June 18, 2012

From Granddaughter to Guardian




I knew the day would come, so it’s not as surprising as it may seem. Bubbe is almost 92. She’s outlived her two children and her husband. Of her seven siblings, only her younger brother is alive.

Seventeen years ago I promised my Grandpa I would take care of my Grandma, allowing him to die in peace. It was a promise I meant. And I’ve kept my word despite having to adjust my life to be there for my Grandma.

In the past 6 months, though, Bubbe has fallen 3  times. Fortunately, she has not broken anything and each time recovers fully. Once she was in the hospital and rehab for 40-some days. The second time it was only a few days in the hospital. But this last time, she was in the hospital a week and her doctors finally said no more. She can’t live on her own, independently, any longer. But I must see to it that she continue to live with dignity. Elder care is not for the faint of heart.

I now have 20 days to find a place for Bubbe to live. 2 states away from her home so she can be near me. To pack her up with some semblance of normalcy to live out her last days, weeks, months, years. Whatever it is she has. I am no longer just her granddaughter. As much as I have loved being her granddaughter and at times adding on the role of caregiver, I know that in just a few days I will sign her out of her Skilled Nursing Facility, take her to her home for a few days and then drive her away from the place she’s called home for the last 44 years. Never to return again.

While she’s doing this willingly, knowing that being closer to me will mean more opportunities to see her great-granddaughter. And for Bubbe, life now is all about finding moments of joy amid all daily challenges. But for me it’s not as easy. I must find peace in knowing that I am bringing her closer to me so she can die. That she will be leaving her home and will no longer have a house full of memories to sustain her when she’s up at 2am because she can’t sleep, when there’s nothing on TV, or when she eats at the same table she sat at with her friends and family. The phone will be different, the bathroom, the bed. It won’t be the same. It’s not a vacation. There will be no returning.

No matter how much I visit, her new place will never be home. It will be her new place. The neighbors won’t be the same. The young man who delivers her newspaper won’t put it in the special box for her. The mail carrier won’t ring her bell to give her the mail, knowing she has a hard time getting around if there is too much mail to carry. Tami won’t do her hair anymore. She won’t see Dr. Sanchez or the nurses in Adult Care. Everything she’s known for the past 40 years will be gone.

For sure I will bring things to help her feel at home. Her favorite chair, a few knick-knacks, photos. It won’t be the same. I don’t think it’s supposed to be the same. But it has to hurt her heart, knowing what this all really means. It hurts mine.

For me, it’s not only bringing her to be near me. There’s so much that goes in to this. Little things like forwarding her mail and dealing with her utilities. And huge things like finding her an assisted living home that will be near me, have decent food, make her feel comfortable, and generally not suck. Then there’s the issue of doctors and what to do with her car. And all the stuff for the military. It’s all so much. And at the same time, nothing.

It’s not easy being the granddaughter-caretaker. It’s not a normal dynamic. But it is my life. I care for my Grandmother with joy and honor. I feel honored to be able to do this for her. It’s a small way to give thanks for all she has done for me.

The reality hits very hard sometimes, though. I’m overwhelmed by what I need to do. But I soldier on, knowing I dont’ have much time. And neither does she. It’s the best I can do to make sure she is OK with all of this. Because we all know what it means.

And that, I can not change. One day I will say good-bye. And it really will be for the last time. Until then, I have a promise to keep. And, for sure, I will do that.



Alexandra June 19, 2012 at 1:09 am

Sara, this must all be so overwhelming, and yet, I am so happy that you will be making new memories together, and more often, now that you will be close by. Wishing you and your family all the best.

Sara June 19, 2012 at 6:33 am

Thank you, Alex. I appreciate your kindness and support and believe it will turn out to be the best for my grandma.

Wendy June 19, 2012 at 2:50 am

What a beautiful and sad post, Sara. She’s lucky to have you so deeply in her life.

Sara June 19, 2012 at 6:34 am

Wendy, yes both beautiful and sad. I try to remember that this can’t be very easy for Bubbe either.
~ Sara

Christine June 19, 2012 at 3:17 am

Beautifully written Sara – a lot of us think about when our time will come to take on the same responsibilities. My thoughts are with you.

Sara June 19, 2012 at 6:36 am

Thank you, Christine. I appreciate your support and hope that I’ll learn more about navigating this part of the lifecycle to help others down the road.

