Saturday, August 6, 2011

We Interrupt this Vacation... remember a wonderful woman.  My Grandma Ellman passed away this morning after a long downward descent.  From a short term perspective, it's a blessing.  She was in pain and had lost her quality of life, so the thought of her in heaven, reunited with my grandpa (who passed away over 30 years ago), and healed of all her earthly suffering, is a great one.  She lived a long, full life with four children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

The only sadness I can feel at this point is that her descent from an active social life to sleeping her days away was a sad period...and the worst of it was all in the last year or so.  It doesn't seem like that long ago that she was active and sharp.  She went from the queen of senior bus trips to a series of injuries and illnesses that kept her mostly homebound.  Those years were difficult for all involved, for many reasons.  And it was all downhill from there, culminating in her move to a senior apartment last year and then a series of visits to rehab.  The worst and most recent illness was shingles.  She needed increasing care as time went on, and the last couple times we went to visit her, it was apparent that her time was limited.  Or at least, it left us hoping her time was limited, as that was no way to live.  She had more or less turned into one of those people that we used to pity when we went Christmas caroling at the nursing home.  It was a sad end for a strong woman and had to be a huge shot to her pride--to go from a proud, active woman to someone who could do so little for herself. 

To me my grandma was always a strong woman that lost her husband far too young.  She spent so many years solo.  She had family and lots of friends, obviously, but to not have a spouse for all those years had to be at least a little lonely sometimes.  On the other hand, she certainly embraced that single life.  Perhaps she spent so many years as a wife and mother that she was ready to embark on some adventures on her own.  She went on numerous cruises and exotic trips, and countless senior bus trips.  She enjoyed dinners out and loved her large Beanie Baby collection and abundant knicknacks will attest.  Going through the things in her house has been quite the process for my mom and her siblings, and there have been a handful of things that I've been honored to bring to my house--namely the high wooden chair Jacob uses at our kitchen table and a few toys that were the most memorable for me from the many hours I spent playing there. 

I also remember meals at Perkins, Burger King, and even Ponderosa, which now as an adult boggles my mind a little bit considering how particular Grandma could be about her food.  We didn't always go out, though, as she made some delicious food herself.  I remember some great dinners that she made, and she was always a great food contributor to family picnics.  I also recall many a New Year's Day ham at her house and nearly every Christmas evening in her living room.  When I was younger she always made sure to bring back a souvenir from her trips, and once in a while she'd even spoil us a bit with a small something at the toy store when we were out at the mall. 

I have fond memories of her old house, the house my mom grew up in.  The family spent many weekends in her backyard swimming in the pool, and spending time there on my own (probably on golf days) was probably a key factor in teaching me to be gentle around nice things.  Probably around 20 years ago she moved across the street from us to a small ranch.  It was a perfect house for her, ideal for providing her help, and the site of many memories as well.  One time my parents were on vacation and I was staying there.  The Sabres were on the verge of winning their first playoff series in 10 years.  My grandma went to bed and the game went to overtime.  The Sabres won, and I was so excited that I quietly ran through her house (it was one big circle) trying to work off my excited energy so I wouldn't scream.  I accidentally woke her up anyway.  Oops...but she was cool about it. 

She wasn't really a get-on-the-floor-and-play-with-you sort of grandma, but that never really bothered me.  I knew she loved me and she probably did a great job of pretending to be interested in whatever I was doing.  She appreciated quiet and neatness, so as long as the grandchild toy mess was cleaned up in the end, she was fine.  She was a no-nonsense sort of woman, and I knew it even when I was young.  It actually became a bit of a sticking point in recent years as she had major issues with my cousin's gay lifestyle.  She was certainly entitled to her opinion, but it was unfortunate that the family was a bit fractured in the last years of her life...if only because everyone missed out on time all together.

These last few years certainly weren't representative of the grandmother I knew for so many years, but I feel so lucky to have had her as long as we did.  And really, mentally she was pretty darn good up until recently.  Knowing it was that recent makes this a bit of a tough pill to swallow, but knowing how much her quality of life had deteriorated, I'm so happy that she didn't have to live like that any longer than she did.  My heart breaks for my mom, aunt and uncles, and this whole process has given me a bit of insight into what lies ahead with my own parents (and in-laws, for that matter).  I can't even go there right now, but needless to say, there's no good way for this stuff to happen...ever.  Too sudden and it's shockingly painful for those left behind, but if it's too drawn out, it's hard to watch and even harder for the one suffering. 

But for now I simply need to do two things...appreciate what I have now and look back fondly on the good times.  And so, I will leave you with this...
Jacob and his great-grandma on his first birthday (sadly, the only picture I seem to have of them together)
Rest in peace, Grandma, and may you regain in heaven all you lost on earth.  Thank you for all you've done and all your love over the years.  You will be missed.

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