This week I again went to visit my grandmother during my lunch hour, although it wasn’t to gather more research for my Historias page. This time I went to visit my grandmother for something more serious, but necessary. My grandmother is 97 years-old. She is feisty, and independent, and grows more stubborn each passing year. She insists on living on her own, in the same house she has lived in for over 50 years. She continuously rejects any offers from her children to go and live with them. She would rather live in her own house, on her own terms, rejecting her children’s offers to clean her house, weed the yard and do any needed repairs. Plumbers, handyman, electricians have all had the front door slammed in their face as my grandmother turns them away when they are summoned by my parents to go to the house for necessary maintenance. In her mind, my grandmother, the one who sewed clothes, cooked meals, tended to a garden and upholstered her furniture– in her own mind she is still capable of doing all of these things, on her own. In truth, and in fact, she is not.
This week, when I arrived at my grandmother’s I was greeted with the same cry I usually receive, “Que Milagro!” Never mind that I have been a regular weekly visitor lately. It’s still a miracle when I go to see her. Then she always asks for the children. “How are my Diego, and Nico? What about that Erica?” I don’t bring them often enough, even though I know she would love to see them. She can’t stop beaming when they are around. Luckily, my kids love her too. Diego will throw his arms around her neck, bringing me great distress that he might break her. Nico approaches her shyly at first but then hugs her warmly. Erica, my step-daughter, is not blood related to my grandmother. Still, Erica is content to sit with my grandmother and hold her hand. Erica, who deeply misses her own grandmother since she died two years ago, once told me, “Diana, I love your Grandmother. She smells like my Grandma Lupe.” But this time, my kids were not there. No. It was only me, and my mom, and my uncle. We were there to make sure my grandmother signed the Medical Durable Power of Attorney.
When my grandmother was 92 she broke her hip. My mother and grandmother were leaving a neighbor’s party when my grandmother lost her footing and fell to the ground. She refused to go to the hospital, until the next morning when she woke up and could not move without feeling excruciating pain. My mother had stayed the night with her. It was obvious that my grandmother needed help. Still, she would not be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. So my dad arrived and carried her to the car. They drove her to the doctor where she was told she had broken her hip. She needed surgery and recovery in a convalescent home. We all thought that would be the beginning of the end for her. But, she amazed everyone and made a full recovery and was sent home a couple of weeks after surgery. That was five years ago. Since then, my mother has constantly worried about what would happen to my grandmother when she needed medical care again. My mother can’t even talk to my grandmother’s doctors unless my grandmother is present or gives her consent. My grandmother has resisted all efforts to get her sign a durable medical power of attorney. We needed to do this, and the longer it was left undone, the more it caused my mother distress.
I was there to lend support, and because I know a little bit about law, I was there to explain to her why it was necessary. My grandmother did not like it at all. She was really mad. She told us that if she signed the document she would be sure to get sick. She asked why we always bothered her about this, and accused us of never visiting her unless it was to ask her to sign the document. It was terrible. It was painful for my mom, to be accused of not caring. My mother, who visits her own mother twice a week, and calls her twice a day to remind her to take her medication. The notary, who we had arranged to be present for the signing, offered an encouraging word to my grandmother saying, “It’s for your own good.” My grandmother, snapped, “How do you know what’s good for me?” My grandmother’s beautiful hazel eyes dampened with tears, as she tried to keep herself from crying, resisting the idea that she would lose control of her own medical decisions and put them into the hands of someone else.
I also fought hard to keep from crying. When I read to her the section of the document which asked if she would want extreme measures to be provided for her care, I became emotional, thinking of a day sometime in the future when my grandmother may be in need of life-saving care, but it would not be administered. When I explained what “extreme measures” meant, and how I would not want my children to see me in such condition if and when that day came, I could barely keep from crying tears for myself, and my own future adult children.
Finally, finally, we convinced her. She signed. The tension and emotion lifted in the room. The notary finished with her business and left. I started to leave and told my grandmother I would see her again soon and come for another visit next week. I told her that we would never have to discuss the document again. Next time I go to visit my grandmother it will be to talk about her childhood, her young married years, and the years raising her family and playing with her grandchildren. Soon, I will bring my kids to see her again. Diego will hug her until she nearly breaks and Erica will hold her hand, taking in her Grandmother scent.