"You better come down to Florida and say your goodbyes.” Even though Gram is ninety-five, those words felt like a punch in the gut. We booked tickets, not knowing what to expect when we arrived.
When I saw my grandma three months ago, she was the same as she’s always been. We spent over an hour walking around the grocery store, she made “black coffee” (espresso) old-fashioned style on the stove for her and Niel, she regaled us with stories (old and new), she laughed, and her beautiful smile never left her face.
Last week Gram was treated for extreme dehydration. The doctor told her that her kidneys and heart are beginning to fail; he said he could run some tests to find out what’s wrong with her heart. “I’m old, that’s what’s wrong.” She declined tests; she signed a Do Not Resuscitate order.
When we arrived on Saturday, Gram looked pallid. Pale. Fragile. She needs to use her walker to get around the house; she gets out of breath just talking. It hurts my heart to see her suddenly looking her age. “I never felt old,” she said, "until just a few weeks ago. Now I feel old.” Her ninety-five years caught up with her fast.
She rubbed her hands incessantly. “My fingers are cold, but inside they’re sizzling.” She showed us her swollen feet. “I’ve never had that happen before. After so many years, you’d think I’d have experienced everything by now. At least I’m still experiencing new things, even if it’s swollen feet.” Her attitude, despite her frailty and discomfort, is astounding.
Aside from giving birth to her sons, Gram has never been hospitalized.
That night she was feeling pretty down about suddenly feeling her age. Yet, she was so happy to see all of us. She still talked and laughed, same as always. When my dad teased her, like he usually does, she responded with her typical sarcastic, “Yeah…” She slapped Dad’s arm when he poked fun of her; she was in her element.
Gram said over and over again how wonderful it is to have us all together. Her happiness was visible in her face, in her eyes, in her smile.
She just realized that she is indeed ninety-five. But she’s also fully aware just how rich and full her ninety-five-year life actually is.