Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Is Love?

September 18, 2007

Thank God for women. Allow me to rephrase that: Thank God for my mother and grandmother, and women like them. There may be a few like them, but I'm not so sure anymore.

You know, we men think that we can do most anything at all under the sun. If we can't do it with our bare hands and our back, just give us the right tool, and we'll figure it out. This much may be true, but not everything worth living for or accomplishing can be done with a circular saw, a wrench, or a computer. We may need to admit that when this whole thing we call Life is over, the measurement of our soul's greatness won't rely on how well we fixed a car, built a house, or wrote a web application.

My grandfather has been the subject of the last few blogs on here, I know. Writing about his sudden cardiac decline has helped me get some of the emotions out of my system, to a degree. I have a good many people I call friends, and a few that I call my closest friends, but I don't completely unload all that I'm going through to these very few. They know some of the details, but they don't know what I'm about to talk about here. Only these two women, my mother and my grandmother, are the ones who are around me the most. They are showing me an example of what it is to love someone.

With the gradual failing of his heart, my grandfather is highly restricted in his movements. A wheelchair is a great blessing to him, but I have to lift him in and out of it every day. From bed in the morning to the chair, then to his soft recliner in the living room. From the recliner to his portable potty chair that we keep in the living room. From the potty chair back to the recliner. From the recliner at the end of the day to his wheelchair, then out of the wheelchair to bed again.

His progress is practically invisible, but my Granny acts like he's making great strides, and kisses his forehead with genuine love. "Honey, you're doing so much better", she says as I laid him in their bed the other night. He needs to hear that. It's an illusion that he's actually getting better, and she knows that. But this woman, who's been in his same bed with him for 63 years, and couldn't lie in front of him even if she tried, sincerely tells him how good he's doing as she excitedly leans in for a kiss.

There is no more shame about seeing my proud grandfather half naked. It's hard to still feel embarrassed when you've had to pick up a man dozens of times, sometimes with his pajama bottoms down around his ankles. Or handing him his urinal as he tugs down his waistband. Then picking him back up to scoot him him a foot back into his resting position in the recliner. The odors begin to collect, especially in this Florida heat.

The potty chair has begun to be optional, now. Stool softeners aren't having their desired affect on him. Suppositories aren't allowed anymore, due to chemical reactions with his poor heart. This is where it begins to get rough. He now feels that the only way he can expel his waste is to lay on their bed. Granny got a plastic sheet recently, and she actually assisted in his elimination the other day. She was completely unphased by it, and all I could do is to look at her with wonder and respect.
She's 85, diagnosed years ago with atrophy of the brain, contracted breast cancer 5 and a half years ago—17 lymph nodes infected with the cancer and removed—and she is completely wound up like a clock with worry at all times. But she shows nothing but love and patience through all of these grueling tasks, saving the worst of her fears and agony for when she's talking to me and my mother out of earshot of him.

She's so careful to treat him as if he was an infant, needing the most delicate of care. And she's been with this same man for 63 years. You'd think she was in their 'courting' phase, with the way that she dotes on him and never lets up. As if she hasn't already proven herself to him over, and over, and over again.

I've seen other elderly couples who bark at each other at every turn. But not her. And not him, either. I've told her many times what a love story theirs is. One for the history books, indeed. Their next-door neighbors just went through a similar ordeal. Tom passed at 89 years old, just two months ago. His wife Emily is a sweet soul who accompanied Tom everywhere. They had been married for over 50 years. His decline lasted for months. She tried to get him to eat better, but his weight just fell off of him, finally succumbing to the grim reaper while weighing maybe one-hundred pounds. She was out playing cards with her bridge club the day after Tom's funeral.

Me and my Granny kind of chuckled about that, but not for long. Poppaw's heart started to give out shortly after Tom died. Granny has been completely focused on nothing but him ever since then. The nurses came today for their scheduled visits. They got him to actually stand up, with their help for support, but that's about it. When I got in this evening I saw Granny sitting on his recliner's armrest like I've never seen her do. She was talking in soft tones to him, which is unusual for her.

I can tell the end is near.

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