~ Sara

kim/reluctantrenovator June 19, 2012 at 3:59 am

I know this is no easy task and it’s especially hard doing this on your own, but you are doing the right thing. As hard as it will be for her to leave and settle in at a skilled care facility, I’ve heard reassuring stories from friends recently. Not only will she get to see Baby Girl more often, but despite all the change, she will hopefully have a sense of relief knowing that she is safe and will has help when she needs it.

Keep us posted and remember to try to make sure you get a bit of “me time” in, so you can be a good caregiver the the increasing number of people who depend on you.

Sara June 19, 2012 at 6:38 am

Kim, thank you for your encouragement and support as well as the reminder to take care of myself as well. I hope all these good and positive experiences are waiting for me (and Bubbe) as well.

Kindly, Sara

Jessica @FoundtheMarbles June 19, 2012 at 4:09 am

What a beautiful post. I’m sorry you are dealing with such overwhelm right now, but little by little the pieces will fit togther. When my grandfather died and my grandmother moved from her home of 40 years we all anticipated that it would be a hard fought transitional period, but in fact it turned out to be invigorating. She moved to a place where she still has a lot of independence with activities and tons of new friends. I truly believe that it has extended her life, and I hope your grandmother has a similar experience.

Sara June 19, 2012 at 9:22 am

Jessica, thank you for your reassuring words. It’s nice to hear that this transition can be one that is embraced and provide a new life experience rather than just being a beginning to the end. ~ Sara

Ann June 19, 2012 at 4:23 am

Sara it is nice that your Grandmother moving closer to you and having a relationship with her great-granddaughter, and that she is mobile enough for assisted living.

My 94 year old grandfather knows he is one fall away from having to give up his home (where he has lived since 1944), and he doesn’t want to contemplate the idea either. I can definitely empathize with what you are going through, but can offer little advice, just hugs.

Sara June 19, 2012 at 9:39 am

Ann, thank you for the hugs, I can always use them. I feel fortunate that my Grandma still has her brother because he has helped me so much. There are lots of things a granddaughter isn’t supposed to say or do but that a brother can. It was only in the last few days that my grandmother said maybe she should have moved a year or so ago. I’m sure the mental and emotional stress she is experiencing is high, so I try to be respectful of how she feels even though she tries to remain strong in front of me.

Thank you, so much, Ann.

~ Sara

Camille Willock June 19, 2012 at 5:34 am

Well written! This is the reality you face going forward and you seem to be as prepared as you will ever be to confront it. For me this time has come and gone for 1 parent and the other is facing severe health challenges but we are more prepared now than the first time around. Luckily, I have siblings to help out, not everyone has that help. As you approach your care giving with grace and gratitude, may you be strengthened by the fact that the very act of doing so is a blessing to you and a gift to your grandmother. The memories you will make will live with you and your offspring forever. Good luck and God bless.

Sara June 19, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Thank you so much for your well wishes, Camille. I appreciate that you acknowledge that it’s not easy but that grace and dignity are reachable goals.

~ Sara

Tanya Toledano June 19, 2012 at 6:48 am

Sara- Beautifully written, as always. No doubt Granddaughter as Guardian is not the usual dynamic, but as I have come to learn about you, you are a wonderful protector & caregiver to those who surround you.

While on one side it is heartbreaking that she is leaving her home of 44 years to move 2 states away to be closer to you, in another way it is heartwarming. You, and your daughter, YOU are the house full of memories. I can only imagine that at 92, knainahora, she realizes that it is because of all that you shared together, she has her granddaughter & great-granddaughter there by her side. I can give you practical ideas like a digital frame which my Mom so appreciated when she was in the ICU a few years ago (and kept her company late at night), but Sara, YOU are her house full of memories.

I don’t know your Bubbe, but one thing is for sure, she’ll want to know that you’re still taking care of yourself while you’re caring for her. I’m taking it upon myself to remind you to remember to take care of yourself, too in this process. You are an AMAZING person. I once told you that your daughter is lucky to have you. So is your Bubbe. I’ll wait to let your hubby know how lucky he is next 😉

I believe that the meaning of Sara is “Princess” How befitting. People don’t often appreciate that princesses have responsibilities & owe a duty of care to their “people”. You are the embodiment of that very beautiful princess who carries herself with grace despite all the responsibilities & burdens that can weigh heavy on her shoulders. Without knowing your Bubbe, I am sure she is beyond grateful to have her princess in her life.

