My grandmother-in-law was in the hospital recently. She is 96 and had an infection in one of her legs. What was supposed to be a routine check on her leg turned into a four day nightmare. They admitted her and began intense antibiotics. They gave her sleep aids and pain killers but explained little. She began to feel out of control and fearful. What she thought she was seeing turned out to be (from what I gather) side effects of the medicine. And what I insist as malnourishment from fear of eating and fatigue from adrenaline fueled by fear. She could not sleep. She would not eat.
When she asked that I come stay with her I went with the intention of easing her stay any way I could. I remember a time in life where I wished someone would simply watch over me so I could sleep. She was gifting me with her trust and I was determined not to fail her.
During my time with her the specialist came in pulling at her blanket wanting to examine her. “Remember this woman is 96,” I demanded. She comes from a time where women wore pantyhose at ALL times or were considered indecent. She came from 1916. My history friends will understand that America in this time period was not even the same planet as it is now. Men do NOT bring in groups of training doctors to view 96 year old women in this manner without taking a piece of the woman’s integrity when they leave.
I am not a doctor. I do not even claim that what they were doing was wrong. Maybe they see things that I do not. I only asked that they consider the person as they proceed. What I wanted to give her was peace of mind. I brought my computer and iPod. I showed her that the medical staff and family member (from the lady sharing her room) were not out to get her with their strange handheld electronic devises. They were not in “cahoots”, like she claimed, but were probably on Facebook. Then I opened up my Facebook on my iPod and showed her pictures of her grand-kids and her children and the lives she had no idea were so accessible. In the end she said she would rather be gardening, despite the many hours she could see being consumed looking at everyone’s “grass is greener” photos.
The night was long and I was tired but when the situation would get the better of her I switched from my iPod to my laptop to give her old eyes a better view. The screen was now large enough to engage her in these precious family photos that were taken with the current generation’s iOS devices. Bless her heart, we giggled and awed at some and then looked surprised at the more risqué photos. I got to see the world from 1916. It was beautiful. It deserved respect. She was NOT losing her grip on reality she was simply trying to cope in a world that was developing faster than she could access.
I stayed up all night and only took my eyes off her once (Guests were not allowed to use the bathroom in the room) but I explained this to her and everything else that she heard and saw that she did not understand. From the rolling cart of the late night custodian to vibration of the staffs feet when they had to rush off for a patients emergency she was scared and I knew the mind can be a powerful enemy. She was not convinced by all of my explanations but she grew to trust me that night because I never lied to her or talked down to her. There was never a sensation that was too insignificant for me to explain. And I offered the explanations without her asking.
She was convinced they were holding her against her will. I stayed with her until she was released and when we got outside I asked her if she could smell anything. She looked at me funny and said no. I told her to take a big whiff, because that was the smell of sweet freedom. She laughed and then looked at me seriously. Then she told me something that I hadn’t realized I needed so desperately. She said, “You know kid, I love you.”
This to me is my gift of dyslexia. To see things in 3D. To understand from all directions. I made a friend that day. A friendship that levels me at how genuine it is.
I try to look at everyone with this 3D approach. Every child discovered not labeled. Every elderly person deserves explanation not condemnation and every disability deserves redefining.
Almost 100 years together. Perfection!