|My Gran, with my dad (left) & uncle (middle)|
My grandfather was left with 9 broken ribs, a broken sternum, and a broken neck... amongst other injuries. My grandmother broke all of her ribs, as well as her sternum and her back. But the biggest concern for my Gran was the lack of function in her lungs and her heart. She was in critical condition... and it was truly life-threatening.
Here in Meridian, I felt terrified, alone, and helpless. With each text and phone call, my heart would stop... as I waited for an update from my family.
My brother, a 3rd-year medical student, was very honest with me about the reality of the situation. I asked him to tell me everything, from a medical standpoint, and from a brother standpoint. After he rambled-off some doctor jargon, he stopped, and said: "This is bad, Ashley. Really bad."
I responded, "I've worked it out for me to leave town. I'll be there tomorrow."
He said, "I just pray she makes it through the night."
|My brother & I|
That night, the night before I left town, my Gran's heart stopped beating while my family was in the room. Thankfully, the hospital was able to bring her back. But... that wasn't the last time they'd have to bring my Gran back to life...
The next morning, I headed toward north Alabama. I don't even remember my drive there, but I certainly remember arriving at the hospital. I pulled into the parking garage, took a deep breath... and headed for ICU.
ICU has strict hours for visitors, with only four, 20-minute visiting times per day. When I walked into the ICU waiting room, I was greeted with a big hug from my brother. Across the room, I saw my dad, who smiled when his eyes met mine. It was the first time he'd smiled since Christmas Eve.
After I hugged Dad and the rest of my family, it was time to see my grandmother.
Gran gently squeezed my hand, and said, "I love you too, darlin'."
We left the hospital and drove to my grandparents house to stay the night. I walked into their home, and looked around at all the smiling, happy, healthy pictures of my family. I just couldn't believe that my super-health-conscious, high-energy grandparents were suddenly so sick.
As I scanned the photos on the walls, I saw the photo of my grandparents on their visit with Mayor Rudy Giuliani. I saw them at the Presidential Inauguration. I saw them with presidents of major universities, famous football coaches, and famous players.
I smiled and thought, "Damn, my grandparents are cool."
Then, I quietly headed toward my favorite place in my grandparents' home: my dad's old bedroom. Dad's childhood room is like a time capsule... filled with... my dad. I guess that's why I love it so much.
On every visit to my grandparents' house, I find myself digging through my dad's old desk drawers. I'm slightly fascinated by the contents... old photos, letters, and report cards. No matter how many times I look through that desk, I find something new and super-freaking-cool each time.
His desk contains tons of photos of my dad throughout his life. In some of his childhood pictures, I could swear I'm looking at a photo of myself. In his college days, I could swear I'm looking at my brother.
In some of the other drawers, I'll find a stack of sappy, old love letters from my mom to my dad... and I'm always touched by those. I guess it's just cool to "meet" my parents before I was even alive. My favorite line in those letters is: "I can't wait until we get married and have blonde-haired, blue-eyed children one day. One girl, one boy." That one makes me smile... because my mom was wishing for me... years before I was born.
Next, I'll dig through some old report cards, which also makes me laugh, because they look like every report card my brother and I ever got: "Extremely smart, but unable to focus. Easily distracted. Talks too much."
Later, after I finished the raid on my dad's room, I walked back upstairs... so I could complete my next grandparents'-house-activity: looking through old photo albums. I just love looking through their cool old photos, so that's a must-do on every visit to their home. But also... that night, I welcomed any good distraction.
My dad started laughing, as I proceeded to make my usual mess, by pulling out every old photo album in the house, excited to look through them.
As I flipped through those pictures, I made my usual smart-ass remarks about the clothes: "Dad, seriously... what was up with men back in the day? Why in the world would any respectable man wear Daisy Dukes??"
For the rest of the night, my dad, my brother, and I sat and looked through photo albums together. We smiled. We laughed. We hugged. In the back of each of our minds, we were wondering if these old photos would soon be all we'd have left of my Gran. But even as we thought it... we never let ourselves believe it.
But then... sometime over the next few days, my Gran slowly started to improve. Her heart got a little better. Her lungs got a little stronger. And her spirit finally returned.
I'm so thankful to tell y'all that my grandmother is fighting her way through this, and so is my grandfather. As I say those words, I can hear my grandfather's voice, reciting the special phrase I've been told all my life:
"You're an Owen. There's nothing an Owen can't do." ~ Tom Owen
*If you'd like to donate to Lucky Dog Rescue in my grandparents' honor, please click the link: http://luckydogrescueblog.blogspot.com/p/donate.html