<This is a portion of a chapter set when I was in my 30’s.>
I have been officially out of the Organization for 3 years. I am being shunned by my Faithful Witness family.
When I first heard, really heard, how bad things are for Nana, she said, “Don’t you think the scariest thing would be to die in the bathtub?”
The first time I heard her say it I said, “No don’t be silly. You are not going to die in the bathtub.”
The second time I heard Nana say, “Don’t you think the scariest thing would be to die in the bathtub?”
I said again, “Don’t worry…you are not going to die in the bathtub.”
But I started thinking about what I heard her say.
I heard she is scared of falling and dying in the task of taking a bath.
I heard her, finally, even though I couldn’t say so at that moment. I needed time to process what I was noticing. Time to find words and make a plan with my people.
I talked with my chosen family about Nana’s dementia and her physical needs. We talked about the dangers of her 1950’s bathroom with no grab bars and no help as she climbs in and out. We spoke of her frail bones and nerve damaged hand.
I have stopped by and spent the night, or the weekend several times since I moved back. I see what she is eating and how much she staggers around by herself during the day and during the night.
She roams her 11 room house as various things occur to her. Everywhere she looks are memories and she moves, as always, at a half run.
Every time I come to see her for a couple of days, as I get ready to go I hear her say some version of,
“Oh honey, I wish you could stay. I don’t want anyone else to take care of me. I don’t like strangers in my house. You were always my favorite night nurse.”
My heart breaks as I kiss her increasingly frail cheek goodbye anyway. I say,
“I can’t stay. I’m sorry.”
I know they won’t let me take care of her even if she doesn’t.
She always comes back at this point with,
“Oh honey, I know, the kids need you. I wish you had brought the kids with you. Please bring them next time.”
I say something like,
“Yeah, I have to get back to the kids.”
It is not about the kids.
I have officially Disassociated Myself and therefore, as a Publisher in Good Standing, she is required to shun me. Nana is in her 80’s and having a lot of trouble remembering things. I have not reminded her of my status in the Organization.
I told her four years ago when I Wrote the Letter. Plus, there is always an Announcement Made to the Congregation when someone is Disfellowshipped or Disassociates themselves.
We never talked about it again.
I have not been willing to hold their boundary for them. I spend my time with her enjoying these final moments of her life. Listening to the stories she has been telling me for my entire life.
She is dying.
I will not be able to hear her stories much longer. I was not willing to intrude my issues with her religion into this precious time with my Nana. In this way I have been ‘flying under the radar’ so to speak.
Until I finally decided to take a stand. She is in danger in this home of my mother’s childhood. These realizations harden my spine with the resolve I need to stand up and speak to my family.
My family who are shunning me for my decision to leave the Organization.
She is not safe living here alone with my mother moved hundreds of miles away. The only help she is receiving, a Worldly-Woman-Caregiver comes for a couple of hours once a week. Some shopping and cleaning and laundry.
It is not enough.
My grandmother literally could die each time she takes a bath. She doesn’t remember to eat. Or maybe she doesn’t have the energy to cook.
I have seen her danger and her need. I can’t unsee it.
I have been spending Fri-Sunday, or sometimes thru Monday morning, once or twice a month with her. Six days a month maybe, I am here and the Worldly-Woman-Caregiver is here two hours once a week.
Thirty days in a month, 24 hours in a day. Roughly 20 days and 14 hours per month she is alone. That is a lot of time she is isolated, barely eating, and vulnerable.
I am not willing to keep leaving her here like this.