Thursday, January 17, 2008

Family matters

There is one call I have always dreaded. When my dad sounds stressed on the phone, I hope the cause isn’t her. When I call and no one answers, I want to race over to the house and make sure everything is all right. It’s been this way for a long time, but I still hoped nothing bad would ever happen. But one night in July, I called my dad and he sounded terrible. My elderly grandmother, had just had a stroke.

There she was — lying helplessly in a hospital gown, away from home, unable to communicate. She was not the grandmother I knew. To see such a strong woman reduced by nature was humbling and enraging at the same time.
My grandma will turn 87 in November. She was born in the Roaring ‘20s, lived though Dust Bowl Kansas during the Great Depression, married a soldier after World War II and raised a family on a farm in Kansas. It was hard to believe that someone who had lived through all that could be sidelined by a couple tiny blood cells.

When I was younger, my grandparents lived 30 minutes away in Baldwin City. I was the grandchild they indulged, the grandchild who was given a dollhouse for Christmas, the grandchild who was taken to the playground whenever she so desired. In 1998, my grandfather suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and died a few months later from an infection. But my grandma didn’t let her life break down. Instead, she became an important role model to me. Just a year after my grandpa died, my parents divorced. next.....