Monday, December 6, 2010

Cousins! Cousins! Everywhere there are cousins!

Cousins, there's nothing quite like cousins!

They are built in friends for life!

They are laughter and tears!

They are smiles and hugs!

Cousins, you just can't beat cousins!

Our Last Three Days

I haven't written anything about my last three days with Grandma, because every time I think about those days, I cry. Not just tears that say, "My heart is breaking because I no longer have my Grandma!" but also tears that say, "I was so lucky to have had a Grandma like her!" But those days were precious days and so I will try my best to share them.

When we first got to Blacksburg - around 9:00 o'clock in the evening, Dad called to tell us to come first to the Grandparent's since everyone was awake! My first thought was that I was amazed that Grandaddy was awake, but he was and so I went in to kiss him on his forehead as I have done for years. And he said with a grin, "I hope you didn't leave any lipstick up there!" Of course, having just been riding or driving for the best part of a day, any lipstick that I might have had on was long gone! I then went to Grandma's room to see her and I kissed her too and told her what Grandaddy had said. She said, "He just likes to show off his kisses!" You can be certain; I was never without lipstick for kissing his head the rest of my visit! She told me, "I am awfully spoiled - I wish my sister were here to see it!" - meaning Evelyn, of course!

Later on while I was standing next to Grandma's bed, Mary was asking about Joshua and Matthew and I told her how big they are. Without missing a beat, Grandma looked up at me and said, "I guess they get their height from you!" That has been her standard line for as long as the boys have been taller than me! And then that was always followed by "And how tall is Craig?" or if he was in the room she ask him "How tall are you?" Craig's height has always fascinated her - I guess because he towers over me by so much! Grandma began to get sleepy so I left her to go to the doll house for the night!

The next morning, I went straight to Grandma's bedside, after leaving bright lip prints on Grandaddy's forehead. I found that sitting in the seat of the walker, made me high enough to hold her hand over the railing of the hospital bed that the McPherson's had moved into her room before she came home from the hospital. Every time I took her hand, she said to me, "You have the hottest little hands." It reminded me of how I used to love to hold her hands while growing up and she would rub them and say, "Your hands are so soft, don't ever let them get wrinkled and spotted like mine." Whenever, I look at my hands these days and see the lines, I think of her telling me that all those years ago.

Daddy had the Beyer's cd playing, but it was too much for me, so I changed it to a cd of hymns. After a little while, Grandma said, "Is that Reggie singing?" I said, "I don't know, does Reggie sing?" And she chuckled, "Not much!" Later on, I started reading to her from a book about Grandparents! As often happens, something I read touched me and I started to cry. She said, "You cry so easily, you're just like your Grandaddy!"

When the home health nurse came to bathe her, I went to the living room to sit with Grandaddy for a while. He was telling World War II stories to a friend from church. I just sat and listened. These were stories I had never heard before and I was fascinated. When he told the story of one of the only two deaths by members in his company, he cried. He is such a caring man that 50+ years have not softened the blow of that loss. Amazing. After the man left, I said, "Grandaddy, I had never heard those stories before!" And he said, "Mindy, when I came back from the war, I didn't talk much about what happened. Not because I was ashamed of anything, but because this is my home and I didn't want to bring that war into it." I asked, "What is different now?" And he said, choking on tears, "There aren't many of us left!"

Later on I pulled out my computer to see if the internet signal from Dad's house would reach theirs. Amazingly it did, and so Grandaddy Skyped with Beth. I thought it was so cute when after talking to "Beffy" for a while, he asked if Jonathan was home. Beth said he was and ran up the stairs to find him. Grandaddy said, "Well there she goes!" Jonathan said "Hi Greatdaddy, I love you!" and that was the end of that!

Pastor Reggie came for communion and Grandaddy, Barbara Jean, Daddy and I all gathered around her bed to share it with her. When he was getting ready to leave, he said to Grandma, "I love you!" and she responded, "And, I love people." He said, "No, that's not the response I was looking for, let's try that again. I love you." She responded with a bit of that old twinkle in her eye, "I like you an awful lot." He shook his head and said, 'No, still not right. I LOVE YOU!" To which she said, "And I love you, but I wouldn't want anyone to know it!"

