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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Hardest Drawer for Last...

We were in hyper cleaning mode last week...I think my Mom, Sister and I tried to keep busy and we got lots of things done. As many of you know, I am all about the lists...so you will not be surprised to find out that the first thing I did when we got home after Grandma passed away was to break out a brand new Vera Bradley notebook and start making lists. Sick..I know...but it made me feel better...it was comforting.

One of the items on the list was cleaning out the dresser drawers of my Grandparents. Yes...I admit...we did not clean out those of Grandpa back in 2007. I was deliberate in my cleaning, saving his "junk" drawer for last. Although I should say, there was no junk within. I loved looking through bunches of old business cards, his notes on the scraps of paper he would always keep handy in his shirt pocket, his dogtags, and this piece of paper that I had never seen before. Evidently, on November 1, 1977 (barely 11 months old) I typed this at my Grandma's Office. Pretty cool find isn't it?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Year Ago...

My sweet Grandma loved to go to the grocery store and here are some pictures from about a year ago. How cute is she? Check out the one below...in her red crocs...even cuter right?

I remember back in the summers way back in the day when my sister and I would spend the day with Grandma and Grandpa. I have the best memories of Grandpa playing some of our favorite cassettes in the car as we traveled down to Chevy Chase to shop at the Westbard Giant (like George Michael's Faith...because Grandpa thought it was a great album too!!). I remember being in charge of holding the list and checking off the items when they made it into the basket...even as a child...I was all about the lists!!

One of the first things we did after Grandpa passed away was to head to the grocery store...the four of us...Grandma, Mom, Sister and I...getting all kinds of yummy things for a dinner of appetizers. Harris Teeter was our store of choice...we had coffees first and then set out about the store for comfort foods. Last evening we did the same thing...but this time it was just the three of us...getting a dinner of appetizers. We didn't really address the fact that it was just the three of us or the fact that it in a few hours it would be exactly one week when we became only three. There was something nice about roaming the aisles where Grandma roamed pushing the basket. We really, really miss her.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bubblegum and Lollipops...

As you may know, I love purses. My grandma loved purses too and was a fellow Vera Bradley addict. When we went to say our final goodbye on Sunday, each of us picked one of her Vera purses to use. It felt really nice. My sister used the pretty floral one on the left, my mom used the cute black and white one in the middle, and the adorable one with the bow was the one I took. :) I think she would have really liked that.

When we were little, Grandma always carried two things for my sister and I in her purse...Wrigleys Spearmint Gum and Lollipops. As such, her purses always smelled like Spearmint. I remember asking..."Grandma, can I please have a piece of gum?" "Grandma, can I please have a lollipop?" Most of the time...she would just give us one...totally unprompted.

One night when I was driving home from Casey House I had one of those randmo thoughts. I remembered that she stopped carrying the gum and lollipops in her purse at somepoint in my youth. Then it hit me, it must have been in 1987 when I was 10 years old...when I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It made me fall in love with her all over again.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Room 11 is Empty...

I don't think my Mom, Sister and I will ever forget the kindness and care at Casey House or the first time we sat at the "Great Table" the day we arrived. There was something so comforting about having a table to sit at there since so much of our family life is sitting at that kitchen table. The feel of a strong table that was able to handle some of the most difficult of days. Knowing that we would soon have one less person to sit around the kitchen table, we decided it was time for a new one. We went from five chairs to four in December 2007 and the thought of one less at the table seemed too surreal. I had ordered a new one and four new chairs on March 3...the night we first sat at the "Great Table" at Casey House.

It was peaceful in the end and the road to get there was traveled with strength...my Grandma is and always will be...amazing. Her spirit and spunk brought her to DC from a small town in Vermont. Her spirit and spunk guided her on Friday evening. As I have always written...this is no place for whimps.

