This morning and better part of the afternoon was spent moving my grandma into an assisted living facility.
The day before, Padre had stopped by and taken her a favorite meal: Bojangles’ chicken wings, dirty rice, and sweet tea. Padre explained to her that the next day, we would be moving her into an assisted living home where she would be safe and taken care of. He had taken her there earlier in the week to visit and explain that she was going to live there. He said she seemed happy about the move into a new place.
Padre and I arrived at her trailer around 10:30.
I walked in to find her cleaning up the kitchen.
She was dressed in navy sweatpants, a bright red long-sleeved shirt, and the classic white Keds she always wears. She hugged me and I could see that she wasn’t as foggy as she usually is when I visit. I noticed how genuinely happy she looked. She was actually excited to be going to her “new home” as we had explained to her. I helped her put on a black argyle sweater and her black peacoat before we headed out the door.
She had no idea that was her last time in what had been her home for more than a decade.
A little bit about my Nana before I go on further: She was born November 30, 1932 in Angier, NC and has always lived off of very little. She is a country girl at heart. Loves old movies, the cooking channel, reading, and word puzzles (sounds just like me, no?) She raised 4 kids alone because her jerk of a husband ran off out West with another woman when the youngest child was just months old. She worked for 30 years at a big company in Raleigh, and has always supported herself and her family. In the past few years however, there had been obvious changes that have taken place with her health. She was diagnosed with skin cancer in a few places on her face, and she was diagnosed as having symptoms of dementia. Cancer was removed and medicines were prescribed. The family had hopes of her being able to be independent for much longer. As always happens, the dementia has twisted her mind. She has been going downhill quickly because she hasn’t been taking her medicine, so we knew it was time to send her somewhere to live.
Today, Monday, December 12, 2011 was the lucky day.
Padre and I gingerly sat Nana in the backseat of my car. To make it more of an adventure rather than a death sentence, Padre drove around the side of Durham where she used to live (and where my Dad & Mom met back in 1987!), and we treated her to a
healthy Hardee’s burger and fries. When we got to the nursing home, we parked and went in.
She walked right through the doors, excited to be back for a visit. The kind woman in charge of the facility, welcomed us into her office.
Nana- “Hi. We’re just here for a visit. This is my handsome son and his beautiful daughter. I have the prettiest family members. We just came to see the place. I had Hardee’s. I hadn’t had a burger in the longest time. I used to have fresh meat when I was a little girl… Daddy had hogs and cows and chickens and boy… those were the days. But we’re just here for a visit.”
Oh if only she understood why we were there.
Padre, his brother, and I walked Nana down the maze of hallways to her room. I seriously would have gotten lost if I had been alone! They explained that every day there were different activities and lots of people for her to meet. She kept commenting on the tacky paintings on the walls, saying, “oh that’s lovely. I just love pictures like that.” over and over. We passed rooms with patients lying in bed. In others, the patients were reading or watching tv. We passed lots of patients in the hallways, one of whom asked me, “where is my room? I can’t find my room.” I helped her find it as we continued on our way to Nana’s new room.
When we finally arrived, her roommate was in there.
Nana was a little taken aback that someone was in her room. She introduced herself and looked at her new bed. She inspected everything on her side of the room. It was all entirely new to her.
While Padre and his brother went to the main office to sort things out with the director, I sat with Nana. My job was to distract her. She asked her roommate, Miss M, how she felt when her family brought her to live there. “My daughter said it was the best thing for me so I came here to live.”
Nana didn’t want to believe that for a minute. “I just don’t understand why they brought me here!” she cried.
Minutes later when her sons were in the room, she really broke down. “You lied to me! You said I was going to my new home! This isn’t my new home! I want to go back. I don’t care what you say. I want to go home. I was so looking forward to moving into my new house. You tricked me. I want Daisy. Who is going to take Daisy? Are you going to bring him here? He can’t stay alone, he’ll die! He doesn’t like other cats. I just don’t understand. You lied to me. I want Daisy. Why did you do this?”
Seeing her in tears and raising her voice about her new home and not having her cat made me want to break down. I had never seen her that weak before. It was so hard staying strong for Padre. So hard.
A nurse came to the room and asked us to leave. We just walked right out on Nana while she cried and bemoaned the whole situation. That was hard too.
The director met with the family members that were there (Padre, his brother, sister-in-law, his sister, and me) and all the papers were signed. Everything was finalized.
Schedules were explained.
Money was sorted out.
Tears were shed.
“It will be harder for you than it will be for her.” the director kept saying over and over, which only caused more tears to silently glide down my face. I wiped them away with a napkin trying not to let Padre see.
We aren’t allowed to visit for two days in order to let her get adjusted to the new environment and getting into the routine of taking her medications and settling in.
As we were leaving a Christmas song, sung by the suave Frank Sinatra, could be heard coming from the main dining hall. The patients were being treated to ice cream and Christmas songs. A nurse came in and informed us that Nana was sitting in the dining hall enjoying ice cream. However, Nana’s words about the afternoon’s activities – “I can’t enjoy Christmas music because my heart is broken.”
My heart is broken, my head is hurting, and I am overall exhausted. I just want to cry.
Moving someone you love into assisted living is hard.
(I will be doing sort of a creative writing exercise and writing the events of today from I can imagine Nana’s perspective was, and Padre’s. The creative wheels have been in motion all day long)