A lot of my lacking of updating this blog has a lot to do with what I’ve been dealing with for almost the past 2 years. I had a grandfather who lived by himself since my Grandmother’s death in 2000. But in recent years, his mind has started to slip. Someone called the Department of Children and Families (DCF) on him and they called me. The lady told me he needed assistance or the state would have to put him somewhere. So I did what anyone would.
I started visiting him once a week. I helped him with meals, shopping, getting his car fixed, and simple things like that. After a few months, he started getting a bit worse. He would go shopping for things he didn’t need. He literally had cabinets full of canned goods as if the zombie apocalypse was upon us. His freezer was filled to the max of stuff he wouldn’t even eat. Once his freezer was full, he’d put the stuff in the fridge. That caused an awful smell to fill up his house. So I would have to empty it. This went on for months. I couldn’t talk him out not buying stuff.
Sooner or later the responsibilities became greater. I would have to start paying his bills, running him to the doctor or hospital, and making sure he was eating okay. He would start to prepare meals in his kitchen but then walk away from it, so I would sometimes find raw meat sitting on his counters. And those pieces would be there for days. Something clearly had to be done with him. My visits upped to twice, sometimes three times a week. It was hard. I was teaching and working another part time job, and he lived an hour away. But he was more important to me than all of that.
In October of 2009, he ended up in the hospital after a fall. The doctors told me that his potassium levels were extremely low and they had no idea how he was still alive. They all agreed that he could no longer live on his own. He wasn’t taking care of himself as well as he should of. He needed help that was beyond what I could do. He needed to be put somewhere.
It was heartbreaking to have to do that. He was a very proud man. Born in Italy, in 1921, no person was going to tell him that he was going to be put somewhere other than his home. So the state deemed him incompetent and I, being his power of attorney, was put in charge of all of his decisions. The hospital released him and put him in a rehabilitation center while my sister and I spent all of our time trying to locate a nursing home that didn’t smell like urine. Those of you who had to do the same thing, you know this task is almost impossible. But we found one really close to my sister.
One day I went to visit my grandfather. It was the day that a social worker and I would have to tell him that he isn’t going to be able to go home anymore. We sat him down on his bed. “Mr. Fiaschi, we’re not going to be able to send you back home by yourself. You need to be somewhere that will be able to provide you with help when you need it.” This conversation went on for about 45 minutes. He swore he wasn’t going to one of those places. But he finally gave up. After the lady left, he looked at me, saddened by the news. He put his head on my shoulder and started crying. It took all my being to not do the same. I had to be strong for him.
After a month of rehabilitation, we got him moved to one of the cleanest, most friendly nursing home I’ve ever seen. Here, he had his own apartment of sorts, and he was able to do what he wanted to. He was a little more free than other places. Things were good for a month or so (despite a few things he did out of confusion). That wouldn’t last.
These past two weeks have been brutal for him. He had some sort of colon problem (that equaled in a lot of blood) and he ended up in the hospital. I went to visit him for the weekend and things seemed to be pretty good. He was very much aware of what was going on. We had a conversation; things seemed normal. He left the hospital and went back to the home.
A day or two later, at about 2 in the morning, my sister called me. Grandpa had taken a turn for the worst. There wasn’t going to be any coming back from this. I packed up the car and went to him. I got there around midnight the following day. He was in bed, looking rough. The Hospice ladies switched shifts at this time, so they had to wake him up to take his vitals. It was this time that I would have my last conversation with him. He spoke a little bit, made fun of bald head (“I’m 89 years-old and I got more hair than you…”). This was a constant thing. I was baldy, he was shorty.
The next day, he barely spoke. He would wake up from time to time, but it was very sporadic. He voice was gone too. His mouth would move but nothing would come out. He just laid there. He wasn’t comfortable but he couldn’t get up anymore. This was the point of no return. They turned off his pace-maker. This was to be it.
The following day, Saturday, my family arrived at some point in the afternoon. He was out. There was no waking him up. I helped the nurse move his body into a different position and all of that movement didn’t wake up him. So we sat there and talked amongst ourselves. It all happened so fast.
See you again soon (7/2010)
Suddenly, the hospice nurse exclaimed, “Hey guys, I think he is going to pass.” I wasn’t sure how someone could tell that. I looked over to him and his eyes were open. He wasn’t breathing too much anymore. My sister, mother, and I stood up and went over to him. He looked at each and every one of us. And then, he was gone. Like that. Now he’s back with my Grandma.
So it goes.
I hope I did you right these past few years Gramps. You know I love you. I just wanted to make you proud. I hope I didn’t disappoint you. I can’t wait to see you again, where ever that may be. Keep a cold drink ready and make sure Grandma is there too. -M