The Circle of Life: Eventual Heartbreak

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My son and his great Nanny.

For a week now I have cried every day on the way home in the car. It is my safe emotional place. I’ve fought tears at work and been carrying a lump in my throat most of the time trying to keep the emotions in check. If I keep busy things are better, but a moment of down time and my heart starts breaking.  I usually call my grandparents at the end of my work day as I jump in the car and things have been getting a whole lot tougher in their household. I’ve never yet admitted this to myself because in my dream world I have imagined they would live forever, but they are in fact getting old. My grandfather is 94 and my grandmother will be 92 this summer.


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4 generations, my grandpa’s 94th birthday 2016.

They have been a HUGE part of my life my entire life. They didn’t miss a Christmas concert or a graduation, or an opportunity to come see their grandchildren for dinner or play. Having older grandparents than people my age by about 10 years  was a benefit as they were retired almost my entire life – meaning lots of time for their grandbabies.  I would stop in for tea almost every day during my commute to university, have lunch with them every time I was afforded a lunch hour I could fit them in, and I try to call them at least every other day. I bring my son as often as I can to see them as it is important for me to have him soak up as much of their awesomeness as he can.  As I aged we grew even closer.  Up until the end of last year they still took day trips or the odd overnight here and there. When they were away though, it would feel like something was missing from my day.  This year has been a rough one for my Nanny. She has excruciating back pain due to degenerating discs and is feeling the effects of age and pain on the mind.


 

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Nanny and I Christmas 2014.

My Nanny got really sick for the first time in spring 2014. This was the start of me losing myself for a little bit – although most wouldn’t have really saw the emotions I kept hidden. Other things happened at that time to compound life, but this was a big blow to me. Since then she has got better intermittently, another downslide early 2015, but things have never quite been the same. I have dismissed the changes blindly, but now I feel like I am having to actually face reality, as she needs extra help to do things she didn’t need help with before, like getting out of bed. Her motivation to get up some days is lost, and the pain makes her mind tired and foggy. It is taking a toll on my grandfather providing this extra care physically, mentally and tugging at the heartstrings for his love of almost 80 years.


 

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Their 60th wedding anniversary 8 years ago.

Having my son 8 years ago renewed their youth. They’ve got many great grandbabies, but they spend the most time with my son, because we make the most time available for them to spend with him. My 94 year old grandfather introduced him to wrestling and that is their thing they watch when we go for a Saturday evening visit. My Nanny has made strawberry jam with him every year, carrying on memories that I have had from my childhood. She baked him so many lovely apple pies as a tot that he cherished them as a favourite food. I could write pages and pages of memories and moments that have made me so proud to be their granddaughter. They are truly two people you meet and never forget. Kind to every stranger and loved one much the same. My grandfather talks to everyone and anyone – whether you are walking your dog down his street or in the grocery store.


Today so far has been the hardest. I couldn’t contain my emotions as I talked to my grandfather (Nanny was sleeping again) and I had to let him go off the phone earlier than I had liked. Life isn’t going to get easier with this situation and I don’t know how to prepare for it – as I am definitely not ready. I know I have been so very very lucky, but selfishly I really wish they’d live forever.

 

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  • Hang in there April.. They cherish every single moment with you guys. My kids too are fortunate to have great relationships with thier great grandparents on my side.. They may live 3hrs away but we visit as often as we can (absolute min every single holiday plus a couple extras)…and talk all the time. Id be lost without them.

    Im always a message away hun.. Take every day with thanks and enjoy those truly golden times. They are fabulous role models. And a treasure to society.

  • Hey April….I sit here with tears in my eyes. Today marks the 8th year without my Nan. I love her so much and my heart still aches that she is gone now. I even struggle to go to her grave site as I guess I’m still grieving and a bit of denial. She lived well over 35 years after my grandfather passed away. I have so many memories of baking cookies, taking hikes in the woods, baby sitting, and soooo much more! Spend each and every moment with them that you can and talk about your memories. Hugs to you strong lady!

