Bad Mama


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August 9, 2008, 7:33 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

On the next-to-last day of vacation, I got a phone call from my husband, who had gone back home early for work. “Call your dad. He didn’t say why.”

My dad doesn’t call me, normally. He is of the old school, where the child is responsible for keeping in touch. So this was weird.

When I finally reached him, I was right to be concerned. “Grandpa fell, and he may have broken his hip. I don’t really know what’s going on.”

Grandpa is his father. He is the man who gave us the down payment for our house, the man who paid for Big Daddy to go to engineering school. He took me in when my parents wouldn’t, and never said a word to my grandmother when he called me very early one morning and my boyfriend answered the phone.

Grandpa is my only remaining grandparent. It’s odd, because everyone kind of always expected him to be the first to go. He had been a heavy smoker for much of his life, and while fairly trim, wasn’t particularly active in his later years. After Grandma died, his daily glass of wine or beer became multiple glasses, and he started snacking on whatever junk food he could find. I moved in with him about six months after her death, because my lease was up and while he had learned to do his laundry and vacuum, he really seemed to need an extra person around. I moved out when Big Daddy and I were engaged, but a few years later we moved back in, to save money while he was in school in exchange for cleaning toilets and cooking dinner every night. He is a very important person in our lives.

Various phone calls finally got me the news: Grandpa had fallen while transferring between his wheelchair and recliner at the assisted living facility he lived in. Three days before.  You see, my brother and I were out of town, and they had a bad phone number for my dad, so we didn’t know. My aunt is a flight attendant based in Honolulu, but they were able to reach her. She doesn’t get along with my father, or me, or my brother, and it will soon become clear why. She didn’t call us, nor did she come in to town herself.

At first he said he didn’t have any pain, but later in the evening he started feeling worse and was taken to the hospital, where x-rays showed a crack in his pelvis. He was released back home the next day, because there wasn’t much else to be done for a 94 year-old man with a bone crack but to rest. Except that wasn’t true.

The staff at his facility were livid, but they didn’t have much recourse. No one was there to give the order to take him back or to his doctor, and argue with them for proper treatment. My husband and brother were back in town by Monday night, my father two hours away. But none of them knew.  He developed a fever, and a slight cough. On Tuesday evening, the director decided they could not care for him properly and sent him back to the emergency room, but to a different hospital. There, he was diagnosed with not one but two breaks in his pelvis and hip, a urinary-tract infection, and pneumonia.

The social worker later told me that my aunt said she had no way to find out how to get in contact with my dad or us. Which is blatantly untrue. She is in contact with other relatives of ours, who have our phone numbers, and she knows it. The worker ended up tracking down my father via google–much harder for her than it would have been for my aunt, as there is another person in his field with the same name who is a prolific blogger/writer, but easy to separate out if you know any of my dad’s details. Like his middle initial. She left a poor old man, blinded by glaucoma and cataracts and nearly deaf, practically incoherent because of pain meds, alone in the hospital because … the fuck if I know why. There is nothing at all I can think of that can excuse it, nor even a slightly legitimate reason. The level of selfishness involved is beyond my comprehension. I know there’s always another side to the story and it seems so outrageous that somebody might read this and wonder if there isn’t something I’m leaving out. All I can say is that even though she lives in Hawaii, the majority of my relatives prefer to spend Christmas at my house instead of hers.

They reached my dad on Wednesday morning. He called me, and I got my husband and brother over to the hospital to make sure everything was okay, as I was still a good five-hour drive away. Grandpa was resting comfortably, eating well, and responding to the antibiotics. When I got back and went in to see him, I spoke with the social worker and we worked together to find a nursing/rehab facility that would take him. We moved him in there early this week. He is getting physical, occupational, and speech therapy there, which he wasn’t getting at his assisted living home. Because I had been pushed out of the responsibility of arranging his health care by my aunt and a “concerned” relative a few years ago. I’ll be damned if I let them do that again. He seems comfortable and happy enough, and the care seems to be very good. My brother and I drop in randomly every day to check on him, and haven’t yet found anything to raise concerns. My aunt and “concerned” relative of course have not shown up at all.

You may wonder why I am doing this instead of my dad, and the answer is pretty simple: he can’t. His former drinking problem and stroke last year damaged his memory as well as taking away the use of his dominant hand and made coordinating something like this overwhelming to him. Which is a whole other post, because he had always been the one who “took care of things.” So now it’s me. God help us all.

There are other major life issues occuring within my family right now too that I am not ready to blog about yet, but I’ll have to sooner or later to process them in my head. Big Daddy and I and the kids are fine, though. I know that my biggest hit counts come when I post pictures, so I will try and do that soon, if I can get the damn picture software to work on this new computer.  We vacationed with eagles, ospreys, and loons on a quiet lake in the far northeast of Wisconsin, so gorgeous and peaceful I tried to find a way to live in the garage when our time there was up. Oh, it’s also a great place for 4-wheeling and target practice. I am from rural Wisconsin, you know. Which also means I have an opinion on the whole Brett Favre thing too. Because only here can you probably find a liberal, pro-choice, anti-war, almost-vegetarian locavore  who loves to blast targets off a rock with a big gun after driving 50 m.p.h down a gravel road on an ATV and talk about pro football.

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3 Comments so far
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I’m so sorry to hear about your grandfather. I am wishing him a speedy recovery!

Comment by NaeNae

It always amazes me how broken an extended family’s communication system can be. Last Christmas, my grandmother told all of us that she had just found out that our cousin (that lived right here in Houston with us) had died the previous July of colon cancer. She and her family hadn’t even told us she was ill. I used to work for her, and we used to be close…..they didn’t even tell us where she is buried.

I hope your grandfather gets the care he needs to recoup. Maybe you can talk you grandfather into changing the power of attorney to you so you can make his healthcare decisions instead of your aunt.

Comment by Jen

Wow, that is awful. I’m glad your grandpa is doing better, but your aunt has accrued herself some very bad Karma. The sad thing is if she had done the right thing, been upfront and communicated well with you all, you might be feeling closer right now. At least your grandpa is getting the care and love he needs now.

Comment by elizasmom




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