As often happens with the elderly, Grandma fell and broke her hip August 31st, 2007. She lived several states away and had always lived independently until this time. At 87 years of age, she found herself in a convalescent center doing her best to relearn to walk. The doctors were not optimistic about her chances. I believe they said mortality rates within her age group were close to 40% in the first year following surgery and upwards of 65% in the second, provided she could learn to walk again. If not, well, you get the picture.

At the age of 37 and 40, my sister and I suddenly found ourselves as primary caregivers of our paternal Grandmother, our parents having been taken from us at the much too early ages of 27 and 52; we are her only living relatives.

Grandma was always our biggest fan and greatest supporter, second only to our Mother. She cared for us all summer, most every summer of our childhood. Our father was her only child and she treated us a prized living extensions of him and taught us the meaning of family. She went without things for herself most of the year to scrimp and save for our yearly plane tickets to see her (and Grandpa until 1976) and gave us things we could never dream of having at home. Swimming lessons, new bikes, camping trips, new wardrobes, carnivals, candy, toys and most of all security.

Grandma was and still is adamant about not wanting to be a burden to us ‘girls’. She still calls us ‘you girls’, words sweet to the ear and heartfelt. We listened to her original request to live in an assisted living facility thinking that we were respecting her wishes and her need for independence. This was a complete and total disaster. Realizing after only a month that no one will ever care for a loved one in the way that family will, we pulled her from the facility.

She’s been a trooper really, bouncing from my house to my sister’s. Furniture and schedules rearranged, lives changed, accommodations made are only a small portion of what it takes to fully care for an elderly person. It’s tempting to feel put upon or inconvenienced, then necessary to remember that the last time, without any warning or through any fault of her own, our intensely independent Grandma last saw her home on the day that she fell and lay for 12 hours until being discovered by the neighbors. She took her first plane ride at the age of 87 and came to live outside a home that she had lived in for 47 years.

This blog is for my sister. She is the caregiver extraordinaire. A mother herself, single one at that, she juggles Grandma’s needs right along with the children’s. She gives of herself every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and without her expert care and management of physical therapy, medicines and diet, Grandma would not be with us today. But it goes well beyond meeting her physical needs. She pushes Grandma to be a part of the family, come to dinner at the table, engage in conversation, takes her to have her hair and nails done, outings and shopping for new clothes. She knows that Grandma’s emotional state is a big part of what keeps her going. I often wonder what keeps my sister going. I started this blog as an outlet to share what my sister experiences with Grandma on a daily basis and as a journal that we can someday pass on to my niece and nephew…head’s up guys. It’s the circle of life. Your Mom and I look forward to playing You know, That Guy with you both someday.


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