Friday, August 14, 2009

One Step Forward...Two Steps Back

It was only fitting, that the Springsteen song, "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back," was the one playing on the radio when T and I returned to our car following our brief visit. We took the long way home, rain clouds billowing in the face of the setting sun; both of us largely silent and yet hunting for rainbows through torrential downpour and a magnificent sunset.

What was this, the fourth or fifth time we came here; the place my Grandpa, T's Great Grandpa, affectionately refers to as 'The Wrinkle Village' thinking it may be the last, the final time we see our ailing Grandma, and say goodbye?

And yet, we leave: empty, hallow, acid alive in the pit of my guts. It doesn't, it didn't feel like goodbye, not yet. There is still hope. Scattered, misplaced, torturous and yet even wholly horribly and inevitably wrong...hope.

The veins in Grandma's hands are black, blue and a thousand shades of purple, her collar bones fully visible beneath tissue paper skin. Her favorite color, purple, dots her skin practically everywhere; a cruel reminder of countless needles poking, rough hands moving her places her depleted body can no longer find.

Her legs adorn some kind of compression bandage, to shield the gaping wounds beneath from the gentle breeze of recycled air or the legs of those caretakers who move her. Her legs are now smaller than my arms; they dangle there and the bandages fall to her ankles like a pair of oversized pants missing their drawstring.

She became a prisoner inside her broken body years ago, and just when she thinks it cannot get much worse, it seems to. And yet, all 100 broken pounds of her, and each and every part of her brilliantly unaffected mind... hang on.

Another breath.
Another minute.
Another hour.
Another day.
Another night.

Another round of long needles shoved into her lung, another patch of narcotics to her chest, another visit, another gulp of Sprite.

In the course of a week, there was an impending feeling of doom and gloom, her thinking her body was finally done, a hospital stay, some wayward blood clots overtaking parts of her body, fluids drained, fluids gained, a weight loss putting her down to around 100 skinny, brittle pounds.

There was also an erratic transfer that left her shoulder dislocated, a flurry of activity in subsequent transfers that left her crying in pain.

Those around her winced almost in unision; wishing, tearful, and fearful, and yet not having a clue what could be done differently, better.

They left her there at that hospital for a few days, drugged up silly, until she was hallucinating so bad in all her proper ways, she finally called a nurse a big bitch. I secretly hope she wasn't hallucinating, that she finally just said, in her own way, "enough."

At least to one person.

The next day when my mom, her sisters and brother had a lag in their shifts at her bedside, the hospital people packed her shit, called her nursing home and discharged her.

When T and I saw her there the next day, thinking it was good bye, I braced myself.

I was ready for goodbye, in whatever clumsy and wayward way one chooses words for that...good bye.

Except when I saw her chest rising, falling in rhythm with that machine, vitals improving, eyes closed in restful sleep, somehow hope floated up.

"Grandma, I think I need to bring you a big fat steak," I said.

She smiled.
My mother winced.
My child giggled.

"You trying to fatten me up?" she asked.

"I think someone needs to!"

We sat there like that awhile, short conversations between her cat naps. Each time she awoke, she seemed happy to find us there, almost like she just woke up and there we were, all over again.

One foot full of sores and swollen beyond measure, covered in socks, the other a sock, but then a Croc, hanging off her foot.

"Grandma, can I take your shoe off for you?" T asked.

"Sure," she replies, again, a small smile at the sweet gesture coming her way, four generations out.

T bends down, so careful he could pick a bug off her toe without her feeling, removes that shoe...tucks it somewhere beneath her chair.

He climbs back into my lap, wants to be held, his butt bones jamming into my thighs.

My mother chatters uselessly, I look at a few pictures, T looks for the nursing home puppy; therapy on four legs, wandering through the halls.

We sit in silence at once.
Great Grandma, Grandma, Me, My child.

Great Grandma's labored breaths, in and out, her chest falling peacefully.
Another breath, another hour, another day.

Four generations there together, not quite ready for goodbye.


  1. This is perfectly written Alison, and shows the emotions that all of us have been feeling over the past many weeks. Thanks for putting it all in words.

  2. just wondering by and saw this great story! Thanks for sharing