Thursday, November 15, 2012


In post I mentioned that my mother found great significance in the fact that Grandma L died at about the same time that Dad had a heart attack.  For years she would confide to my sisters and me that "She was trying to take him with her.  She just couldn't let go."

And for years we didn't really know what to say about it beyond, "I don't think it works that way."  if we were feeling particularly pushy.  Usually we'd do the nod and smile and change the subject thing.

Considering that Grandma seldom talked about Dad, but Dad talked constantly about her, I'd say that it was a kindness not to suggest that perhaps she had it backwards.  About who wasn't letting go, not about who was trying to take whom into the beyond.

It would have been rude.  I mean, Dad had survived the heart attack and was following his diet and exercise program religiously, and, by the way, still complaining about Grandma L from time to time.
I finally figured out what to say to cut down on how often she would say it.  I may have convinced her that her version was less likely, but there's no way to tell.  What I told her was that, no, that didn't really sound like her.  What was more likely was that she had refused to be one-upped.  If there was a mystical bond between them and she had somehow sensed that he was having a heart attack, her reaction would have been 'Oh, hell no.  I'M the sick one!"

Mom couldn't argue about that.  For the last few years Grandma L had been rocking her feeble and failing old lady who needs to be fussed over act.  She had, as they say in geriatric medical circles, lost homeostasis.  It happens to people as they get old.  Some stop feeling thirsty when they need to drink and have to keep to a schedule telling them when to drink their next glass of water.

Grandma had lost the feeling of hunger.  She used it to play for sympathy over "not being able to eat."  It wasn't that she couldn't eat, it was that she didn't feel particularly hungry.  So she would go to the regular restaurant that she and T usually went to, where the waitresses all knew them as regulars, and she'd make a big deal over only ordering toast and not being able to eat more than half of it.  And then she'd brag about the way that the waitresses twittered over her and how sweet they were and how much she appreciated it.

Which was a hint that she'd appreciate you fussing over her and telling her how worried you were about her.  My sisters and I had learned young not to rise such obvious bait.  When she tried it on S-2, she told her about the homeostasis thing, and how it wasn't at all dangerous, and how if she didn't want to track what she was eating she could buy this stuff called Ensure.

So when I told Mom that she just didn't want to lose her place as the sick one, it too obviously played to something that Mom had seen and occasionally huffed about for years.  And she didn't have to let go of the mystic connection idea, which was too big a part of her worldview.  I don't think I heard Mom say that Grandma was trying to kill Dad again after I'd proposed it as an alternative three or four times.

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