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My dad called a few days ago while I was getting Bear ready for bed. My husband answered the phone and brought it to me as I struggled to force kicking legs into pajama bottoms. I tried to listen to my dad as I worked on Bear, but the reception was not clear and Bear was not compliant. I could tell that Dad’s voice had an edge of concern that he was attempting to hide. I had heard this tone before, and it had only brought bad news to me.

I left Bear with my husband so I could focus on my dad’s message. He had gone to visit my grandmother at the hospital where she was recovering from a broken hip, and when he arrived, he could tell that something was not right. Grandma could tell it too.

He didn’t offer much in terms of details, but he said that he was following the ambulance carrying my grandmother as it raced her to a larger city hospital about an hour away.

Five years ago, he called me in this same manner to tell me that they were rushing my mother to this same hospital after she began coughing up blood and having heart problems related to what we later learned was a systematic strep infection. At the time, he told me that the trip to the city was precautionary. I think that was trying to convince himself that this was true.

Fortunately, unlike with my mother, my father’s concern turned out to be justified but resolvable. My grandmother is doing as well as can be expected. She had two small strokes that were likely related to the fact that doctors had decreased the amount of blood-thinning medication she was taking due to her recent hip surgery. I have not yet been able to talk with her, but I have been assured that she is quickly returning to her stubborn, spit-fire self.

I worry, however, that the events of the past several years are beginning to break my grandmother’s resolve to keep fighting. Four and half years ago, my grandfather died. He and my grandmother nearly had been life-long loves, and for the last five years of his life, she was his primary caregiver as he struggled through the throes of dementia that robbed him of his memory and eventually his life. Before he became sick, she waited on his every need and desire, as was characteristic of many women of her generation.

After he was gone, Grandma didn’t seem to know what to do with herself. She struggled to find an identity independent of him. Even as she told my father that he needed to stop grieving my mother and move on – a sentiment that, as much as I love my grandmother, didn’t surprise me since she had never warmed to my mother’s independent personality – she could not do the same for herself. I once pointed out this discrepancy to her, as she shared her thoughts that my dad should leave my mother’s memory behind, but she could not – or would not – see the parallel.

We are all human. My mother was human. I am human. Certainly, my grandmother is human. And, as her granddaughter, I love her for who she is, and sometimes, in spite of herself.

A year and a half ago, my grandmother began experiencing severe back pain. Doctors told her that her only hope of recovery was to undergo a painful spine surgery. She had the surgery in April of 2010 and then spent the rest of the summer with an open wound. Several days before she was slated to go home, she fell in the middle of the night and broke her arm. This injury required more weeks in the hospital.

When she finally moved back to the small, farming community where I grew up, my father convinced her to move into an assisted living facility. Although reluctant to give up her perceived independence, she agreed and after several months, she seemed to revert back to her old self.

A few weeks ago, I traveled with Bear to my hometown, and my grandmother seemed sharp and healthy. She still struggled with mobility, but otherwise, she seemed well. The day after we left, she decided to sweep her own floor and broke her hip with the twisting motion required by the sweeper.

And now, strokes. My grandmother is clearly human, and her body is frail. Each illness and injury seems to lead to another. I hope and pray that she can pull herself out of this down-spiral and right herself to recovery.

I prepared myself for a busy week on Monday, knowing that the past two had not given me much opportunity for work.  Two weeks ago, I was called on Tuesday to pick Bear up from daycare because she had a low-grade fever.  I worked from home on Wednesday.  That next Monday, Bear had an allergic reaction, and although my husband left work to take her to the doctor that day, neither one of us were able to work on Tuesday due to the blizzard that followed.  I also worked from home that Wednesday.  Since I only work Monday through Wednesday, I had accomplished very little the previous two weeks, and I knew that I needed to put in a full three days of good work this week.

Monday and Tuesday went well enough.  Late Tuesday afternoon, my husband called to say that he thought he had the stomach flu.  When Bear and I arrived home that evening, he shut himself in the bathroom and refused to see either of us.  Bear was worried, and so was the dog, who kept pacing back and forth in front of the bathroom door.

The next morning, I took Bear to daycare and then I stopped by the store to pick up some soup and ran it back by the house.  When I peaked in the bedroom to ask how he was doing, he said that he thought he was a little better but that his stomach now hurt in only one place.  I thought that was strange, and I told him that he should consider calling the doctor.  On my way to work, I kept thinking about his symptoms and the more that I thought about it, the more it sounded like something serious was wrong.  When I got to work, I googled appendicitis and quickly called him.  He was already on his way to the doctor’s office.

After several tests, he called back to confirm that he was going to the emergency room for surgery to have his appendix removed.  So, once again, I left work with the same box of files that I’d been carrying around for two weeks, and I headed to the emergency room.  It had snowed the night before, so the roads were slushy and slick, and by the time I made it to hospital, I could no longer see out of my windshield because I apparently had run out of washer fluid at that exact inopportune time.

I found my husband in a bay in the emergency room.  They had given him an IV and anti-nausea medication, so he seemed better than when I had last seen him.   When the doctor and nurse returned, he kept joking with them and making reference to some movie that no one had seen where Chevy Chase attempts to take out someone’s appendix through their chest cavity.

Shortly, they moved him from the emergency room to a pre-operative area, where we sat for about 45 minutes, during which time the surgeon returned to explain the procedure, a nurse came by with various consent forms for my husband to sign, and the nurse anesthetist appeared to explain general anesthesia.  Soon, they were wheeling him away, and I was left standing there alone.

I spent the next thirty minutes or so trying to maneuver through the hospital to find a lot close enough to the surgical waiting room where I could unload my box of files and computer.  Finally, I returned to the waiting room with only my computer.  Instead of turning it on, I sat and stared at boring daytime t.v. on the television and randomly searched on my iPhone, researching selfish questions like, “does general anesthesia affect sperm?” since our attempts to have another baby would be on hold.

The surgery was completed rather quickly, but my husband stayed in recovery for quite a while.  I eventually met him in his room, and our extended family joined us there later that evening.

Fortunately, my husband is home now, resting comfortably on the couch.  Our family left an hour ago, and Bear is chattering in her room, instead of napping.  I now have a moment to sit down at my computer to write.  I am ready to return to days of boredom and normalcy without illnesses, allergies, and blizzards, and especially without appendixes.


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