    • 8 years 🙁 I am happy to hear the memories still live so strongly though. I plan on keeping mine forever with many stories I’ll repeat dozens of times as I age.

  • There is nothing to say to make it better other than I KNOW, I know your heartache, I know your pain, I know the feeling of loosing them slowly bit by bit and not being able to stop time, I know the ways you are trying to cope with it because I have been there too. I am crying right now because reading your post made me feel it all again like it was yesterday and not two years ago.

    Cherish it all,every last second, take pictures and videos, say everything and then say it again. It is the circle of life, you are right and we just have to go on. Sending you big hugs xo

    • It is heartache. It is denial. It is so much pain when you love someone so much. I feel you know this relationship and bond with your grandmother so well. To be honest knowing others have gone through it and survive with memories in their heart gives me strength.

  • Hi April

    Grandparents hold a special key that only they can unlock to your heart. I never knew my grandfather as he passed away when my mom was 7 months pregnant with me. But my gran and I had the most special, warm, loving relationship that compared to none other. She was my rock, my guide, my light and when she passed at 94 and 364 days, the world stood still.
    Not a day goes by that I don’t hear her soft voice in my bed and feel her love around me. I too wish she could have lived forever, but she does, in my heart.
    Hugs.

    • They certainly do. I know everyone is not blessed with loving grandparents or ones that really make their mark – but when they do your heart is overflowing with love. Thank you.

  • April, My heart breaks for you. Having just lost my Grams (Grandmother 91) I know what you are going through. It’s by far the hardest thing I have ever done. We try and be so strong but the tears flow and the memories come flashing back. So many things I wanted to say, talk about and do with her and my children came to mind. It helped to reflect on all the positive things, good times and happy moments we shared. Just like you have! It’s okay not to be strong, I thought I was until this. I broke down so many times and cried more in the last month of her life then I have my whole life. Memories will never die and will only get stronger as time goes on. Being there is what’s important and knowing that you have family and friends who you can lean on and count on for support! We all love you and are here for you if you need anything! <3

  • Hi April…..I am in the senior care business and definitely know what you are going through. There are lots of resources in the community to assist your grand parents to stay in their own home. If you would like to talk about things…message me and I will send my number. I live very close to them as well and can offer my help if you like? I love working with seniors and would love to help out if I can. Please let me know.

    • We are definitely looking for more home care. I will message you tonight to make sure we have got all the right tools. Thank you.

  • Nanny can never been taken away from you with all your wonderful, loving memories April. One day her physical body will be gone but she will live on forever in your heart, your actions, your love and your care for others.
    It is very difficult to lose one so close. I too lost a very special Gramma . She was 101 years old when she passed away. She suffered from severe alzheimer’s disease the last fifteen years of her life. She knew nothing and no one, not even to eat. This was worse than death for me to watch.
    Treasure each moment with Nanny now. Take a notebook with you when you visit. If Nanny can write even a little, together with Cameron, your Grandpa and you, write and write some more of your memories together. I am sure you will all have some great laughs doing this. Have her write her name on the front of the book. Have her talk about her childhood.
    When Nanny is unable to write, you, Cameron and Grandpa can do that for her. Love her as always. Sometimes crying is good for the soul as it can help wash away some of the pain. You will continue to be the strong, strong young woman that you are and your Nanny has been all these years. Embrace her illness as part of her journey. Just love her as always. Her journey here on Earth is not yet done. Help bolster Grandpa. He is feeling what you are feeling to a deeper level. You will surprise yourself at how strong you can be. You always are a strong one, my dear girl. <3
    God bless them, God bless you. <3

    • Thank you. Grandpa was better today as was Nanny. She isn’t going to ever be healed and there will be good and bad days – this just the first of many in which I need strength. I had a visit today which definitely helped my soul.

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