I swear, every time I start a project, life gets in the way. In this case it’s a good thing.
HI THERE, INTERNET. IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME! I MISSED YOU! At first, it was just that I needed a little time to process the somewhat profound effect my time spent with my grandmother had on me. My grandma Jean, with whom I’d never really been close with before, told me stories about her life. She shared the things she thought were important, the things she wants to be remembered. When my mom visited without me, Grandma asked where I was. It was the first time in my life that I can remember us really enjoying spending much time with one another, and that was important to me.
Also heavy on my heart was the experience of watching my mom and grandmother together, of watching the whole family interact with the nursing home, of chatting with other residents and watching them interact with Radar, my service dog. The last portion of one’s life is an era foreign to many of us until we get there, and it is such a different world. Some of the residents were forgotten, never visited. Some of them were visited every day, by children, by grandchildren, by friends.
My grandma is one of the lucky ones. She has enough money to cover what she needs. She has three daughters who care about what happens to her and involve themselves in her care. She is visited usually every single day, frequently a few times a day by various people. Family and friends come to visit her, to catch up and to gossip with her about what’s going on in the community. She has a bulletin board on her wall kept full with a rotating selection of cards, letters, and photographs sent by friends far away. Her brother Hugh, at 93 a year older than she is, walks from his assisted living home to hers a few times a week to come sit with her. Sometimes they are grouchy at each other and just sit in silence, or argue. Sometimes they talk. Sometimes they remember. But they spend time with one another.
Even with all of this support, it’s a struggle. There are misunderstandings with staff and doctors. There are days when my aunt calls my mom, at her wit’s end after another rough visit with Grandma. There are times when my feisty, opinionated, strong willed grandmother feels so down she’s sure the end is near, a transformation of personality that scares all of us.
I don’t know how those who don’t have the support my grandma does are able to do it. Who speaks up for them when they can’t? Who pays attention and notices when they’re being given the wrong medication? How do they feel when no one shows up to spend time with them, and the only people they see are staff?
It was a big experience for me to observe all of this, and gave me an enormous amount to think about. I needed some time to process it all, and so I waited to write my next post. When I was finally ready…
My computer broke. It’s been sort of coughing and wheezing for a long while now, but it always recovers. This time it didn’t. I tried writing posts in the library or the internet cafe, but found them too noisy and distracting. I thought, no big. I’ll get my computer fixed, and then post an explanation. And then I got a phone call.
Almost a year ago I filled out an application to the Job Corps center here in Alaska. If you’ve never heard of Job Corps, it’s a government funded program aimed at teaching low-income 16-24 year olds a trade, and how to succeed in the work force. Each Job Corps center seems to be different, and I hear some of them are pretty rough. Ours, however, seems to consistently earn awards and accolades for its safe, beautiful campus and its positive results. My younger sister and I visited last year, and I was so impressed that I decided to apply, being as college was not an option for me at that point. (Long story.)
Then, early this summer on my way home from the library, I got a call. I’d been accepted, and would be starting at Alaska Job Corps in June.
What followed has kept me very, very busy for the last few months. I’ll tell you more about Job Corps in a later post, but for now, just know that it’s pretty much taken up all my time in the last few months.
At any rate, I’m back, and I plan to post much more regularly. Because of my schedule with Job Corps, and how very much my day-to-day life has shifted, I’m going to de-schedule the blog and just post as I have time/energy/something to talk about. The Following Juliette project is still on, but as with the rest it’ll be on a post-as-needed basis.
So hello again! Thanks for sticking around.