Our new table and chairs were delivered on Saturday afternoon...the start of a new begining. It was poetic. Room 11 in Casey House may now be empty but we are not...our hearts are full with memories and a certain calm that comes from knowing that there is one more person out and about in the universe looking over you. It is warm. It is comforting. It is real. And we have a strong, sturdy table to come back too as we move forward.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Smile and A Wave...

I have been meaning to write about a few things I have observed during this latest chapter of our lives. The one where everyone knows your Room Number and not your name. The one where everyone watches for which rooms become empthy. The one where sometimes you can here someone say, "Well...Room 7 is still here". It is like there is a cohort...of both room inhabitants and thier families. It feels like bizzaro world sometimes but has become like home...sort of.

Even though we are in a hospice facility, I still smile and laugh. Sometimes people look at me like I am weird (I know...I know...people always look at me like I'm weird). I make jokes. That is how Grandma would want me to be. She has a great sense of humor...so why not keep some happy around us. There is no right or wrong in this dance.

Several times as I sat in my car atop the hill of Muncaster Mill Road to turn into Casey House, a car coming in the opposite direction would stop and wave me in...even though they had a green light. It was so profound...they knew where I was going...and took an extra second out of their day to make it easier for me. It happened more than one and it made me feel good each and everytime.

You smile and wave to those you run into on a regular basis. It hit me today while I was there that I missed the family in Room #9...we shared the table one day at lunch time with them. It made me stop and realize that our cohort is growing smaller.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Things You are Supposed to Say...

We refer to them as the "Hawaii Papers". It is information that my Mom found back in 2007 which explained the process...caring for the dying. These brought great comfort during my Grandpa's last days...even though we didn't know they were his last days. Our intuition more than anything clued us into the process...and my mantra then was to "trust the process." This experience with Grandma is totally different. We know we are in the delicate space which leads to the end. Needless to say, the "Hawaii Papers" have again helped us. This is no place for whimps...authenticity is required.

There is one section of the guide, Preparing to Say Goodbye, that lists the five things a dying person wants to be assured of. The list is as follows:

* Things they were once responsible for will be taken care of.

* The survivors will survive without them.

* All is forgiven.

* Their life had meaning.

* They will be remembered.

It is strange to think that a list of 5 things holds the power of a peaceful passing on to better things. I can also imagine the difficulty and weight of each of these five things being different for everyone. I don't know why I am writing this, maybe it is bringing me comfort. Writing is healthier than eating carbs. We have done the assurances so that Grandma can let go. Thinking about writing helped me to think of what I could say. Writing about all of this in my blog helped me to form what I would say.

I'm sitting in the window box seat here in my Grandma's room at Casey House, my laptop warm, listening to her breath. My family and I are watching a process...and even though it is hard and not what one expects to have to go through...I know we will remember these moments always and be glad that we had them.

Yummy Heirlooms...

Grandma's favorite holiday is Thanksgiving and she used to do the entire meal herself...including pies. My favorites were her fruit salad with whipped cream (our starter)and the stuffing. Her stuffing is THE BEST...a yummy taste that she has passed on to my Mommy and Sister. I have mentioned before that the only thing I am good for in the kitchen is doing dishes. After my Grandpa passed away we did not have Thanksgiving at home...we went out of town one year and then to a restaurant the next year. We did it mostly because we knew it would be hard for Grandma without her taster to test the stuffing. So, we just avoided the situation.

This year, we all felt ready to have Thanksgiving at home where Grandma both supervised and participated. My sister caught some great pictures too...I am so glad. This one is of her tasting the stuffing as the inital ingredients take shape in the pan. Note the Vera Bradley apron...we each had one for the holiday. She did lots to help in preparing the meal including making the fruit salad. I had the pleasure of sitting with her at the kitchen table cutting up various fruits, the two of us working together. We have been so lucky...to spend each and every day together. Not many have the amazing experience of having your grandparents care for you and then you are able to then care for them. As my Grandpa always said, he discovered the fountain of youth. Grandchildren.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Love in the Room...