Grandma had several visitors and she was so alert most of that day! Grandaddy also was so well that day. Margaret, Leroy and Lee came to spend some time with her and that was special for her and she really seemed to rally. After going back to the doll house that evening, I called Craig and told him that Grandaddy was the best I had seen him in three years!

The next morning, I followed the pattern of planting a kiss and then going to Grandma's bedside. That day Daddy had Andy Griffin's CD of hymns playing and it seems to be restful for Grandma, so I left it on. I would rub her hands and she drifted in and out of sleep. Every time she nodded off, I would watch her chest to see the rise and fall, it was comforting to me. Sometimes, I would sing or hum quietly along with Andy. She opened her eyes and I told her I was sorry, I didn't mean to wake her. She said, "I wasn't asleep!" (How many times has she said to us over the years, "I'm not asleep, I heard every word!") I said I hoped my singing didn't disturb her since I don't have the best voice, and she said, "That doesn't stop other people from singing, don't let it stop you!"

Later in the morning, I pulled out my computer and got enough signal to pull up Dad's blog. I read to her - the stories that Dad had written about Grandaddy and her. - the story Beth wrote about Grandaddy. - And the stories Anita and I wrote about Mom. Through most of these, I read through tears and sometimes I had to stop to sob. At one point, she said "Your Mom died too young." And I said, "She did Grandma, but she knew you were here to take care of us." She patted my hand and said, "I think you all are big enough to take care of yourselves, now." And so I sobbed some more.

I spent a lot of time talking to her that day, telling her things that I remembered doing with her or for her that were special to me! I talked and she mostly just smiled or patted my hand, sometimes she would have a little response but nothing very lengthy. I talked about how she and I had gotten up at 3:00 am to watch the Royal Wedding. She said, "Why did we get up so early?" and I said, "Because they got married in England and with the time difference we had to get up that early to see it." She replied, "Well, that wasn't very considerate of them!"

Evelyn came to see her and said, "I tell Jean she is so spoiled!" and Grandma said, "And she is right! But I love it!' Evelyn only stayed a short while; she said "I just came to look at her!" I thought that was so sweet!

Sometime that day, Kaye and I were the only ones at the house - Kaye was in Grandma's recliner, sleeping and Grandaddy was sleeping in his. Hearing light snoring coming from the living room, Grandma asked who was at the house. I told her and she said, "Where's Kaye?' and I said, "In there sleeping with Grandaddy." And without missing a beat she said, "Don't tell your Daddy!" I laughed and laughed.

Grandma slept more this day and when she wasn't sleeping she was uncomfortable, not that she complained, she was just fidgety so we would move her pillows or her legs and rub lotion on her skin or sometimes I would just rub her back. She always said, "Now that feels better." Even though I am not sure it did, I think she wanted us to feel like we were easing her discomfort in some small measure. That was just her way.

Throughout my time there, Grandaddy would come in for short little visits or stick his head in the door on the way to or from the bathroom. Whenever I would know he was coming, I would say, "Grandma, your boyfriend is coming to visit!" and she would say, "Well comb my hair" or "Straighten my gown" or some other such preparation. They were always so gentle with each other, Grandaddy always checked her hands whenever he came in and would comment on how cold or warm they were. One time he came in and Janice was standing by the bed feeding ice chips and she said, "Sir Bill, I will move out of the way so you can come talk to your lady." When Grandaddy got to Grandma's side he said, "I don't know what she wanted me to talk about, I just came to say I love you!" Yes, I teared up yet again!

On the morning before I left, I spent a couple more hours with Grandma. I knew this would be my last visit with my grandmother, whose life has had such a profound effect on mine. I didn't want to leave but knew I must. She said, "Thanks for being such a good granddaughter." and I said, "Well, thanks for being my grandma!" "I didn't have any say about that." she replied. "Thanks for being a good grandma!" I answered and she said, "Yes, I had something to do with that!" After I told her I loved her and she had responded appropriately (I didn't even have to coax it out of her like Pastor Reggie!) I was standing at the foot of her bed and said, "I'm leaving Grandma, I love you!" and the last thing she said to me was, "Don't speed!" Yes, my Grandma knew me! "And, that's the truth!"