saying the hard words

Last night and today have been spent getting my grandma out of the hospital to hospice. Clarifying her wishes now is difficult, as she can’t always remember what we’re talking about and the old “fight til the last” instinct she’s always had keeps popping up. In the end, with the palliative care team in on the discussion, she agreed that it would be best to just focus on keeping her comfortable now. I have no idea if she’ll die soon (this week?) or not soon (months?). Just as at work in critical care, no one can predict, and if you try to guess you’ll always be wrong. She will be in a hospice home though, where they can finally understand palliative care and stop telling her she’s taking too many pain meds.

It’s so strange having these conversations with someone I consider my parent. She’s my grandma but along with my mom, she raised me. She made sure I was safe, doing well in school, behaving, going to the dentist, getting good grades. She put dinner on the table for me, and made sure I knew how to find my way around town and cook a dish. She worried about me every day, and took pride in my accomplishments as if they were own. In a way, I had two mothers. I was my grandma’s first and only local grandchild. Getting me to adulthood successfully was the main goal of my grandparents before they died. And here I sit having “the talk” about goals of care the same way I do with my patients and their families every day. It’s surreal. It’s awful. And gosh, is it different when it’s your own loved one.

I’ve had these conversations on a weekly basis for six years as a professional. I’ve guided dozens of families through these difficult and painful situations. I’ve watched people die and watched their families sob. I’ve said, “this is so hard, I know.” But I didn’t always know. Nothing can be totally real until you’re the one wearing the hat.

In the midst of all of it, my daughter gets stuck with being left. Left at daycare, left with grandma, left with impatient and frustrated and stressed out adults. I feel pressure as never before to be the one holding it all together. My OCD starts to shine as I can’t bear my messy house and yet I found a puddle of piss in the corner of a room and nearly lost my shit. I have a migraine and I’m tired and I just… can’t.

But I have to.

 

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