Sunday, February 17, 2013

Six Days (rough draft)

Six days. It took six days for the tears to come; To feel anything for certain.  I was starting to wonder if I’d ever cry over my grandmother’s death. 

A single sympathy card arrived today; I don’t expect any others.  It was from the woman who had petitioned to take over legal guardianship over her decision making.  A woman named Christy who I owe an enormous debt of gratitude, even though it may have mostly been “part of the job” for her.  I still don’t think I could handle dealing with any of it right now. 

She was my father’s mother, but I never really knew my father. That made things awkward sometimes.  Her name was Judy and her first husband’s last name was Judy and that is probably the only funny thing about this story.  Her married name was Judy Judy or Judy (squared) as I joked with her many years ago after she told me this tale.  How horribly comedic and yet, somehow tragic, because she married an alcoholic and her only son became a drug addict. 

Years later, the year 2004 in fact, she was so bitter about her earlier life decisions that she made no secret of her regret for marrying this man and having this child.  I had just graduated college at the time, and even my optimism waned at this profession of honesty.  I heard my grandmother say she wished she never had my father…

Of course, to understand how conflicted I may have felt at the time, I need to back up to my mother.  She did the best she could with what options she had, of that I’m certain, and I want to be clear that I don't want to cast blame on anyone.  But when I was young, she wasn't honest about who my dad was.  Then, when I was about ten, this woman showed up in my life who claimed to be my dad’s mother, and I guess it was true because from that point on, this women who I have always called Judy, and not grandma, was to be a part of my life. 

Judy wanted to be involved but her son never did.  Later on, I learned that my mom didn’t want him around and I respected that.  Even later, I learned that he had other kids with other women.  I have a brother and a sister whom I’ve never met. Weird.

Fast forward to High School Graduation.  I took my first major trip alone by train up to Oregon to visit Judy.  It was a lot of fun. She was still very active and in reasonably good spirits and she had this great apartment overlooking a river.  I will never forget how awesome that trip was.  If you’ve ever been to Oregon, you will understand how lush and amazing it can be in the right season. 

After that, I went to college and took way too long to get a bachelor’s degree (even though nobody seemed to care how long it took).  I took another trip up to visit her after I graduated and had landed my first real job.  This time, her son had been living with her for a while and was trying to get sober and sorted out. He had lost custody of both of his other children because of drug abuse.  When I made my plans to visit, Judy made him find somewhere else to go for the week.  This is the trip where she expressed negative views on marriage and having kids and to be honest, the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.  I left there feeling like I didn’t know if I wanted to keep in touch with her or not.

My dad died in July of 2011. I remember it well because it was my last week at a particularly important job.  I had met him for the first time since I was a small child in the beginning of that year.  We only spent a short time together and it was mostly conversation deflected at the guy I brought along with me, but still… I’m glad I got to.

Without him as her caretaker, Judy’s health and well being deteriorated.  She lost almost everything and ended up being moved all over the place to the point that I lost track of her for a few months.  When I found her again, she insisted on going back to Salem, Oregon.

I agreed to drive her and her cat up there and help her find a place to live.  This turned out to be one of the single hardest journeys of my life.  I have never had to take care of another person for any length of time and all of a sudden I was renting a car, driving, making hotel arrangements, getting the wheelchair in and out of the car every time she got out, loading and unloading ALL the bags (plus the cat, catbox, food, etc.), helping her get in and out of the car, helping her go to the bathroom, dealing with adult diapers and all that entails, dealing with bathing, helping her get dressed, researching what living arrangement options she had, trying to figure out what to do. Meanwhile the whole trip up the cat was unhappy and shitting in his carrier, so ya - I had to clean cat shit up before we even got to the first hotel… HARDEST FUCKING JOURNEY TO DATE.

I finally found a place that would take her and that she agreed with, and we parted ways.  I went back a couple days later to check in and things were ok.  I headed back to California and spoke with her once or twice after that.  It became clear to me that it wouldn’t be easy to contact her and I admit that I lost the motivation after a while… then someone else stepped in, in a legal capacity. 

That pretty much brings us up to date.  She was in hospice care last week.  She died on Monday, February 11, 2012.  She was married twice, had one son with her first husband and has 3 grandchildren.  Her name was Judy Hauser.