Sara June 20, 2012 at 12:15 am

Tanya, I am without words to express my gratitude for your beautiful comment. Thank you for your kindness, your support and for suggesting a special gift for her to welcome her into her new home.

~ Sara

Varda (SquashedMom) June 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

Sara, you know I know so much about what you’re going through (only with me it’s my 89 y.o. Mom) and it is just as hard as you say. But also as you know, deeply rewarding. Because the are no do-overs in this. You just take care of the people you have to take care of, making sure their last days / weeks/ years are as full of as much love, grace and dignity as can be. And when they are gone, you know it is a gift to them and to yourself to have done right by them. And your children witness this and know what to do when it is their turn.

Hugs to you from someone who has been (& now again is) there.

Sara June 19, 2012 at 9:18 am

Varda, thank you for sharing from a perspective of going through this with your mom. I hope I’m doing right. I’ve tried to maintain that grandmother/granddaughter relationship and allow her to be independent. Regardless that I’m a 40-year old woman, it is often difficult for my Bubbe to see that and not still think I’m that little girl playing with dolls. It is difficult, but knowing she can rest and be safe at night allows me some peace too.

With gratitude, Sara

Hollee June 19, 2012 at 9:44 am

Such a beautiful post, Sara. Your grandmother is so lucky to have you. I wish you peace in the days ahead.

Sara June 19, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Thank you, Hollee.

~ Sara

Renae @ How to Have it All June 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Dear Sweet Sara,

I wish I could give you a gigantic hug! I can’t offer you any advice as I have not been through this myself. I do know that your grandmother will enjoy every second she can spend with you and your daughter! Take care my friend and big hugs!

Sara June 19, 2012 at 11:41 pm

Renae, hugs back to you. Thank you for being part of my support team


Melissa Chapman June 19, 2012 at 6:32 pm

You are so very special- cut from a different cloth than the rest of us- if a world beyond this one does exist I imagine you are now surrounded by guardian angels

Sara June 19, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Melissa, I hope I’m surrounded by guardian angels so they can help me navigate this new challenge. I am truly humbled that you think what I am doing is so special. I’m just a granddaughter taking care of her Bubbe the best I know how.

Thank you so much,

Aliza Worthington June 19, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Sara, your Bubbe is so lucky to have you, and you her. The peace you will find in performing this caretaking duty with such love and respect will hopefully dull the edge of the pain you feel. Sending abundant love and hugs to you.

Sara June 19, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Thank you, Aliza, for your love and support. I know my Bubbe appreciates what I am doing and I am so grateful she is able to travel to be closer to me.

Kindly, Sara

Kate @ Songs Kate Sang June 19, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Sara, she is so blessed to have you. I will be praying for strength and peace in the adjustment.

Sara June 19, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Thank you, Kate. I will gladly accept your prayers as I know I will need them.

~ Sara

Ciaran June 19, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Beautiful post Sara. I have similar thoughts about my parents, in their 80s. Conflicting, happy, sad, tangled up thoughts. I try to tell myself though, that we all start each day as a new adventure no matter what our age, no matter what has come before. We truly only have the present to spend with our loved ones and that is a loving, caring choice that you are both making.

Sara June 20, 2012 at 12:18 am

Thank you, Ciaran. It is a big mash up of conflicting emotions. I love your perspective and it is something I, too, try to live. My grandmother is a wonderful example of how the desire to live can keep you going despite the physical limitations of the body.

With gratitude,

Ruchi Koval June 20, 2012 at 6:57 am

Wow. As a special and oldest granddaughter of *my* Bubbe…I understand. Right now she is 83 and healthy, and God willing may it be so for a long time to come, but your musings really opened a window of awareness for me for the future. I’ve told my grandmother that she will move in with me when she gets old. She says she is not getting old. I said, “So move in with me just for fun!” She might, but she likes NYC better than Cleveland 🙂 Hugs to you. Your mitzvah is enormous.

Diane Brogan June 23, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Sara, You have written this post so well. It is so encompassing of every thing that has to be done. Having lived through this experience three times, I know how daunting it can me. May the angels protect you and guide you. Your Bubbe will be fine and will adapt to the new surroundings. Just remember to take time for yourself. You need to stay strong for Bubbe, Carlton, Baby Girl and Yourself. You are so awesome my friend. Hugs, love, and best wishes. May this challenging experience be peaceful and rewarding for all of you… Diane

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