As with most things these days, it started with a text message.
"mom was having trouble breathing and had a fever so she is in the hospital."
The message came from my aunt, and "mom" was my grandma.
After taking a nasty fall a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, my beloved grandma has been plagued with problems. Her legs are swollen, breathing is labored and a wicked cough has kept her up during the night. The once spry woman was moving slowly around her house, sleeping in a chair and only going out for doctor's appointments. But she promised to bounce back. She said it might take some time but she would.
Now, I am not so sure she can keep that promise. It's been six days since that text message, and she is still in the hospital and I have heard on mention of when she'll be released. Doctors have told us that the right side of her heart is not functioning and is merely a garage in her body; the heart troubles are causing hypertension in the lungs and the difficulty breathing; her tremors are Parkinson's; and she has second-hand emphysema. The woman who so valued her independence might not ever live alone again.
It was heart breaking to hear those things over the phone from my aunt but nothing shattered my heart like listening to my grandma's voice but not hearing her. The steroids have made her confused, temporarily, my aunt said, but I fear they have taken her away. And, to be honest, I'm not ready for it. My grandma has been a rock throughout my life, and we developed a unique and close relationship when I moved in with her at age 15. I call her every day and count down the days when I can see her. She is an amazing woman with more faith than I will ever know.
It's all I can do not to break down in tears at work, to not hide under the covers, to not run to the drive-thru and order an extra large shake with a side of hot fudge sundae. To turn to the coping mechanisms I relied on for so long. It's only the knowledge that those things will not change the situation, they will not make things better, that keeps me sane. Or as sane as I can be.
Running helps, too. I put one foot in front of the other and move. This morning I went out for a slow 4 miles. The first dusting of snow came over night and the white and red lights that adorn the festive houses in nearby neighborhoods set the frost aglow in a spectacular winter picture. The air was cool and moist as I breathed in and out, in and out. For 39 minutes I thought of nothing but the sound of my feet on the wet pavement, relaxing my pace and why my bred for running dog who seemed excited to leave for a run was dragging at a barely sub-10 pace.
Note: For all of you animal activists, Denali merely needed to warm up and happily trotted along after reaching the first mile marker.
I came home refreshed and let my heart rate come down as I brewed a cup of Donut Shop coffee in the Keurig. I drew a bath, thankful that Mark was kind enough to save some hot water. I dipped my toes in cautiously before sinking into the tub. I read a few blogs on my Kindle Fire and sipped my coffee. (Yes, I do this in the tub.) When I went to dip my head below the surface, though, my thoughts began to resurface. I violently sat up out of the water, desperate not to drown in the sorrow ... in the fear. I took a deep breath, anxious to find that emptiness, free-ness that I had on the run.
The next few days, weeks, months ... years, if I'm lucky ... will be trying. I am going to have to find my own ways to come out the other side of this strong and healthy. To search for such ways is an almost futile task. Most advise to not keep bad foods around and to avoid triggers as if the stress in "stress eating" is because your boss isn't nice to you and you want to run to the vending machine for a cupcake - not, my grandma might be dying and sugar makes me feel good.