Making a ‘New Normal’

Greetings, my friends.

Ye olde Dragon had a rough weekend.

Early Saturday morning, my grandmother Emily passed away a few months shy of 93. Nana -as all us grandkids called her – was an important influence in my life. When I was a baby, my Mom divorced my father & we moved in with her parents. Nana & Pop-Pop (my grandfather Walter, whom we lost 21 years ago) had a major hand in raising me, while Mom went to work. I was the first grandchild & so there was no shortage of love and encouragement. I can easily credit both of my grandparents with shaping my love of music, reading and yes, even at that young age (I lived with them for the first time up until I was 9), a love of movies. Sunday mornings were filled with watching Abbott & Costello movies with Pop, after we got home from Church. As a five year old, I knew who John Wayne was, as Nana absolutely loved him.

Shortly after my ninth birthday, Mom remarried, and Nana & Pop moved down to Florida for health reasons. A few months later, we moved from the home I’d always known, in North Massapequa, to our first house within the Town of Brookhaven, specifically Selden. Things were never going to be the same, or ‘normal’, so we had to make a ‘new’ normal & get used to it.

Not too long after, Nana had grown to hate it down south, as she missed her family so badly, so they came back up & found an apartment relatively close to our new house. I saw them almost every weekend, and of course, I’d go home with more than I’d arrived with. Comic books, action figures and toys flowed a plenty. Though some stayed behind so I’d have something to play with there, though Nana had also said it was so Mom wouldn’t know how much she’d bought for me. During the summer, I’d go out with Nana even more, as she’d take me to a different Disney move every week at the local theatre, where they’d have summertime Disney film festivals. Soon after, she introduced me to MGM Musicals. This was the second ‘new normal’.

The next ‘new normal’ came in 1982, when my Dad passed away. We found a new home in Coram (still in Brookhaven Township), only we were going to be sharing it once more with Nana & Pop. Things fell back into some familiar patterns, mostly with me & Pop watching comedies and Mets games & watching The Quiet Man every St. Patrick’s Day with Nana (not to mention occasionally getting spoiled -or bailed out of trouble- by her). Ten years later, Pop passed away and it was time for another ‘new normal’.

Somewhere along the way from then to now, Nana had developed Alzheimer’s. We saw little signs, but we just put it down to being in her late 70s – early 80s. She took a bad fall in 2005, breaking her hip. She quickly went downhill & was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The trauma of the break and the 3 month recovery time in an elderly home is what accelerated it. The ‘new normal’ soon became a schedule of being home, taking care of her and occasionally helping her aides. Most recently, it got even more intense, as she needed more than one person to help her stand, get into the wheelchair, into bed & other functions. The battle finally came to an end this past Saturday, March 23 around 8AM. We buried her on Tuesday, March 26. Earlier today (Thursday the 28th), the man from the oxygen providers came and collected the machine and emergency tanks.

And so we come to the latest ‘new normal’. Getting used to NOT having to make sure I’m downstairs by 5:30PM every day, so the aide can go home; Not worrying if I’d forgotten to give Nana her pills; Not worrying if the stress was going to kill my Mom – which to be honest has been my BIGGEST concern this whole time. But most of all, getting used to not having Nana’s presence in the house – in the ‘normal’ sense of the word. Truth is, she’d left a while ago, as the poor person sitting in that chair for so many months was ‘not’ my Nana – and Nana would be the FIRST one to tell me that. She would STRONGLY deny that that was her. The ‘good’ side of all of this is that the pain is gone, she can remember everything and everyone again and she’s with Pop once more.

It’ll take a while, but we’ll get used to this ‘new normal’, as we’ve always done before.

Rest in peace, Nana. I love you.

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