The Mind of Bluesleepy

Growing up sucks 2 November 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — bluesleepy @ 11:31 am

We all wax nostalgic about being a kid. Those were the days of playing outside from sunup to sundown all summer long. Of sleepovers at friends’ homes and pick-up games of kickball in someone’s backyard. Of having our biggest worry be the math test next week, or what someone whispered about us in the hallways.

Those were definitely the days. What did we have to worry about?

Now we are grown. We’re married, have kids, pay a mortgage. We go to work every day, and we don’t necessarily like our jobs or our bosses. We get two weeks off a year, and fret about getting sick because what if we don’t have the sick days to use? We have bills to pay and car payments to make. Sometimes we lay awake all night, fretting about our lives.

Is this why it sucks to grow up?

For me, all of this pales to the real reason growing up sucks. Being an adult means that now we watch the heroes of our childhood, our fathers and mothers and grandparents and aunts and uncles, brought low by age and sickness. We see how very human they really are, that they aren’t the titans we thought they were.

My mom called me this morning. I didn’t hear the phone ring as I was blow-drying my hair, but Grace brought me the phone. Then I heard my cell phone going off, and I knew my mom really wanted to talk to me. She rarely calls both phones.

My grandpa, age 82, had given all of us a scare earlier this week. My grandparents were sitting there having lunch, as they do every day, when all of a sudden Grandpa’s eyes glazed over and he became unresponsive. Immediately my grandma called 911, and by the time the paramedics arrived, Grandpa was responding again. They took him in to the hospital, where he spent the night for observation.

Grandpa is suffering from some dementia, and one of the medications he’s on has the possible side effect of a sudden and serious drop in blood pressure. The doctors think this is precisely what happened, so he’s been switched to another medication. But now that he’s lost consciousness like this, the doctors have forbidden him to drive.

My grandfather is a fiercely independent man. He studied for and received his PhD in history while my grandma raised three young kids (my grandma’s a saint, I tell ya). He found a job at a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, by which time they’d added a fourth child, and packed everyone up to leave Michigan for his new job. They’ve been in Pennsylvania ever since, though most of their family is still in Michigan.

This sickness of his, the dementia or Alzheimer’s or whatever it is, is robbing him of himself. A man who owns hundreds of books can now no longer read, as he can’t remember what was at the top of the page by the time he gets to the bottom. He’s also becoming irrationally jealous of Grandma, believing that his wife of 60+ years wants to leave him for another man (which couldn’t be farther from the truth).

I remember my grandpa as a quiet yet firm man. He can be rather opinionated, the Dutch in him coming on strong. He wasn’t a terribly affectionate grandfather, but I never doubted that he loves us. And he loves my sister and me as much as he loves his other ten grandkids, even though technically Michele and I are “step”grandchildren. We came into the family in 1985, when I was 6 and my sister was 10. And I never felt I was any less of a grandchild, though I shared no genes with my grandparents. They’re the only grandparents I’ve ever had, and I am so grateful they showed us such unconditional love that had nothing to do with whether we were their “real” grandchildren.

It’s just so hard to see my grandparents succumbing to old age. Even Grandma has her issues, like breast cancer a few years ago. She’s really slowed down; she can’t walk as far as she used to be able to. Sometimes it’s hard to remember she’s 80. But then I see photos from 20 years ago, when I first became part of their family, and I realize — they were the same age then as my parents are now. And these 20 years have flown by quickly. It won’t be long till I’m facing these issues with my own parents.

I’m telling ya, growing up sucks.

Karyl with her grandparents

My grandparents, Ernie and Mary Ellen, 13 September 2007.

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10 Responses to “Growing up sucks”

  1. purple chai Says:

    Oh, Karyl, I’m so sorry. This does suck. The only wonderful thing is that you’ve had them into your adulthood, long enough so that you can never, ever forget them. This is a very hard thing to go through.

  2. chaosdaily Says:

    it IS hard. just remember how much they love you…. even if they dont remember any more. im glad you are closer to them now.

  3. karmacat Says:

    My dear grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s for many years before dying two years ago at age 97. The disease had progressed to the point that she no longer recognized anyone, not even her immediate family, and it was very sad to see her as just a “shell” of her former self. But what she forgot, I am able to remember — the bright, active woman who was full of love for her family.

  4. shipjumper Says:

    I know too well what you speak of, and it is very difficult. My grandma as you know suffers from Alzheimer’s and she too was one of my heroes growing up. Too see her now and being scared if she is even going to remember who I am is scary and hard. Hang on to the memories for him sweetie! Hugs to you.

  5. art Says:

    big hugs, kar! you are very fortunate to have such loving grandparents! this sucks big time!! like nancy sez, remember how much they love you, and you are lucky to see them into your adulthood, and they have a chance to know gracie!!

  6. kitchenlogic Says:

    How sad for your poor grandfather and everyone else in your family! With all my aging parents and grandparents, we’ve never had to deal with dementia (although my mom is starting to show signs of it so we’re probably in for it now)

  7. Rosietoes Says:

    My stepfather John had Dementia with Lewy Bodies, and he would become so angry at my mom for doing things that had never happened. Once he accused her of having an affair with a priest and confessing it in front of the whole church during mass! He was so convinced that it had happened that he was perplexed when the church authorities didn’t throw the priest out of the the Church! It was not an easy time for her. Do remember the good things, but also, make sure your grandmother is getting the help and support she needs.

    Sometimes the primary caretaker gets quietly overwhelmed, feeling that they can’t send their spouse to a private care facility because they promised to love, honor, and cherish in sickness and in health! So their health and well-being suffers too. It usually takes outside intervention to get them to agree to give up the fight.

    Be your grandmother’s advocate, and make sure she gets the breaks she needs. There are day-care facilities, and support groups. Also, make sure someone in the family takes your grandfather for a day at a time, which is the only way you can judge when the stress is getting too much for you grandmother.

    Many hugs darlin’, and I wish you and your family all the best!

  8. cardiogirl Says:

    Growing up does suck it big time. I am so sorry to see your grandfather deteriorating. How very difficult and heart-wrenching, bluesleepy. Sending you supportive vibes across the internet.

  9. yankeechick Says:

    I know what of you speak, Sweet Pea. It’s the most difficult thing in the world to face and I’ll never understand why we are deemed to accept it all as part of the ‘life cycle’. It’s so unfair and so painful. My heart goes out to you and I am so glad that you are closer now and that you can be near at this time in their lives. Hugs!!

  10. whatdayisit Says:

    I add my thoughts to the many great comments. I know having your grandparents at this time of your life is so precious but dealing with the infirmities and dementia is such a difficult life. Your grandmother will need some special friends to help her out. I know you will do whatever you can to be in touch with them. It is wonderful that you spent some time with them a couple of months ago when you were moving to R.I.


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