The Anniversary

Today is The First Anniversary of the day my grandmother fell and hit her head. It was an injury that would ultimately kill her, nearly two months later.

I was on the phone with a Silhouette editor that morning when my phone started beeping like crazy, and finally my cell phone started ringing, my brother calling to tell me my grandmother was in the hospital, that she’d fallen. He was 15 at the time, and was alone in the house with her while my mom was at a teacher inservice across town. After firing off emails asking for prayers, my son and I got dressed and got to the hospital in 15 minutes. I was not prepared for what I saw.

My grandmother was always the strongest person I knew, even though she never topped 5’2 and 100 pounds. In her 92 years, she was rarely sick enough to go into the hospital. She’d broken her hip in 1981, but overcame that. She had difficulty swallowing and had high blood pressure, but never anything serious. To see her in a hospital gown, barely conscious, was stunning. My brother and stepdad were there and said she’d been lucid enough to give the hospital all her insurance information before slipping into a semi-conscious state. I asked the nurse how much of her state was due to the medication, and the nurse said, “Very little.”

We kept vigil throughout the day, a stormy day, flooding roadways. My other brother came, my mother left her inservice, my aunt, uncle and cousin were all there. We left to eat Bill Miller’s, is all I remember. I don’t remember going home, but I must have.

The next morning I went to Mass. The church didn’t collapse or anything, but I couldn’t stop crying. My mother and I told the priest about my grandmother, and some of the church ladies, who promised to pray.

I was on my way to the hospital when my younger brother called. He’d left his glasses or something at his house, and could I please go get them on the way. My good friend called me, was talking to me about developments in the school district where we worked before I could get in my news. More prayers for Gigi.

I got to the ICU and was surprised to see Gigi sitting up in bed, talking about going to Spaghetti Warehouse for my cousin’s graduation celebration. The priest came later, and we waited in the waiting room. My younger brother Mike, who loves languages, found a Greek Bible in the waiting room, and started flipping through it. Turned out it belonged to a man who was visiting his wife with Parkinson’s disease. They’d been married for 40 years, I think he said, and he wanted 40 more. He and Michael became fast friends.

Gigi got out of ICU on Friday, and out of the hospital altogether on Saturday (I think it may be because we took our camp chairs and hung out in her room. I may be wrong.) But her appetite, never huge (though she did love food) deteriorated, and within a week she was back in the hospital.

Because she was having trouble swallowing, they sent her to a rehab hospital the following week. She was also having more trouble hearing and speaking, which was driving her nuts. And being in the hospital in the summer time, when we were off, was making her batty, too. She loved our vacations (Mom and I are both teachers) because she liked to go out to breakfast, go to see different things (Mom and I are both big shoppers, too.) I took Mom and Mike to breakfast and shopping one morning before we went to the hospital and took all my purchases in to model for Gigi. She always showed such enthusiasm, except that day. Maybe she knew then I’d be wearing one of the dresses to her funeral.

The hospital wanted to train us to take care of her before they sent her home. Now remember, Gigi is the strongest person I’ve ever known. So seeing her helpless, in a diaper, unable even to help herself get out of bed, was devastating. That day my mother decided she couldn’t take her home, that she couldn’t take that responsibility, that she didn’t know enough. The decision devastated my mother, but my grandmother said she was grateful, said she’d be more at ease in a home where someone could take care of her.

So the day after my son’s birthday, they moved her to a nursing home right across the road from my neighborhood. We talked about how my son could walk over to visit her after school while he waited for me, how Mom could go at one time and I could go at the other.

A few days later, I woke up from my nap with an urgent need to get to the home. As soon as I got there, my uncle was coming out of the room crying. (My uncle was a Marine and a cop. It was bad.) Gigi had had a seizure. We never did know if it was from the fall or dehydration – she’d stopped being able to drink water and so they gave her this thick beverage, but she barely took any. She had two more while we were there, all camped out on her floor. One was so long and violent that we just prayed for her suffering to end. We were all linked, either touching Gigi or touching each other. God, that was the hardest thing to see. My brothers crying was the worst.

