couldn't remember where the store was, and she had a hard time remembering to eat, let alone cook. At a family council several things were decided and our roles in Grandma's house changed dramatically. By this time I was teaching and Nick had switched to a part time job so he could focus on school. After the meeting, Nick quit his job to become my Grandma's full time caretaker. This was hard adjustment for everyone but I only know how I was feeling. I felt like I was trapped and that my freedom was gone and that I had far to much responsibility for a grandchild. These might have been uncalled for feelings considering my part in the negotiations and the fact that I wasn't actually the care taker but they were what I felt nevertheless.
Within a month we were shopping, feeding, and watching Grandma for roughly 18 of the 24 hours a day. This left very little room for spontaneity or new experiences. It did give us plenty of time to worry and grow bitter. Well I grew bitter. Nick is pretty amazing and did his best to make everyone happy.
Anyway, Grandma's memory deteriorated quickly and she forgot how to do a lot of things that were important. Then the awful stuff started happening. Nick found Grandma passed out in her own throw up, I found her on the floor under a dresser (I thought she was dead), she lost control of her bladder, etc. I couldn't take it anymore. I was scared and I wanted out. After a visit to the hospital, the family council decided to put her into assisted living. Very quickly, we were able to transport a tiny portion of her belongings to the home and take her there. She did not like it at all. All she wanted to do was go. I remember standing in the home after we set up her room feeling extremely guilty that we were going to leave her somewhere where she was so scared. It was almost like leaving a little kid in an unfamiliar environment. And, despite the fact that I was done and couldn't adequately take care of her any longer, I still loved her. She was my Grandma, someone I had always looked up to and been grateful to have in my life. So, as I stood there waiting for my father to bring her to her new room, wracked with the guilt that comes with being largely responsible for someone in a painful situation, I saw her turn the corner. She was crying as she looked at her unfamiliar surroundings then she saw me. " Whitney!" she said as she ran into my arms. At this point, I started crying too. "I'm so sorry Grandma," I told her. She pulled back and looked at me with the most clarity I had seen in a long time and said, "Don't be sorry, I'm just happy to see you."
This was a testimony to me that my Heavenly Father knows me and loves me. Right at that moment my Grandma could not have said anything more comforting to me than "Don't be sorry". Those were the words I needed to hear to walk away from that situation with peace. I knew we had done alright and that it was okay to let go of a lot of the different pains we had been dealing with. I loved the woman my Grandma was and am grateful that she was such an active part of my life. I still love her now though she often seems like a stranger. I can not wait to thank her for everything she did for me before and after her dementia in a setting where her clarity is restored.