Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I've been in New York for two weeks and without stable internet access so I typed out some thoughts on my computer and am posting just now my past thoughts...
I feel guilty whenever I come back to New York.

When I see my grandparents, I know that time has passed and they are getting older. The first day I was in New York, I invited all three of my grandparents to eat yum cha. They didn’t know I was in town so it was a surprise when I first saw them. My grandpa (mom’s side) didn’t recognize me. He’s getting senile or something else. It was really sad that he didn’t know who I was anymore. I’ve always been closer to my mom’s parents and it struck something in me when he was staring at me, unsure of who I was. When I left to use the restroom, he asked my mom who was sitting next to him.

It hurt the first time more than now as I’ve tried to adapt to it. Sometimes he’s confused. There’s moments when he recognizes me and knows I’m his granddaughter but there’s also moments when he has no idea who I am and why I’m at his apartment eating dinner with him.

When I took him to the doctor yesterday, he refused to go into the room. Since he’s pretty old and has a lot of health issues (he’s had a few surgeries and he’s on twenty-something medications), he has to go see the doctor every week. But since he’s had so many health issues, he’s scared to go to the doctor. Therein lies the problem. Most times, he’s compliant and takes the shots, eats the pills, etc. But then there are also times when he just refuses to go in, refuses to eat or drink anything prescribed to him, etc. He’s stubborn—extremely stubborn. This time, he did just that. He walked back to the waiting room and would try to slap away anyone who would try to touch him and get him to go into the room. We sat there for two hours waiting for him. The nurses said that if he didn’t go into the room, they would have to send him to the hospital because they needed to get some liquid into him through an IV and if it didn’t happen at the doctor’s office, it would happen at the hospital. After two hours, we finally coerced/tricked him by telling him that he should go into the room and sleep since he was falling asleep in the chair. He finally went in and when he fell asleep, three of us (me, his caretaker, and a nurse) held him down and inserted the IV into his arm. He was screaming when the needle went in that other nurses actually came in. It sucked to watch him in pain. Then I also had to worry about my grandma who was also at the doctor since she too is not the healthiest woman in the world. She’s also on a bunch of medication and takes pills three times a day. They had the same time appointments so she was just waiting around for him to finish. She was hungry so after everything was set with my grandpa and he was just lying there waiting for all the liquids to go into his body, I went with my grandma to get food. I had to buy food and bring it back to the waiting room at the doctor’s office with her because I had made plans with a friend earlier that week and she commuted 30 minutes to get there. She had already waited an extra hour for me and I felt too guilty to cancel. But then I also felt guilty leaving them.

When I went back to see them and have dinner with them later that night, my spirits didn’t really improve. My grandpa wasn’t eating his medication and he wasn’t eating any dinner. He was sitting at the table with his head down the entire time. What am I supposed to do? I try telling him to eat, to take his medication, to listen to the doctors/nurses/caretakers but he’s stubborn.

I also feel sad for the caretakers. My grandparents share a caretaker. There are two of them—one who works 4 days and the other who works 3 days a week. Both work 24 hours meaning they watch my grandparents around the clock for a few days. They cook for them, take them to doctor appointments, etc. The ones my grandparents have are really great. I can tell they care and they do a lot more than what’s expected of them and what they’re paid to do. They help my grandparents bathe, they clean, they buy them dinner, etc. Since they work 24 hours, they’re not expected to do anything after 8pm until 9am the next morning other than ensure the elderly don’t fall down or anything extreme. They don’t have to cook them meals, clean, etc. But my grandparents’ caretakers do. And my grandparents are anything but the easiest people to take care of. My grandma yells at people and complains about everything. My grandpa is also extremely hard to handle. They have been through over 20 caretakers because no one wants to deal with them. The two that take care of them now are patient and just overall good people. When I was talking to the caretaker at dinner, I felt so sad though. She expressed how she sometimes gets so angry and frustrated with my grandparents. I don’t blame her. Not only does she go above and beyond what’s expected of her and really take care of them, but she’s not appreciated by them. She’s got a good heart. I also felt bad for her…not a pity feeling but more of just a saddening emotion. I told her that my mom and I really appreciated what she did for them and how she cared for them but still, I feel bad that I can’t help her in her situation, if that makes sense. Then I went back to feeling upset about my grandparents because she told me that when my grandparents go into the lobby and sit down, people around them get up and leave. And that is not one experience but every experience. Even the other caretaker shared the same observation. She said that it might be because they look unhealthy or sick and people can tell and don’t want to be “infected” with it. This just made me feel worse.

I’m a horrible person because for a split minute while contemplating all this, I thought to myself that maybe it would be easier if they passed away. There would be less stress and concern for my mom and family, and my grandparents wouldn’t go through pain. I know it’s a messed up thought… but I am messed up.

This week has been a week of guilt. I feel bad for being… young, I guess, for not being able to really do anything for them. When I make plans with friends, I have to leave them to go. But if I stay with them, all I’m doing is sitting next to them in the living/dining room. They don’t talk a lot and if they do, they’re usually mumbling about something random. I don’t mind spending time with them in silence and just being with them but I know that I can’t spend my life doing that—just sitting next to them for hours at a time every day. I still feel guilty though, whenever I leave them. They always want to know where I’m going and always sound so disappointed when I leave.

I want to take care of everyone. I want to take care of my grandparents and make sure they’re healthy. I want to take care of the caretakers who are really the ones who take care of my grandparents. I want to take care of my mom, who lives in an extremely small room and works incredibly hard for small pay.

1 comment:

  1. i shared a lot of these same thoughts back when i was in taiwan this past christmas. my grandfather was pretty senile and there were two caretakers taking care of him. their love, humility, gentleness, firmness when needed, servant hearts really made me reflect on my "young life."
    it's people like these that really humble me. i think about all the times that i "serve", but honestly, compared to people like the caretakers, i feel so selfish.
    this is a really good post, ammy. it made me think a lot and reflect on serving without an ego, without expectations, without praise or compliments, or even without a thank you. but serving out of love from the strength jesus christ gives us. i've been reflecting a lot on the nature of true love, and being sacrificial, and this post really made me think more about it.