Recently, I read that Ganesha, the image of a mischievous looking elephant in Hindu culture, is revered for removing obstacles. That’s a good way of thinking about making our way through life. Instead of fearing or worrying about being blocked from making progress, I placed a small totem of Ganesha on our kitchen windowsill last week and hoped that this gesture would serve to remove obstacles from our lives.
Well, it actually works, I want you to know. Last week, G.’s mother, who just turned 95, was having labored breathing, complained about swelling in her legs and generally looked and acted lethargically. Rather than be resigned to the idea of generally failing health (a heart not beating strongly enough for other organ systems to keep functioning, resulting in edema, or known generally as congestive heart failure) G. and his brother J. decided the only course of action was to take Gram to the hospital rather than let her stay another night at home. That was on Monday, five days ago. There, G. stayed with his mother through the night while tests were run: an ultrasound to see if there were any blockages in her legs, EKG, blood tests and so on. To our surprise, they discovered an infection in her legs and started IV antibiotics; administered Coumadin, a blood thinner, and so on.
On Wednesday, our little Ganesh arrived in the mail, hand carved from deer antler by someone in Kathmandu, a little over an inch high with a lot of detail encased in a lightweight copper edging. It was meant as a pendant, but instead, I set it on the kitchen window where it rests between the piece of red rock that I brought back from Sedona, and the I-Ching rock that appeared along the Atlantic ocean where I dispersed my parents’ ashes. The intersection of these two rocks formed a good spiritual foundation for the little Ganesha to make its place in our home, I thought. It was a lucky find I made on eBay and I knew as soon as I came across it that it was the “right” Ganesha for our home. Lucky that it arrived when it did, both in my consciousness, and in the mail!
As expected, G. and his siblings paid visits to Gram in the hospital and then to the rehab center where she was moved to on Thursday where the infection in her leg continued to be addressed. Last night, G. and I paid a visit to Gram and found her in good spirits, that is, conversant, not depressed nor weak and tired. Her leg looked an angry red and was swollen. She said it was too painful to stand on and that her IV antibiotic session was scheduled for 11 p.m. that night.
My daughter, M., who lives in Minneapolis, had wanted to send her flowers in the hospital earlier in the week. At the time, I said it would be a good idea to hold off until later in the week when we would know if she would be coming home or be transferred to a rehab place. Yesterday, I visited our local florist and saw some interesting grey-green textured leaves. A sprig of mulberry chrysanthemums, and a smaller sprig of rose-colored mums made a fetching bouquet to take to Gram along with one of those florist cards filled out with good wishes from the girls. She was surprised by the flowers and appreciated the note.
The reason I am writing this post is to describe a shift in the events from what felt like an impending death vigil whereby it wasn’t clear whether Gram would make it through the night. . . or the day, for that matter. When we saw her last night, she was philosophical about getting the leg better and remarking that she had lost six pounds because of her dietary quirks of not eating eggs, chicken or turkey. As a young child in a family of fourteen children, Gram had the chore of fetching the eggs from the chicken coop. Apparently, it was so loathsome to her (who knows what it was like?) that for NINETY years, she has refused to eat eggs, chicken or turkey. It must have been really bad. Anyhow, in hospitals, eggs are served for breakfast almost every day; chicken and turkey are preferred kinds of poultry when meat is expensive and also eschewed by many who don’t want red meat. As she related this situation to me last night, I was struck by how viable Gram seemed to be. Holding on to her stubborn refusal to eat anything that had sprung from her nasty childhood experience, she appeared to be kind of triumphant that she had lost six pounds as a result of it! The erstwhile “death vigil” had morphed into a “let me get well and get outta here” kind of mood. It was an extraordinary shift of events over the course of the week and I’m glad I was there to witness it last night.
The rehab center is one of the better ones in the city that we live in and G.’s family was fortunate that someone got discharged on the day that they needed a bed for Gram. The transition was smooth. Her stay of two weeks will end before it’s Thanksgiving again this year–(no turkey for Gram, though, as usual.) We shall see how the next two weeks will fare for her. The other residents were dressed in hospital gowns, white-haired and sitting in wheelchairs, congregated around an electric piano which was played haphazardly by one of the nurses, or later, in front of a large flat screen TV. The nurses were kind, low-key and helpful. That’s a good thing, we thought when we left.
It was a relief to be at home even though we were glad that she was faring along. The redness in her leg looked pretty bad and hopefully the IV antibiotic treatment will help the breakout of cellulitis. Of course, these symptoms still tell us that her immune system is depressed and that her systems are not as strong at ninety-five as we might want them to be. We’re just relieved that obstacles to her health are gradually being addressed. And hope that she’ll be able to go home soon.
Life is full of ups and downs and when there are a bunch of downs, it’s hard to be optimistic sometimes. It’s good to be reminded that despite setbacks, there can be a resilience that appears way beyond our control. Thank God for that. And Ganesha.