Finally the anti-seizure medicine kicked in, and she slept for three days.

I had finalled in the Golden Heart that year and had planned to go to Dallas. My mother told me to go, there was nothing to do. So after spending nearly 48 hours at the home with Gigi, and taking her outside for the last time, I told her I was leaving, and for her to wait for me. She pointed to the ceiling – she’d stopped talking after the seizure. I know she was telling me she was going to be gone by then, but I couldn’t let myself believe it.

When we got to Dallas, we only had one cell phone because Fred had dropped his. Forever and always I will associate the horrible tone he programmed with that terrible time. I called Mom that night and she said that day had been the worst, that my uncle told my grandmother she could go, that she could die. I didn’t tell my mother that I had asked her to stay, and Gigi always did everything I asked of her.

My blessing was being in Dallas with my friends. The SARAs and the Wet Noodle Posse wrapped themselves around me and held me up. We actually even had fun, though I would call Fred (who had my phone) every couple of hours for word.

That night, my stepdad called to say Gigi was awake and using my AlphaSmart to communicate with them. That was another blessing.

Gigi held on two more days. We were in Waco, on our way back home, when my stepdad called to say she’d died. After months of being surrounded by everyone, she died on Sunday morning, just as my mom and stepdad came in from church. I was stunned and sad, but couldn’t cry. We got home in record time, only to have Mom tell us to stay home and rest, then come over for supper. It was a surreal end to an emotional time. We didn’t cry, we didn’t even talk about it that much. The next few days before the funeral I stayed home – for the first time all summer – and then three days after the funeral I went back to work.

But every day I miss her. She was my hero and a light in my life. And I wish I could talk to her just one more time.


Trish Milburn said...

Mary, I have tears in my eyes after reading about Gigi in your post. Over the past year, I feel like I've gotten to know her. I'm sure she's watching you every day, smiling. Here are some hugs because I know you're missing her.

Anonymous said...


MJFredrick said...

Thanks, Trish and Bonnie. I wish you had known her, Trish. She would have loved you, and been as proud to read your books as she would have been to read mine.

Tomorrow, I'll post something more upbeat, I promise ;)

Anonymous said...

Mary--it's always hard to lose someone you love. When my mil died, I found comfort in remembering things that used to make her laugh. Hang in there!

MJFredrick said...

Thanks, Michelle. One of the things Gigi LOVED to do was go out to eat. So Mom and I are going out to breakfast once a week to keep up the tradition. She also loved reading romance. I find myself still stacking books to take to her....

Jill Monroe said...

Mary - I cried right along with you reading this. I know how special grandmothers can be.

Anonymous said...


Hugs on this difficult date. Your tribute is beautiful, made me cry...and made me think, again, of my mom.


Shesawriter said...


BIG HUGS. I know exactly how you feel. June 1st was the 15th anniversary of my Dad's death. Believe it or not, I'm *still* not over it. So once again, {{{{BIG HUGS}}}} I've been there.


MJFredrick said...

Thanks, Jill, Leslie and Tanya. Tanya, big {{{{HUGS}}}} 15 years is a long time, but I know it will never be long enough. I was so fortunate to have Gigi as long as I did.

Trish Milburn said...

Mary, that's a sweet thing to say that you thought your Gigi would have liked me. I'm sure I would have loved her to pieces. It's been 10 years since I lost my Mamaw, my last grandparent, and I still think occasionally of little things she did or things we did at her house. For some reason, my sister and I loved to cut up bananas, put them in these blue granite bowls and pour chocolate syrup all over them. :)

MJFredrick said...

Trish, you're related to my son, with the bananas and chocolate syrup. And Gigi would have loved you.

Odd that you're younger than me and your grandparents are gone. I still have my dad's mom, who I get to see this summer.

Anonymous said...

((((Mar)))) We're with you, Mar. The first anniversary is always the most difficult. I've lost all four of my grandparents, and my only brother when I was 12. I know what your heart is feeling...I'm here for you, dear one.


MJFredrick said...

Thanks, JoAnn. I didn't know you lost your brother, too. That must have been so hard.


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