Partner of a Pilot
The Candid Diary of an Airline Pilot’s Girlfriend

Last Rites

I haven’t posted for a while.  I’ve just been so busy.  My 87 year old grandma slipped and fell last week as she stepped out of the bath. Thankfully, my aunt was visiting her from Spain and was there to hear her screams of pain-otherwise she would likely have lay there in agony until my dad’s 10am call.

She was rushed into hospital, and that in itself was enough to worry me. Then a few nights later, the woman in the bed opposite her took action to take her life, my grandma was so dosed up on medication that she slipped in and out of consciousness as the drama unfolded around the bed opposite, and only woke enough to comprehend the full monstrosity of the situation when the Catholic priest arrived to read her neighbouring patient her last rites.

Grandma was so distressed that she wanted to be moved. Unfortunately however, the nursing staff were somewhat pre-occupied with the situation opposite, and grandma wasn’t their top priority.  Unfortunately, that was about to change, because grandma was so distressed and disturbed by the situation in front of her that she went into cardiac arrest.  They managed to stabilise her; and decided then that they would move her after all.

Unfortunately, the only ward with space available, was one with an e coli problem. So she promptly contracted an e coli infection too! 

I am so glad that I visited her two weeks ago. I had a sudden urge to visit her, and a feeling that it was important, and clearly I had not been wrong.  Needless to say, I decided to visit her in hospital. Unfortunately, Bf was on a long-haul trip (typical). So I had to pull the kids out of school and drive the two hours to visit her, dropping the kids into my dad to watch on the way. 

They also suspected that she may have further clots on her chest, in her lungs and heart, and wanted to perform a CT scan. I went with her, as she was terrified. They wouldn’t allow me in, but to take the edge of her nerves I told the attending nurses to be sure to tell her whether it was a boy or a girl! Grandma chuckled, and told me I was a silly girl, but she also called me by my cousin’s name, so I think my reputation is intact.

When she came out, she was quite shaken, she had not enjoyed the process, but on the plus side it seemed to have awoken more a more lucid awareness in grandma; she recognised me as me-which is always a bonus, unless you’re being a silly girl 😉

I held her hand until we got back to the ward, where upon I had to slather my hands in alcohol cleansing gel. I felt so sorry for her as she lay there unable to do anything for herself.  Only two weeks ago, she was playing host to me and the children  in her own home.  I sat there feeding her a cup of tea through a sippy cup/beaker and pureed bean casserole, wondering how on earth she must be feeling to have her granddaughter feeding her like a baby.

Rather than allow the situation to get the better of us; I decided humour was the best approach, and said “well I’m glad to see you did a proper job… Only breaking one wrist would have been a bit half-hearted really wouldn’t it? …Tell me the truth grandma, did you just do this to get me to come and wait on you for a change?” She giggled, and I know she appreciated it, especially after the way my aunt was with her.

Seriously if anyone ever speaks to me like I’m a baby with the mental age of the baby food they’re trying to force feed me; without any real cognitive ability left (like my aunt was speaking to my poor grandma) when I’m dying in hospital as a little old lady… I will spit my false teeth at them, and hope they spring to life as I will them to bite the culprit hard!  Why do some people think that you have to patronise the elderly and infirm by speaking to them in motheresse?

I know what I’m like with hospital food, and I’d heard that grandma was refusing to eat or drink (to be honest, I cant blame her either, it looked like the food had been through the patient who infected her with e coli already, and they were trying to get her to drink dyoralite-EW)! So I took in a little gourmet sherry trifle, since she can’t resist custard, and some really luxurious little lemon cupcakes. She loves lemon cake, and these had a tangy dollop of lemon curd inside butter enriched sponge, and scrummy lemon butter-icing with white chocolate shavings on top. Her eyes widened when she saw them (this apple didn’t fall far from that tree where food is concerned; so I knew she’d eat something she loved)! She washed it down with lemon squash-much more refreshing!

I told her she had to eat SOMETHING from the hospital’s slop tray, or the nurses wouldn’t let her have the good stuff, and she managed a good third of the rubbish (way more than I’d have been able to stomach) before polishing off about a third of the little pot of trifle and a third of a cup cake!

I’m glad I was able to make her laugh.  She seemed quite invigorated by my visit, and told me that she thought I was a great mummy, and how proud she is of the way I cope when Bf is away.  Before I left, she told me that she was worried, that she had suffered from a terrible nightmare the night before… So I asked her why-what was it about?  She refused, but I pressed her, as she was clearly upset by it, and concerned about sleeping again. I told her that she couldn’t possibly give me nightmares; so she told me.

