it was wednesday and i was exhausted. not just from the pace of trying to stay healthy and self-caring while making a couplefew times a week trips out to hospice, but the emotional toll that went along with it. i was exhausted. with every fiber of my being. she wasn’t supposed to have lasted this long, and i didn’t know why she was still here. she had begged for death. she had intently laid down to die already. we’d made sure to tell each other those sweet and loving words, we made apologies and amends, forgiveness. we had said our goodbyes so many times already. i was sick of it. frankly i had gotten to thinking in my denial brain that if she had survived 7 weeks without eating, maybe she was just gonna survive. who cares that it didn’t make any sense. maybe…
so that night we sat around chatting. she had been allowed to do some comfort eating in the form of blue raspberry freezie pops. she ate hospice out of them, so my cousin decided to make a mad dash to the grocery store before i left for the night and the doors were locked. so it was just Barb and i. i liked it when it was just us. i had had her to myself for such a long time. first when i was a kid. she was mine for 11 years til her first daughter was born. then in recent years when the kids were grown and we would take care of grama together. finally, when it was my shift on the caretaking team while she tried to stay at home under hospice supervision. as much as it creeped me out to be alone with her sometimes while meds were up and down (those horrible hours when she fell asleep with her eyes open, sitting up in her chair, gradually leaning over to one side or sometimes backward with her back arched and mouth wide open), she was still just mine then.
so on wednesday night, i pulled up close to her in a chair and felt nervous. part of my m.o. with her had been to give her comfort in the promise that i would take care of grama from now on and she didn’t need to worry. but i had recently had a visit with grama where she didn’t remember me and that disturbed me a great deal. fucking dementia. anyway, we got to talking about that and i told her how hard it had been on me, running all around to visit the sick, and how it hurt me so bad that grama didn’t know who i was. and did i mention how exhausted i was? who was it for?
Barb stared at me for a while. “well, what are you doing? are you trying to be a good girl? let me just tell you then: you can give it up.” i just stared back at her. she continued with authority, “i’ve got the easy way out. i’m dying. i don’t have to make this decision. but i don’t know what i would decide if i wasn’t. you don’t have to keep doing this. don’t waste your life on the sick and the dying. you especially. hmm?” she continued to stare at me with those sunken eyes, sparkling. she winked at me. she became a winker in her last few days.
i didn’t really know how to respond and my cousin had come back with assorted wrong popsicles (my aunt was particular, if nothing else). so i quickly said my goodbyes, kind of refusing to say another real heartfelt goodbye. instead, quickly and without too much more eye contact, saying i’d be back in a couple days. i started crying as soon as i left the room, and i bawled all the way home.
did she just give me permission to leave grama behind? moreso, did she also give me permission to leave her behind?
by saturday morning, she was gone. i never saw her alive again.