Cloud hidden, whereabouts unknown

Grandma on the picket line, fighting for workers' rights. I'm so proud of the work she did and forever grateful for helping me my whole life.

Grandma on the picket line, fighting for workers’ rights. I’m so proud of the work she did and forever grateful for helping me my whole life.

Well I’m taking some time with my quiet friend
Well I’m takin’ some time on my own.
Well I’m makin’ some plans for my getaway
There’ll be blue skies shining up above
When I’m cloud hidden
Cloud hidden
Whereabouts unknown

Alan Watts Blues

Late on the night of January 8th, Grandma’s tenacious grip on life finally let go — not with a sudden fall or illness, but peacefully in her sleep, which was how I always hoped she’d go.

I started this blog to offer a slightly different perspective on caregiving, but it turned into much more than that. My daughters learned about their family. Other caregivers thanked me for making them laugh. And I found an outlet for the confusion, frustration and flat-out bewilderment that comes with taking care of an elderly person. Even one you dearly love.

When Grandma died, she was a mere shadow of her former self. I would much rather remember her as the sassy labor leader who stood up for what’s right and knew how to hobnob with politicians to get what she wanted. Millions of full-time employees have people like my Grandma to thank for their time off, their health care and retirement benefits — even their weekends. Because unions didn’t just help their members; they improved working conditions for everyone by promoting the audacious view that people shouldn’t literally be worked to death. But I digress.

I can’t end this blog without thanking Brookdale Hospice for the excellent care they took of Grandma. As her dementia progressed and her contact with the outside world grew rare, the aides, nurses, social workers and chaplains who visited Margaret and listened to her stories were the highlight of her day. They helped me make informed choices and offered suggestions when I started looking for residential care. In the end it wasn’t necessary to move Grandma to an assisted living facility, but just having people to talk to about it made the journey less overwhelming for me.

Sometime during the final days of Grandma’s life — when I was checking on her through the night, changing her, and administering pain meds — it dawned on me that it was almost the tenth anniversary of my Grandpa’s death. I literally picked up where he left off, which means I cared for Grandma in some capacity for 10 years. That’s 20 percent of my life. I try to remember that when I feel guilty for the times I was short with her or even outright mean. One of my friends commented on social media that I’d been a loving granddaughter. I admitted that wasn’t always true, but I can say Grandma had everything she needed and wanted during the twilight of her life. Just before she died I bent down one day and kissed her head and told her I loved her. “You’re a nice lady,” she said. Wherever she is now, I hope she knows I did my best.