Sunday, August 07, 2005

Report from Grandmother Duty

The hospital called and my grandmother is giving the nurses trouble. So my mother, cousin, aunt and I have divided into six hour shifts. Six to midnight are my official grandmother-watching hours tonight. I have my laptop and a lunchbag with a cheese sandwich and a coca-cola in it. (I looked in the fridge for a portable vegetable, I swear.)

My shift of Grandmother-watching began, well, with me watching her sleep. Sometimes, she opened her eyes and looked around like a confused baby bird, but she never responded to my "hello," so after awhile I just watched quietly.

The first Batman movie is on the television and I am struck by the straight-up gorgeousness of Danny Elfman's orchestral score.

I sort of fear hospitals and watching my grandmother in this condition is sort of creepy. It probably adds to the weirdness that my choice of reading material was "Salvation on Sand Mountain," a reporter's story of his experiences with the snake handlers of Scottsboro, Alabama.

We had our own little southern moment in here when an African-American nurse had to move my grandmother's leg, which was apparently painful for her. I found myself wishing that an ER nurse would swoop in with a large syringe and shoot my grandmother up with 20 CCs of a drug that would make her politically correct.

My whole life, my grandmother has used the expressions "colored man" and "colored woman." But she'd never said, well, that.

My apology in the hallway was laughed off, of course. "She's 92!" the woman said as if that were an excuse,

My defense of the nurse, which amounted to "I'm sure she didn't mean to hurt you, Grandmother, and PLEASE talk like a decent person" has my grandmother muttering curses about my future children and literally giving me the evil eye.

Goodness, I don't even give the finger.

Now she is calm and vaguely biblical-looking in her pale blue gown and white sheets. She's still not speaking to me, which is fine, though I sort of wish she'd stop giving me the "I'm an old person who has been wronged" look. She had me tie a corner of the sheet to the handrail, insisting that I tie it tightly. It was OK with the nurse, so I did it. As I tied, she grandly pronounced "You'll know that you didn't get it tight enough if it doesn't save me."

I find myself fantasizing about her somehow staging a grand escape from the hospital room and that by my seemingly insignificant action I have somehow enabled awful deeds, like the prison guard who accidentally gives Hannibal Lecter a paperclip. I think Danny Elfman music inspires such thoughts.

I went down to the cafeteria and got myself another soda and came back to find my grandmother railing against the injustice of having her blood pressure taken.

She has repeatedly asked for my aunt Barbara, who has no cell phone and apparently picked a bad night to go out to dinner. Poor woman now has three messages from me with grandmother yelling at the nurses in the background, At least this time she had a white nurse, so all she yelled is "liar!"

Grandmother is calmer now, but still looking like a pissed-off baby bird.

For awhile, she was telling me to mail imaginary letters. Telling her that I had done so seemed to help. But an hour or so ago, she started to scream at my brothers, who she is hallucinating. I'm sure she's REALLY popular with the other patients now.

I am sort of fascinated by hallucination. I remember late night, soft-voiced phonecalls with TheCSO that ended with him falling asleep. For a few minutes before he did, he would be half awake and describing his dreams. It was seriously cool.

A few times, Grandmother has yelled curses about someone named Harry. I quizzed my mother on this one and she said during her shift, she had read the new "Harry Potter" book to my grandmother. My discriminating taste in literature must be genetic.

Tomorrow, I am SO bringing a sleeping bag.


Ps. Heard the new White Stripes song on the radio tonight on the way home. It kicks ass.


fausto said...

Oh dear. How difficult for you.

When my grandfather (he who used to rub elbows with John Dewey and Harry Emerson Fosdick) got to that stage, it was much easier. He used to call the Pope up on his magic (i. e., nonexistent) telephone and make arrangements for the two of them to corner the gold market. When it wasn't the Pope it was his dear departed mother who died when he was 12, or his son who had also predeceased him. (Interestingly, I don't recall him ever using the magic telephine to get back in touch with his first wife.)

If you need another way to pass the time, over on the Beliefnet Christian-to-Christian Debate board, they're up over 800 posts on the question of why it is that Tolkien and C. S. Lewis can write childrens' fantasies about witches and wizards and magic and they're hailed as Christian classics, but when J. K. Rowling does the same thing with Harry Potter, it will lead you and your kids straight into the hands of Satan. Amazing.

fausto said...

Your blog doesn't seem to be naming your contributor at the moment.

I, Fausto, contributed the previous post.

Love, Fausto