My Grandma Nowak has been in the hospital for 11 days now, but it seems like an eternity. She has been battling a disease called Alpha One Anti-Trypsin Deficiency for 17 years. From what I understand it is a degenerative disease where the liver does not produce the protein needed to make your lungs elastic. She has been on oxygen for about as long as I can remember, so it always just seemed normal to me to have her like that.
Growing up she was able to do all of the stuff a teenage girl wants to do – go shopping at the mall, cook dinner, go to a movie, etc…so we didn’t miss out on much together. I only saw her occasionally when I was young because we lived so far away, but I have many distinct memories from our visits that will never leave me. When she moved to Las Vegas we were able to see a lot of each other and I ended up living with them for a little bit. My Grandmother taught me how to drive and we had a lot of fun learning from each other on our daily car rides. She would let me drive the twenty minutes to school, then she would drive back, then drive back again to get me and let me drive home. Most of our drives home consisted of some fun pit stop along the way, but it was the being in the car that I think we both enjoyed the most.
During college it was hard to make it out the west coast and it was extremely expensive for her to fly with her oxygen so we did not see a lot of each other, but when Evan and I moved to Phoenix I tried to seize the opportunity. We have made many trips to Las Vegas to stay with Grandma and Grandpa and I am so glad that we did! She and my Grandpa have gotten to know Evan so well over the past two years that through them he feels very integrated into the Nowak side of my family. Evan is the perfect mix of an Ingram and a Nowak. My Grandma picked up on this quite quickly and from the very first time he met her she made an effort to love him.
I was never ready to leave Las Vegas when we came for a little visit. It will probably always feel like home, and I have now come to love that many different places feel a lot like home.
We always knew that our time with her would be cut short, but I guess you are never ready to say goodbye to anyone. It would take a miracle to get her home right now, so she is at peace with the decisions that she has made and we are all respecting her wishes. She is a very proud and strong woman. I can only imagine what she would say if she saw how I was blubbering on right now, all I know is that she would put an arm around me and let me cuddle her while she said it.
I will miss the conversations the most. She had a way of telling a story that was unmatched. I probably listened to her tell the same story a dozen times, but each time I would end up laughing exactly as before. They are not the kind of stories that you can retell second hand. She lived a very purposeful and loving life. None of us are perfect, but as an adult I felt extremely loved and safe in her presence. I felt that we could relate more and more the older I got, and I am very sad that she will not be able to help me with my children.
My Grandmothers and my extended family mean so much to me. I have counted on them for support since the moment I realized I needed it and they have been there to provide it. I guess I will never be ready to have one less of something that I need so much. I love you Grandma and from this moment on I promise to be more conscious in leading a purposeful and thoughtful life. It is a small token, but I hope it is something you can help me with!
Families enjoy each others company...
Families teach each other and learn from one another...
Families help each other heal...
I love you and hope you know that I will feel you with me always.