The day I was born was a momentous event because I was my parent’s first born, the first child on my mother’s side and I was born on my grandmother’s birthday. I think that I would have been close to my mother’s mother anyway, but sharing a birthday connected us in a special bond.
My grandmother, Noni, is probably the nicest person I know. She is kind to everyone and never speaks ill of anyone. She has weathered uphill challenges with a smile on her face and a determined spirit that has never let her down.
Noni raised two daughters on her own. She has always worked and supported herself. She will be 85 in a few weeks and as of June she was still employed at a local elementary school as a lunch room helper. Since it was only a couple of hours a day during the school year it was the perfect job for her. She loves the children and enjoys being social and active.
For as long as I can remember Noni has led a very social and active lifestyle. It used to be Bingo on Friday and Saturday nights, bowling on Wednesdays, and cards on Thursdays. Now she hangs out with the girls at her complex and plays cards for hours, chatting and laughing the day away. At least once a month she hosted her four grandchildren to a sleep over complete with tortellini and ravioli making and the normally forbidden Saturday night TV line up Dance Fever, Solid Gold and Love Boat. The best part was waking up in the morning to Noni making her “famous” fried dough. I can almost smell it as I write this. We would shake on powdered sugar and get our hands all messy as we enjoyed each sugary bite.
I could count on Noni to provide the most reasonable advice and to be the most forgiving when I unfairly unleashed a bad mood in her direction. When I married my husband overseas much to the discontent of my family, my grandmother welcomed him with a bear hug and the two have been BFF’s ever since. I credit her with easing his transition into the family. Now I think they would much more easily give me up if they had to choose!!
Noni is a contradiction of generations in many ways. She was divorced at a time when it was more acceptable to simply turn a blind eye to your husband’s discretions. She worked full time as a hair dresser and later at the hospital to support her daughters when most of her friends stayed home. She has smoked like a chimney since she was in her early 20s. Noni is less concerned with her wardrobe than she is with how she can help someone in need. She gives faithfully to her church and has always been a devoted member. Her faith in God is unshakeable.
Noni has always been content with her life. She resists change and strives to keep things exactly the same. She wants for nothing and requires very little to make her happy. We try to impose little luxuries on her like new clothing, a manicure or perfume but she doesn’t enjoy those things. So each birthday or gift giving holiday we shower her with her favorite gift – a grocery store gift card! She absolutely loves them.
Though we were born on the same day Noni and I have surprisingly little in common. I seem to seek out change at every turn. However, the one thing that I would prefer to remain static is Noni. The normal aging process has become apparent in Noni in recent years. Her mind is not quite as sharp as it was. She has grown increasingly more forgetful and stubborn. Her once round, soft, curvy figure has grown small and fragile. Each time I see her I wonder sadly how much longer we have together. Her father lived to be 92, but I want her to be around forever.
Noni has never been a complainer. In fact she is quite the opposite. I have never known her to be sick for more than a day or two. Of course if she isn’t feeling well she generally hides it from us as long as she can, even me, the nurse in the family.
Turns out Noni has been withholding some significant symptoms for probably months now. Then the pain got bad enough to keep her in bed and she could no longer hide it. I have suspected some abdominal issues but every time I asked her about it she dismissed my concerns and even got angry with me on occasion. I brought her to her primary care doctor on Thursday afternoon. After assessing my grandmother’s abdomen, the doctor recommended taking her directly to the emergency room. I was actually thrilled about this because I knew that she needed to be treated that day. My mother met us in the parking lot and stayed with Noni in the ER while I picked up Carlos. I returned to the ER to relieve my mother around 6 pm and Noni was awaiting an abdominal CT scan. She looked tired, weak and a little nervous.
When I left the ER at 8:30 to go home to get ready for work Noni still hadn’t gone for the CT scan. Frustrating! On my way to work my mother called to tell me that there was a hole in her intestine (perforated bowel) and the surgeon wanted to operate immediately. As a former post-op nurse I knew that she needed to have the surgery, as the patient’s granddaughter I knew that she would refuse. And she did refuse, initially. My mother and my aunt talked to her and the surgeon explained the situation again. She consented willingly despite the knowledge that she may end up with a permanent colostomy.
Thursday night was a long night. The surgery lasted more than three hours. Unfortunately due to the extent of the damage in her colon Noni did require a colostomy. My mother kept me informed all night and once she was resting quietly in her hospital room my mother and my aunt finally went home.
I am happy to report that Noni is doing well so far. There have been no complications. The doctor is pleased with her progress so far. He admitted that she is doing much better than expected considering her age and the severity of the situation. Between my Mom, my aunt, my sister and my cousin, Jenna, who just happened to be visiting from Florida this weekend, my grandmother had plenty of company all day long.
Noni has a long road ahead, but she will not go it alone. For now we will take it one day at a time.
Needless to say marathon training got slightly off track. I will be back tomorrow with a recap of my week in training.