I was finishing the hem on one of the curtains when my phone rang last Friday, a call from Canada. I've known in my heart for at least a year that such a call might come at any point. But I hadn't thought about what I'd do when it did come. At least, not recently.
It was my grandmother, my aunt said. She was in the hospital, some kind of infection -- a lung, her bladder, her kidneys. It wasn't looking good. Was my mother around?
I told her she wasn't -- Troubadour Mom was actually visiting Almost Dr. Sis -- and gave my aunt their cell phone numbers.
That's where it got complicated.
Some time later that night, while D and I were grocery shopping, the calls started coming in -- Troubadour Dad (also visiting my sister) and Almost Dr. Sis, trying to figure out what exactly my aunt had told me about my grandmother's condition, updating me on my mother's plans to fly to Toronto right away. Was I planning to go?
I didn't know.
"Of course you should go," said one voice in my ear as I stood immobilized in front of the meat counter. "You want to be there."
"But are you really up for this?" said another, the one I've been trying to listen to more. "Can you handle it?"
"Well," I said to them both, "what does it entail?"
It was never clear for three days afterward. More calls, back and forth, trying to assess how serious my grandmother's condition was, whether there were imminent end-of-life decisions on the line. She was fighting the infection but unable to eat, or so it seemed. Not having an answer, I held tickets to get me to Canada on a red-eye every night of this week, since I couldn't get updates on the situation until the end of each day. If this was indeed the end, I did want to be there, to bear witness -- my grandmother was unlikely to recognize me or respond to much, given her condition, so being there for her was sadly not the primary reason to go.
But being there would also mean getting drawn into family politics, volatile and difficult to navigate (in crisis or at any other time), and the associated pressure to look after others first before myself, as I'd always been taught. This, in a larger sense, is what I've been trying to disentangle myself from for so long: the familial forces that make any decision to act in my own interest so hard. The forces that have made me fearful of being a nuisance with my own needs, fearful of being hurt because I put those needs out there only to have them struck down. Stay or go, speak or keep silent, and for whom?
Last night, my grandmother was released to go back to her nursing home. Yes, she rallied and survived, to our relief. She still can't eat much, which is of great concern -- dehydration and the dangers that come with it will keep looming unless she's monitored closely, and the staff in her residence are spread thin. What concerns me more, though, is this battle of my own, selfish as it may sound. I didn't go because I couldn't bring myself to face my fears. It was too soon after I'd finally identified what those fears were.
But it kills me now that I was and still am in my own way, at such a crucial moment. I'm better than this. Or at least, I want so much to be.
1 day ago