It is hard to believe that it has been a week since Grandma arrived at Casey House...in keeping with my previous blogs...hospice is no place for whimps either. It is still surreal being here, especially since I looked into volunteering here back in 2002. I then got busy with my MBA and it kind of fell off of my radar...and now here we are. I don't know that any of this has fully registered with me. It is so quiet. It is peaceful. It has become like our home. Her room is the place we circle around...rather than the kitchen table at home.

This picture of Grandma was from around her birthday in 2009...cute right? It was one of those random moments when we were sitting around in our "home office" chilling...waiting to leave for dinner. We were headed to Grandma's favorite restaurant...the cabin in the woods...Tower Oaks Lodge. It is one of my favorite pictures because it has such a warm "homey" feeling with pictures of our family in the background. Even though we are a small unit, we are surrounded with love. It seeps in and around us...especially in this room. At somepoint we are going to be smaller, but I don't think we have any less love.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bear Claw Fan...

There are so many things that I could be blogging about...this span of time that we are in. I just don't feel up to it, but believe me, I'm scribbling notes in a journal that I have been keeping over the past few months. I have always marveled at the idea of hospice and palliative care. To see it before my eyes makes it all the more amazing and beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful, check out this cute picture of Grandma from November. We had the day to ourselves...which began at the kitchen table where I had surprised her with her favorite pastry treat...a bear claw!! Also, note the cute Vera Bradley scarf she is wearing...ahem...adorable right? One of my favorite stories that Grandma used to tell was about breakfast during one of countless weekends that I spent over at Grandma and Grandpa's House. If I could, I would seriously worm my way into it each weekend. I liked to weekend in Chevy Chase apparently. ;) Mainly, I just loved spending time with them...and they fed me well...and they let me stay up past my bedtime.

The breakfast tradition when I would spend the night entailed Grandpa and I going to the Westbard Giant to get doughnuts while my Grandma made the rest of breakfast at home. It makes me smile just to think about it. One morning, after Grandma placed my plate of scrambled eggs in front of me I said, "I like your eggs Grandma, they are not brown like Mom's." Can you imagine? (Sorry Mom...you make amazingly fluffy yellow eggs now...they were brown because you had two little kiddos and a crazy dog yapping at your heels.)

In these times, I'm thinking about all of things from before and not about the fact that where will be an after.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Retail Therapy...Vera Girl Quick Trip

As if knowing that a shopping trip was much needed...one of my Vera Girls (M) sent an email yesterday seeing if anyone wanted to meet at Tiara for a little lunch time Vera Shopping. Heck Yes!!! I spent some nice quality time with Grandma this morning, by myself. It was really just what I needed. I need to update on where things stand on that front...but I am not ready. Given the tough past few days, weeks, months...we were in need of some good shopping and good friends. One of the four Vera Girls could not join us due to a work emergency...but we did her really proud.

I went a bit crazy...but in fairness...most of the things I bought have just been retired so I got them for 40% off. So, I actually saved money...right??

Here is my list...

* Purple Punch Side by Side
* Purple Punch Euro Wallet
* Sittin in a Tree Ditty Bag
* Sittin in a Tree Large Cosmetic
* Sittin in a Tree Medium Cosmetic
* Pink Twirly Bird Shopping Tote
* Folkloric Sugar and Spice Crossbody (pictured...OMG...I am in love!!!)
* Blue Lagoon Flip Flops (ahem...already had purchased Folkloric and Lemon Parfait)
* Sitting in a Tree Journal
* Folkoric Jumbo Binder Clips
* Folkloric Let Me Check (cutest book of to do lists ever)
* Folkloric Pocket Pals (cutest set of tiny notebooks ever)
* Hello Dahlia Keepin it Together (Binder and Spiral Notebook)

Umm...and a pair of Brighton earrings too. Ahem...retail therapy....