Saturday, October 11, 2014

Aunt Roe

This past week has been one for the books. My Aunt Roseanne was admitted to the hospital the week before last for complications associated with her diabetes/other health issues. She went home the following Monday (this past Monday) and set up a wellness plan moving forward that included a new diet, occupational therapy and physical therapy, along with her home health care. To provide some background, she had been dealing with heart issues and diabetes for the past decade or so and her health had deteriorated slowly over the course of the past 10 years.

One thing I admittedly struggle with is how hard it was to watch my aunt suffer in the year since we reconnected. I recently reestablished a relationship with my aunt after my immediate family not speaking with our extended family for some time (for reasons none of us can remember anymore). It made me anxious to visit her because it was hard to see her in physical and emotional agony. In the course of the years we hadn't talked, she lost her ability to drive and walk. Also, she lost a major support source in the form of her romantic partner. After not seeing her for over a decade, it also dawned on me upon first gaze that she's aged to look very much like my long-deceased and still-beloved "Nanny." All of this fear and anxiety (notice a common theme on my blog here?) kept me from seeing her more than I would have under normal, "old me" circumstances. But I was still thankful for what we had this past year. It took us too long to get to that point. It should have happened years ago but I'm thankful that it even happened at all.

Roe often confessed that she felt she was following in her mother's footsteps and didn't want to die too soon before her time, but she struggled to find that spark that one needs to go on and fight the good fight. I had the pleasure of visiting her in December before Christmas and again in the Spring before Easter. I emailed and called frequently in between, and she did the same in return. She was legitimately the only person in my circle who understood how it felt to be housebound (her situation due to disability, mine due to my aforementioned breakdown and recovery from anxiety and panic disorders). We talked, laughed and cried a lot. And I tried to say all the things I had in my pep talk arsenal to inspire her and give her a reason for continuing, even stating that I wanted her to be there to meet my future children-kiddos that I'm still not even sure I'll have. I reminded her of her family and friend-based support network and that she was never alone, even if that was often the case physically.

The last time we talked was this past Wednesday night right before the newest episode of SVU. All we did was talk, laugh and smile. She was unusually optimistic and happy. I felt like maybe all of her family's kind words and encouragement/tough love finally seeped through and made a change. It never occurred to me that her optimism could be something ominous or a calm before the storm. Less than 24 hours after my aunt told me how good she felt and how she was looking forward to her physical therapy and baking cookies this Christmas after a long hiatus from her normal annual baking duties, I found out that she died.

On Thursday, she fell down in her house while under the care of her home nurse and physical therapist. She was later pronounced dead at a local hospital, 30 minutes from my apartment and 12ish hours after I talked with her. About how Mike and I had plans to bring her homemade fried rice after moving into our house the end of the month; she adhered to a low-potassium diet and this delicacy was surprisingly in adherence to her food restrictions. And we'd even planned to bring our dog to visit , since animals are the best therapy.

We had plans. She set goals for herself and I set some of my own to hold up my end of the deal. We both worked this year to try and get well again in our own ways. Both of our plans involved one another. I've obsessed over what reason there could be behind why she survived numerous heart attacks and hospital visits, but died at home as she took her first step to finally getting better in both body and spirit. There is no logic, I've come to find. It's not ours to understand and I still don't get it.

To say that she was special and an integral part of my formative years is an understatement. She took me on shopping trips, kept me company during my brother's little league games, took me to get my driver's license when I was 17 and scared to drive my parents' stick-shift cars, and even sat with me when I had kidney stones in my freshman year of college and was stuck in the hospital for eight hours. Little did I know that 12 years later, she'd die in the same hospital system where she sat with me and helped me go through the agony of stones, which pale in comparison to the internal battle she dealt with each day to survive and go on.

This year has been one of the most challenging and vulnerable ones of my life. I have never felt so raw, afraid, excited, sad, name it. Mt dear aunt helped me survive. She was one of the many reasons I chose to keep going on during times when I didn't know if it was worth the trouble -depression is a tricky bastard like that, but it's getting better. Grief  hurts. I know it gets better with time, but it hurts like hell. And even more so when you're an adult and you have a keener understanding of death and mortality.

Because of my improving but ongoing social phobias, I am remembering her in my own way in my own home because I know I won't make it through the formal services that have been arranged in her honor. But I know that for this past year, I was there as much as I could be. And she gave as much of herself as she could in return. I will always love her and always miss her.

I will always be jealous of the in peace Aunt Roseanne