She said that she’d dreamt she had gone to hell, that she was in terrible pain, because of something wicked she had done, and that it was more horrible than she had ever imagined. She was talking about how there was a constant noise from a radio blaring in the background, that tortured her with it’s incessant noise… I was really upset, because I knew that she was thinking about death, and contemplating what the afterlife is going to be like…

Poor grandma. She hasn’t had an easy life, despite what some people around her may think; and she certainly doesn’t deserve to spend her remaining days dwelling on hell! 

To paint in some back ground… My grandma was raised in a wealthy family, abroad.  Some would say she’d been blessed with a silver spoon in her mouth; but her father, a military man, walked out on his family without a backwards glance. Her mother, an uber wealthy, but not-particularly-maternal woman, raised her children resentful of their burden on her and showed little interest in them. Her subsequent step-father, although kind, was not particularly warm towards her either.  She was the lucky one though, her sister had been placed into care.

My grandmother married a seemingly well-to-do type, another army officer.  They lived the life of wealthy ex-pats, stationed abroad with house servants, and a blessed lifestyle from the outside, looking in.  However, it was eerily similar to her mother’s relationship with her father.  Grandad had a string of affairs and beat her on numerous occasions.  They had four children, the youngest of whom: identical twin boys, included my father. 

I remember when I told her about leaving my ex-husband because he had physically abused me; she told me how much she admired my courage and strength to stand up to it, and walk away.  She had put-up and shut up, despite him strangling her on one occasion until she had bruised finger prints under her skin. She had threatened to tell the police; but my grandfather had told her that she would do no such thing; that he had cancelled the house-keeper, and grandma was to stay in the house until the bruises were gone and not see anyone.  She had done as she was told.

So, back to her nightmare. I hid my upset, and stuck to rationalising her nightmare instead.  I told her:

“Grandma, we must all leave this world with some regrets in life, because nobody is perfect.  But you are not a wicked person, and you don’t deserve the pain you are in now. I’m sure that your dream was just your mind’s way of incorporating and interperating the pain you are in now; and the background noise of the hospital ward was likely responsible for the radio.  This reality right here is more hell than you deserve to see for anything, and if you are owed any penance-I think you’ve served your time right here.” 

She looked somewhat comforted by this, but I stayed a moment longer, determined to see her laugh (more for my benefit than hers) before I left. 

I can’t help thinking that it may be the last time I see her. I doubt that many 87 year olds recover from such a catalogue of events as she has suffered in the past week very often. 

It’s given me pause for thought. I do not want to end up a little old lady, spending my dying days regretting the things I did and didn’t do, and wondering what I will face in the after life.  I have been a little quiet and very reflective, even Bf noticed it when he came home.  I have felt withdrawn, and I know it’s going to hit me hard when she does pass.  I just hope she finds some peace with herself before that time comes.


5 Responses to “Last Rites”

  1. I am sorry that your grandma has had such a horrible time there is nothing worse than watching the ones you love in pain. It is good that you visited recently – my intuition told me to do the same before my grandma passed away and I was SO glad I did. I think it is terrible the way that elderley people are treated on the whole especially in this country, they seem to have more respect in some other countries. It is heartbreaking when you remember these people as a child taking care of you and the tables are turned but I would say that your grandma is lucky to have such a caring granddaughter and I think the way you tried to make her laugh and sneak in some cakes is just what I would want in her shoes and I have no doubt that this would have cheered her up! It must be hard for you and you did a good job being strong. Your grandma sounds like a character and I’m sure you and your children will have some lovely memories with her.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear all of this. I really hope she stays strong and toughs it out so you can make many more memories with her before it is her time. You should like a wonderful granddaughter.

  3. Hi,

    I have just been googling trying to find stuff about being a pilots wife. I am currently engaged to a first officer, hes currently off training at the moment, so Ive not experienced much of his life of work, but he keeps telling me to find out information on ‘how to be a pilots wife’.. is there such thing?/?

    Funny thing is, when I was told about him at first, and heard that he is a pilot, i was rather put off thinking he is probably going to be an egotistic arrogant man, i found quite the opposite !

    One thing I do know, is we have to avoid arguments, and reduce headache as much as we can and avoid it the best we can, like they say ‘leave your problems on the ground’ it demands quite alot of compromise and tolerance!

    Anyhow, just wanted any advice or general chat with regards to all this…

    Nice blog!!


  4. Ahhh, thank you Elsja and Debs. She’s still hanging in there at the moment.

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