i don’t know if i can immediately call this gratitude, i’m actually having very difficult feelings about grama. but i’ll get there somehow.
i went to visit grama the other day, just to drop in and say hi. trying to talk to her has become increasingly impossible, so i’ve transitioned to the new normal of just sitting with her, nodding or shaking my head, listening to her talk. i don’t try so hard as to allow for the frustration of not being able to communicate. at this point it’s about just being with her.
so yesterday i went over there, and she was laying down, resting. when i got her up she told me that i had just missed the therapy dog that comes to the nursing home. she went on and on about how much she loved him. then she started talking about her old dog, oso. oso was mexican, grampa found her while he working at a mexican mission. he thought that oso was spanish for dog, hence the name. (years later, he found out oso actually means horse, it’s fine.) he took her back home with him to minnesota, and they were together for life. oso was a fantastic dog, i loved her dearly.
so grama has this loop around way of telling stories. with the lack of short term memory, she tells pieces of the story over again a few times. it’s kind of interesting because you begin to see the way she is taking meaning out of it.
she tells me about this time that she let oso out when it was very, very cold. she said grampa wasn’t home (actually he was dead by this time) and oso went out looking for him. oso was out for a very long time. grama looked for her and called for her, but eventually she fell asleep. in the morning, she found oso out on the back deck, just shivering. she let the dog in, but oso’s tongue was hanging out and there was something wrong with her mouth. grama is a great storyteller with her face and her gestures. she mimed the way oso was so sadly wanting to eat and drink but her mouth wasn’t working right. grama got some friends to take her to the vet the next day and was informed that oso had to be put down.
seeing the therapy dog that afternoon must have triggered these old memories of oso, who died probably 20 years ago now. i haven’t heard grama talk about oso in ages, and frankly i don’t remember ever hearing this much detail about what happened. i like how in her mind, oso was out looking for grampa, but grampa was dead. grama didn’t seem to be feeling any guilt around leaving the dog out all night, she justified it with oso’s determination to find grampa. she talked about how when they got to the vet, oso remembered him, they were pals, and was happy to see him. the vet was holding oso when she was euthanized. grama talked about the vet giving oso the shot because there was nothing else that they could do for her and she was ready to go. at one point grama said, “and that’s what they do to people here [at the nursing home] sometimes, give them a shot so that they can go.” grama’s been actively ready to die for the past 14 years so i think this is a bit of wishful thinking.
i guess the gratitude is that when i’m strong enough to go over there and sit with her, i’m willing to accept that this is what we have now. it’s really hard to be with her with the amount of physical and cognitive deterioration. sometimes i cry about it. like now. i try to stay positive. i remember my grama in independence and dignity, but i try to stay present. this is what i have today. she doesn’t take requests anymore but you still get good stories.