On saying Goodbye

So fair warning that this is a emotional, sentimental, tear filled post about my grandmother and if you're not into that sort of thing and looking for my usual bitchiness you should stop reading now and come back here later.

 My grandma, or my Yiya as we call her, is dying.

 If she makes it to her birthday in June, she'll be 91 years old.  She's lived a long, full, happy life and up until these last couple weeks she's been very healthy and independent.  She recently suffered congestive heart failure and she's 90 years old and she just wasn't able to bounce back from it.  She's also been recently diagnosed with dementia.  She's had a very rapid decline in her health and she's not long for this world.

 My Yiya (which I know is supposed to be spelled YiaYia, but mine is actually 100% Polish so we're cutting her some slack on the spelling here - she's Greek by choice, not by blood) helped raise me and my sister. She was the one who had a snack ready for us after school, and asked us about our days.  She was the one who picked us up from band, softball, or whatever after school activity we were currently involved in.  She was the one who hauled us to our friends houses and vice versa.  She cared for us when we were home sick, took us to the doctor when we needed it. She bandaged our scrapes and bruises.  My Yiya was always there for us, always taking care of us and loving us.

 She has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember.

 When my parents made the decision to move from the city to Lisle (asking the realtor, "Where's Lisle?" those 30+ years ago) she came with.  She was a widow and they agreed that she'd give living in the suburbs and helping take care of me (my sister wasn't born yet) a try for a year or so to see how she liked it.  She never moved back, staying with my parents and me and my sister until we eventually grew up and moved out. She's lived with my parents for over 30 years now.

 My Yiya has been a constant fixture in my life, basically a second mother to me. We've always been incredibly close and seeing her suffer and struggle with day to day life these last few weeks has been very hard.

 She has taught me many, many things but the main things I will always remember about my Yiya are her unconditional love and her unending patience.  I never remember her raising her voice at me, or expressing anger or disappointment in me.  I'm sure I deserved it on many occasions, but I don't remember it happening.

 My Yiya raised me with the patience of a saint, and I try to remember that in my own life. I try to remember how safe and loved I felt, and still do feel, in her presence and hope that my own children feel that way in mine.

 The ways in which my Yiya has influenced not only me, but my family are numerous - from our loving mockery of her mispronunciation of words to the traditions she has instilled in our family. I can thank her for my love of gambling (there ain't nothing she loved more than playing the slots), always knowing to hold on to the end of my long sleeves when putting on a coat (and passing this invaluable information on to my boys), my love of soup, my constant need to be cozy at all times, knowing the importance of a good tuck, and many many other things that make me who I am today.

 These last couple of weeks have been rough, to say the least. I'm making every effort to get to my parents' house as often as possible to see her, and bringing my guys with me so that she can see them (they bring her a lot of joy). I'm cherishing the good moments we have - when she's lucid and we can have a real conversation, when I can tell her stories about the clever things My Big Guy said, or the silly thing My Little Guy did, when I can tell she's with me and enjoying the moment.  Those times are getting fewer and farther between. Her time is near, and while it's very very sad it's for the best.

 I will miss my Yiya more than I can put into words, but I take comfort in knowing that she's lived a long, happy, full life and that we've all done everything we can to make her happy.

 No one knows when her final moment will come, but until it does I will continue my long, drawn out goodbye to her. I will continue to visit and talk, even if she's not really listening.  I will hold her hand, and I will rub her back and I will hope to offer her the same kind of  love and support that she's offered me and my family all these years. I will hope that she feels the love that we have for her, and know that we appreciate the love she has for us.  It's our turn to take care of her the way she's taken care of us.

 Her decline has been fast, and somewhat unexpected (as unexpected as the decline of someone who is 90+ can be). As terrible as it sounds, I am grateful for the quickness - she is suffering and I don't want her to. The sooner the end comes for her, the sooner she will be at peace.  The sooner she will join her husband who passed away so many years ago (long before I was even born). The sooner her struggle to survive will be over. As sad as this whole time is, I now that it is time for her and I'm happy that I was a part of her life, and I'm forever grateful that she was a part of mine and will always love her.

 But I will miss my Yiya.


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