If you know me, then you know my GaGa. For those who don’t know me, let me introduce you to my GaGa.
By definition she is my grandmother, but by the grace of God she is my best friend, my second mother, my confidant, my soul mate. Throughout my life she has been an unwavering pillar of strength, the epitome of a strong, southern woman. We talk on the phone every night. She has stood by my side every day of my life, including on my wedding day when she stood beside me as my Matron of Honor.
After 89 wonderful and amazing years, GaGa is finally starting her decline. I am not being morbid, just realistic and trying to accept her mortality, which is something that I denied for years. Losing my GaGa was not an option. To me, she was immortal. And the thought of not having her was simply too much for me to bear.
It’s been an exhausting week. Her decline seemed so sudden to all of us. She went from motoring around, driving herself and puffing cigarettes on her porch to barely able to take one step unassisted. To be frank: it is really confusing, not to mention exhausting. Wait, I already said that. Mental fatigue has long set in and I’m surviving on a steady caffeine drip (and of course regularly scheduled meals and snacks).
The lessons I’ve learned in recovery are playing a huge role this week. The ‘old’ me (aka my eating disorder) would have shut down. I would have been at GaGa’s side 24/7, never asking for a break or stopping to eat. I would take my sadness out on my body and shut out my emotions to ‘be brave’ for my family. Well, that is not the new me…thank goodness. Yesterday, after getting the news that there was simply ‘nothing to fix’ and this was just the aging process amongst other factors, I was done. Emotionally, physically, mentally. I was wiped out. Physically, I could hardly stand. I knew I needed a break. I needed to go home and cry. I needed to eat. I needed rest. And that is just what I did.
Recovery has taught me to be flexible and that not everything can be planned and controlled. As a recovering perfectionist, I have a constant urge to plan everything so I can be prepared and never caught off-guard. My family and I are genetically wired to operate on calendars and to do lists. We schedule everything in life. From doctor appointments to naps, we schedule our lives in neatly color-coded bubbles in our iCals. Wouldn’t it be easier if death were the same way? Can’t I just pencil mortality in so I can be prepared and ready? God forbid I have an ugly cry in public or don’t keep my ‘brave’ face on for my family.
This life event has been a new experience. Not just for me, but for my whole family. We are coming together as a family and as a support unit for each other. No one is trying to candy-coat or ‘be brave’ or protect. We are all sad. We are all hurting. We are all working to accept that our beloved matriarch is 89 years old. A seemingly simple notion that the doctors keep telling us, but we keep saying, ‘You don’t know our GaGa.’ We keep waiting for the doctors to ‘fix’ her, but there is no cure for aging – especially when you are 89 and a lifelong smoker.
I may have my GaGa for another few years or I may lose her tomorrow. It should be noted that this post is not me ‘throwing in the towel’ in any way! And neither is GaGa…she is still as feisty as ever. This post is about me accepting the aging process and mortality. I am working to remain open and vulnerable to all the uncertainty that revolves around a situation like this. And once again, I am reminded why life in recovery is so amazing. I will never be ‘prepared’ for the loss of a loved one, especially that of my GaGa, but what I can be is fully present in every moment I have left with her. And that is just what I intend to do.