For The Love Of Gracie

“Gracie has the mind of a child. People tell me I may as well find another companion. But you can’t just throw away thirty-six years like it never happened. How do you move on? How do you leave her in that bed to waste away and die?

You know they would call me from the hospital not long after it happened to tell me she was having a good day and I should visit. She wasn’t flailing about or screaming or crying. I’d jump into the car and haul freight to town, hoping, you know that she’d be herself when I got there.  When I did walk in the door, she’d be lying there all quiet, staring at the ceiling. No, she wasn’t screaming, but she wasn’t my Gracie either.

So the doctor talked to me before we left the hospital. I was going to take her home, had every intention of doing that, wanted to in the worst way. The children are close by, heck the grandchildren are with me more than they’re at their own homes.  I figured we’d have enough caregivers around to take shifts. I still work you know, have to pay the bills. I’ve always cooked, am really good at it. I can fry up some chicken that would make you dig up your grandma and slap her.  Gracie never liked to cook much. She counted on me.

Anyway, people are right there with you when something awful happens like this. They come and sit with you, hold your hand, bring all kinds of food, and pray over you. Little by little they leave though. It’s not that they mean to abandon you or anything, they’ve just got their own lives to live. They have to pay bills too, and raise children, and care for their own. Gracie would have understood. She always gave people the benefit of the doubt, saw the best in other folks, hugged them and said she would be just fine.  I’m not strong like her, like she used to be. All those kind people left.  So, I had to bring her to the nursing home.

The mind of a child. That’s what the doctors said. They told me she could have those seizures again and the aneurism is in a place where they can’t operate without fear of killing her. It’s scary. Like if she moved funny it might explode, like a bomb. And, you have to be trained to work that tube feeding. There’s a pump and the tube has to be cleaned regularly.  I feel more comfortable with someone who knows what they’re doing, you know? Like a nurse. They went to school to learn to do that.  Those kinds of contraptions scare me, like I might do something wrong and hurt her. I’d never want to hurt her.

I signed one of those papers that says if Gracie stops breathing the doctors won’t hook her up to a respirator. I had a hard time signing my name to that. It felt like a death warrant, you know? Like who am I to make that kind of decision. I’m not God. Suppose she was to get better? Suppose a miracle happened? I couldn’t live with myself knowing I hadn’t done everything I could to save her.

She always liked country music and Jazz. Music soothed her, even before all this. If she was having a rough day, if one of the grandkids had made her want to pull her hair out, she kept them you know, and there’s five of them under the age of seven. Whew, that’s a lot of work, all of ‘em pulling and tugging on you at once, wanting this and that. She’d gather that passel of kids in the kitchen, give ‘em all cookies and milk at the table, fall into her chair exhausted, tilt her head back, close her eyes and give it up to a song or two. She’d listen to that music until she was calm again, then Gracie would get up, gather the cups and crumbs,  and answer the five hundredth question one of those little ones asked her. Music gave her strength, I think. You know,  I could bring her boom box and some tapes. She can’t turn it on though. You could do that for her, couldn’t you?

No, she’s allergic to cats and dogs. The fur makes her itch. Might want to keep those away from her. We had a bird once, a parakeet. Don’t imagine you have any birds there do you? Gracie might like that. She taught ours to talk. Well, she said he talked. I never heard real words, but she swore he talked to her. Maybe it was just something the two of them shared. I don’t know. He was a sweet little bird though. We had him for years, ten I think, then we moved back here from Myrtle Beach. Two days later he died. Don’t know whether it was his age or the move. Gracie cried and cried. You’d have thought one of her children had died. People said she should get another bird, but she didn’t want one, said she couldn’t bear the loss if she got close to it and it died. I know what she means, you know?

Have I answered all your questions?

If Gracie needs anything at all, you just call me. I’ll be right there. Do you think you could do me a small favor? Would you peek in on her before you leave this evening and tell her I love her? It would mean the world to me.”

Click on M Dawn Thacker to read more of her stories and articles.

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