About a year and a half ago, my grandfather had a massive stroke that took away his ability to use his left side of his body. My grandpa, an avid swimmer, archer, trap shooter, and all around mover lost one of his most valued and defining part of himself: his ability to be active.
Since I no longer live at home, my involvement has been minimal, but I do know that my grandpa has battled through it. He started out strong with intense physical therapy to try to bring back some movement to his body. When it decided it just wouldn’t, I can only imagine the depression he went through. As a man who never stopped moving, never stopped being active, I know that it had to be the biggest blow for him to know that he would be stuck in a wheel chair for the rest of his days.
He has been living in assisted living now for a while, and seems to be slipping further and further into this catatonic state. He really has no interest in much. He has gained so much weight from not being able to move. He naps when you come and visit, and doesn’t really seem to care that you’re there. It’s been hard.
This weekend, he was admitted to the hospital for respiratory problems. Although the doctors can’t find any real fluid in his lungs, his breathing is labored, and his coughing suggests there is. He’s going to have to stay there for a few days while they try to find out what’s wrong.
And as sad as this all is, the one person who seems to be affected the most is my beloved grandmother. There is no person in the world I love more, connect with more, or share with more than her. She is my inspiration for so many things, and my true soul mate. She and I understand each other in a way that many people don’t. She’s suffering through this horribly.
It is hard to watch your loved ones age; to watch them fall apart. She is easily worse off than my grandpa is, and doesn’t even know it. I’m sure if she could look at herself now, she wouldn’t recognize the person she has become. She will stop at nothing to bring my past grandpa back–a feat I know is impossible. She has become obsessed–alienating her family and disregarding herself because she feels he can not be alone. Upon visiting my parents this weekend, it was the first time in my entire life, she told my mother that she just didn’t really have time to see me.
It’s hard enough watching the love of her life deteriorate and fall away, but now I have to watch her fall apart as well. It’s making me feel very cynical about love today. Love is supposed to bring happiness into our lives, and make us feel cherished and extraordinary. The love I see now is all consuming; eating away at everything in it’s path, destroying two people, and leaving a wake of destruction as it does. The ripples of this all consuming love have caused immense stress and frustration, and overwhelming sadness in my family.
Perhaps it’s selfish of me to say so. I may never understand 60 years of marriage, three children, and a entire lifetime together yet, but I do understand parts of love, and choosing to ignore the people around you who love and care about you causes them pain too. The largest battle we seem to be fighting here is not the battle of a stroke recovery, but the battle to hold on to our family before my grandmother pulls it apart, alienates herself, and ends up all alone. How do you win a battle you’re fighting against yourself?