Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: video teaser and time with my grandma

Do not ask me how nearly two months have passed since I returned from my summer vacation without me writing a word about it. Initially, the excuse was I wanted to parse through my photos, select the best and do my version of editing (my skills are very, very limited but I can get rid of red-eye and blemishes). I also wanted to create a beautiful slideshow with music and take the time to really capture the feeling of my trip in words. I, however, have extreme technical limitations. While the slideshow plays beautifully on my wondrous MacBook, I haven't a clue how to get it out of there and onto my blog. Okay, not entirely true, I managed to turn one portion into a YouTube video but the photo quality ran down hill fast which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole editing process. See for yourself here (understanding the real photos will follow in a later post):

If that is all the vacation report you are seeking, you can stop right there, click to something else and ignore all posts until you see another "divorce" tag pop up (I am suddenly very aware of my audience these days, thanks again for all your encouraging words!). But if you are interested in what a two week vacation is like with a river adventure in the wilderness of Idaho, visits with grandparents, road trips through Idaho and Utah and catching up with friends . . . read on. I need to write about it before I forget how amazing it all was.

I flew to Idaho Falls the evening of Saturday, August 9th. My river trip starting point was in Stanley, a couple of hours away but I flew to Idaho Falls so I could see my 88-year old grandmother. I couldn't remember the last time I had been to visit her in Idaho (although I have seen her both while she stayed at my parent's home recovering from a broken collar bone and while she stayed with my aunt for nearly a year recovering from a broken pelvic bone within the last few years so I am not a completely neglectful granddaughter). My grandma has some pretty severe dimensia and is in the early stages of Althzheimer's (a very difficult word to spell!). She also has cancer, has broken her collar bone, pelvic bone and hip bone in the last few years (although luckily not all at once) and is ridiculously stubborn, often cranky and prone to a lot of confusion. She refuses to go to any sort of assisted living facilities and must have home health people (I don't know their official title.....) with her 24 hours a day. And even with that, she manages to get herself into mischief. Did I mention she is stubborn? We seem to have a lot in common.

On my dad's advice, I didn't tell her I was coming until a few days before. Actually, I don't think I told her at all. My dad called her a few days before and the story goes that she wrote it down and her in-home health person didn't believe her and had to call my dad to confirm I was coming so she wouldn't have to spend the night while I was there. I called my grandma on my ride to the airport to remind her I would be arriving that evening. We don't talk on the phone often and my dad reports sporadic success in communicating on the phone with her so I was prepared for whatever. But she seemed fully alert and even chatty (not always the case even pre-dimentia). I reminded her what time my flight would arrive but assured her I would just take a cab to her house. At this point she got a little silly and started telling me that maybe someone would be there to greet me. I found this strange and unsettling. She often insists that she is going to drive her car and a few years ago she was outraged to discover that not only did she no longer have keys to her massive, low-mileage pristine Buik but that my aunt had put a club on the steering wheel. She threatens her children with getting the car fixed and driving around all the time. I don't know if she just doesn't appreciate her limited capabilities or just wants to rebel against them. So I had a little chat with her about how she can't drive and she argued with me by saying "sure I can, I don't see why not." Ultimately, I told her not to wait up since I wouldn't arrive until after 11 pm.

I flew through Salt Lake which was strange. I had less than an hour to change flights and it felt so odd not to have even a brief rendezvous with a friend or family member in my hometown. By this time I was exhausted and worn out not only from the travel but from all the errand running and packing of the morning and early afternoon before my flight making final trip preparations. Luckily my tiny little plane took off and landed in Idaho Falls without incident other than a woman sitting in front of me with the irritating habit of flinging her stringy, overly processed bleached hair over her seat back to dangle limply over my lap. Ew. She was unnaturally tan with acrylic nails and a too little clothing for the chilly flight and chattered incecessantly with her teenage daughter seated next to her (who thankfully kept her hair to herself).

