Monday, August 10, 2009
A Visit with GiGi
The end of last week was rough. Ella woke up Thursday with a high fever and poking her ears, so I assumed ear infection and took her in to see a substitute doctor as our new one was booked full. Instead, I was told she had a sinus & throat infection and she was given antibiotics. Ella fought fevers for the next two days and finally perked up Saturday. We had planned to go to the monthly Down Syndrome Society of Wichita meeting and then stop in to see Doug's grandma after lunch. We decided that since Ella had been on antibiotics for a couple days that it was probably safe to take her out.
When Doug and I first started dating and got married, I was lucky to get to spend many family gatherings with his grandma, whose name change to "GiGi" (short for Great Grandma) in 1999 when our niece Mackenzie was born. GiGi was living in her own home, on the property of a retirement community, when we first met. It was the home she lived in with her husband before he passed on. The family would gather there for dinners occasionally or GiGi would drive up to meet the family someplace.
Slowly her independence changed. She stopped driving, so Doug's parents or aunt & uncle began picking her up to take her to family gatherings. One Christmas I remember how much fun we had laughing and playing board games together. GiGi would tell stories about her children and her grand children's youth. She was at our wedding and we were so lucky to have her there- the only grandparent for both of us that could attend. She came to the baby shower held for us when Aidan was expected and arrived to meet him shortly after his birth.
By the time Sean was born, she had moved from her independent house into the retirement home so that she didn't have so much upkeep to take care of. She was showing signs of forgetfulness and it was safer to have her around others. I don't think anyone ever sat down and told her that Sean has Down syndrome. We weren't sure that she'd understand what that meant. She just embraced him as another great grandchild. Since then, she moved to a retirement home closer to Doug's aunt and then recently she was moved to another place that offered more security and care for patients with Alzheimer's.
Sadly, we just have been too wrapped up in our lives to make time to stop in to visit GiGi. I can't really explain why. We have had to make so many trips to Wichita over the past two years for medical appointments that we really should of added in the extra hour to visit. I think part of it was that we didn't want to interrupt her routine and another part is that it seems hard to visit with someone that is having difficulty responding back the way we remembered. GiGi's health is still pretty good, at the age of 88, but her hearing is poor and her memory is sketchy. Trying to have a conversation is a struggle and keeping active boys calm is not easy.
Regardless, GiGi really seems to like seeing us and the children especially. She smiles as she watches them explore. They like to give her hugs and climb up onto her lap. This was her first time meeting Eleanor and she liked seeing her great granddaughter's growing walking skills. She followed the boys down the hall to her room and pointed out photos she had up. Sean enjoyed wearing rubber gloves he found and Aidan enjoyed the ice cream cone machine in the dining room.
Now that we've made our way to her new home, I hope we will stop in to see her more frequently. In the past two years, my maternal grandpa, maternal grandma, and step-paternal grandpa have passed on. I lost my paternal grandma and step-paternal grandma in the past 14 years, and paternal grandpa died when I was a toddler. Doug's other grandparents are all gone too. I treasure that GiGi is here to be part of our children's memories. Even if, as Aidan remarked, "GiGi doesn't listen very good anymore." Yep, they have many traits in common. :)