Sunday, April 28, 2013

We Do The Best We Can

I made these cannoli for Christmas two years ago; Nana was very pleased. 
One day I want to make the cassata just like her masterpiece.

Yesterday I went to spend time with my Nana Angelina, my Sicilian Grandmother. She is in a nursing home, in the residential section. Her house was sold to pay for her long-term care. Nana is ninety, and has Alzheimer's that is end-stage. They wanted us to put her on Hospice, but we said no because her caregivers like her and she is doing well because she is familiar with them. We did not want to add 'another layer of care' as they described. Since then, I have learned that utilization of Hospice care by patients who are state-funded has gone up over two hundred percent in the last three years. It is a big money-maker for nursing homes and home-health care programs. Use your head when you decide whether to enroll your loved one on Hospice or not--it could be a scam. Let your Heart Center direct you to the proper decision--my sister and I 'smelled a rat' and said 'no' from our hearts because of it. Nana is still no code, or DNR, according to my mother's wishes when she signed for her admission papers to the place.

I came in at four in the afternoon, and found her distressed. She was saying in Italian she couldn't understand why her son had disrespected her by ignoring her after all the money she gave him? She wanted us to make plans to go out to eat and buy him a big steak so he would come. She also asked me to write an 'important letter' to get him. She said she calls for him all day, and he never comes. (He and his girlfriend spent all of nana's money, and were starving nana to inherit the house sooner--the family AND the state-- intervened). 

To distract her, I asked, 'Would you like to smell something beautiful?' and I took out my vial of Chakra from around my neck. She smiled when she sniffed it, and said, 'It is good.' I put a small dot of it with my finger on her third eye. It stopped her train of thought and allowed me to change the conversation. I showed her pictures of the nespoli and peaches and flowers in the garden. I showed her my boy getting his next belt in his Martial Art. I hugger her and kissed her until she was happy and smiling again. I even got her beautiful energy of love in her smile on camera, too. One day I will share it, but not now, for her privacy. She is not the kind of person who would want her image all over the internet. She is most modest in every way.

I also gave Reiki as I touched her arm and put lotion on her hands and face. I didn't let her know I was doing it, I just did. I gave the Transition symbol, like I always do. Two months ago, Blessed Mother asked me to give Nana to her, and put her hand in hers. I did, and it has taken the worry from me on how much time she has left. I know who will be with her when it is her time, and I trust completely.

Her tray arrived at five fifteen. It is only blended foods and thickened liquids. Everything smelled terrible.I tried feeding nana, but I was not good at it. She hated everything. I put a small amount in each spoonful, made a big 'Ahhh!' to get her to open her mouth, and it went in. The blended meat stank. She said it was 'too hard' and spit out the meat residue into a napkin. She has difficulty swallowing. It was scary to help her drink because I was not sure how much was going in, and I didn't want to give too much. She told me to get the nurse. I apologized and went for help.

While we waited,  I thanked her for the good times, and talked about the foods she used to make me when I was little and she watched me. The risu (a risotto) she made me every day for lunch which I ate with delight. The orange julius. The toast. The tiny bottles of purple grape juice she had in the door of the refrigerator just for me. Then she looked at me and asked, 'how many eggs do you want?'. She asked me that every morning, making me soft-boiled eggs where I would dip little pieces of bread into the yolks. I felt a glimmer of joy and said my part, 'I want three!' (she was always trying to get me to eat better, for I was too thin. I marveled at how our roles in life had reversed.)

Then I started crying.

She asked, why are you crying? 

I said 'I wish I was a little girl again. Your home was the most wonderful place for me. You kept it so clean and welcoming. I always felt warm and safe. You are the only one that ever understood me Nana. If you had not been good to me when I was with you, everything else in my life was so hard I would have become a mess! If it wasn't for your example, and kindness, I never would have made it through medical school and been able to do what I do for people now. My job is dangerous, Nana. I could never have done it if it wasn't for you. I feel bad that now I work and I am not able to give you the kind 
of care you had given to me. I don't stay at home. I have to support my son.'

She said, 'Don't cry, you'll make me cry. I never ever ever want for you to cry'. 

I asked her, 'Nana, look at us now? What are we going to do? Having you here is terrible! (no one ever came to feed her. I was going to have to go ask again. The warm food was cold and the ice cream was melted.)'

She looked me straight in the eye and said, 'We do the best we can. We don't write the book. HE writes the book. But WE are the ones that go and live it. We do the best we can'.
The words were like soothing balm to my soul, especially hearing it from Nana, who I love so much. I stopped crying. I remembered how as a young mother she had to run to the caves when the bombing strikes hit in the war. Nannu was fighting in battle far away. There was not enough food, and my mother told me that Nana never ate. She always said she wasn't hungry. Everyone was starving. They even ate rats if they were lucky enough to catch them. They always had flour because her mother, Nana Peppina, owned a bakery. But when the neighbors came to the door to ask for flour, Nana had to lie because there was only enough for them. She was the strongest single mother of all, and these words must have helped her to survive. 

I got a nurse to help feed her. Nana has to be reminded to swallow several times with every bite. When she stops eating, that is it. There will be no G-tube feedings like her roommate. The only thing keeping her alive is the kindness of her nurse. She takes the protein shake and adds ice cream to it to get her to eat. She knows Nana likes sweets.
After six, the sun was starting to go down. I have a long drive back home. Nana has a beautiful window next to her bed. I explained to her and the nurse who was feeding her that I wanted to get home before it was dark. Nana completely understood, and smiled. I kissed her, and said, 'Ciao!' She said, 'Ciao and Arrividerci'.

Reiki Doc