I beelined off the plane as quickly as possible to find a bathroom and locate a cab before collecting my luggage (I assumed correctly they wouldn't be lined up at the curb like they are at JFK). With task #1 out of the way I made my way to the luggage carousel checking out the ground transportation signs in the deserted airport. As I was contemplating whether renting a car would be easier than getting a cab (and allow me to take my grandma to brunch the next morning), I became annoyed by someone following me a bit too closely for the not at all crowded baggage claim area. I turned to give my space encroacher a good NYC "back the hell off" look only to be startled by a strangely familiar voice saying "where's your fishing rod?" By the time I had turned around completely I discovered a familiar face smiling back at me - my uncle! He and his wife live in Salt Lake City but unbeknownst to me they were stopping over at his mother's house on their way home from a fishing/camping vacation in Island Park (a place I had really, really wanted to visit while I was in Idaho because it is one of the most beautiful places on earth). My grandma wasn't crazy afterall - she just couldn't contain a secret!

I stayed up later than I had anticipated catching up with my grandma and getting tips from my uncle about the wilderness area I was about to venture into. You shouldn't be surprised to discover that I come from a family of story tellers. We love to tell and re-tell stories. What is fun is to listen to my father's siblings repeat their side of stories I have heard from my dad's perspective all my life. 

My uncle and aunt left Sunday morning before my parents arrived and I had some alone time with my grandma. She is like a stubborn child and doesn't like to eat. One has to coax and bribe and cajole a bit to get her to take just a couple more bites of whatever is on her plate. The irony of sitting at her kitchen table telling her to finish her food was not lost on me. I have a very vivid childhood memory of sitting in the corner of that kitchen in the old black swivel kitchen chairs they had way back then sulking. I believe I was there on my own and that I was quite young because my grandmother and I were in a stand-off. I refused to eat my peas and she refused to allow me to leave the table with peas on my plate. I have no idea how that battle of wills ended but in the adult role reversal version I won, after a hard fight. Like many elderly people my grandmother has a whole slew of pills that must be taken with each meal. At lunch, she only had a couple of pills. I followed my aunt's lead and removed them from the pill box and put them in a cup next to my grandma's lunch I had prepared. I chattered away with her and let her have a Diet Coke with lunch and prompted her to take her pills. She ignored me and slowly picked at her food and wandered into different times as she spoke and asked me questions. I finished my lunch, washed up and went to the bathroom. There was my mistake. She always waits to do things she is not supposed to do when someone goes to the bathroom.

When I returned she was at the sink rinsing out her cup. I asked what she was doing and she told me the cup was dirty. I asked her if she had taken the one pill that was remaining in the cup. She acted confused - emphasis on acted. Then she told me she didn't know what it was so she threw it away. UGH! All I had to do was give her two pills with lunch and I had failed. I looked in the garbage and couldn't find it. It was a distinguished looking pill (big and green I think) so I pulled out the massive pill box and stole the big green pill in the Monday lunch compartment and made my grandma take it. 

I enjoyed spending one on one time with my grandma in her backyard as she pointed out all the things people had done wrong to her garden and told me how she was going to get the ladder out and trim the bushes. She told me so and so had used the wrong color string to tie back the flowers on the driveway and that of course she could take care of all of that on her own. I enjoyed sitting in her living room with her showing her pictures of her great-granddaughter - my niece - on the computer my dad has hooked up to her tv. 

This is unique and noteworthy because I haven't always had a good relationship with my grandma. It has been up and down and never quite the relationship I wanted it to be for a variety of reasons. But now, I am finally starting to appreciate what we share for what it is.

5 comments:

meg said...

Ok, I LOVED that video!

And the aviator sunglasses! HAWT.

autumn said...

Absolutely gorgeous. It looks like so much fun. I'm glad you decided to vacation to the West. It reminds me off all the beautiful land that I often take for granted.

Misty Fowler said...

I look forward to being stubborn like that when I'm "elderly". Hehe

katie said...

I can tell from her picture that she's one fiesty lady.

Tom and Sarah Baker said...

Still seems a little weird leaving a comment on someones blog that I don't know.... but I wanted to let you know I enjoyed this post. It brought back some memories for me of my mum who had alzheimers and dementia that made me smile.

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