Friday, July 19, 2013

Greedy for Life: A Memoir on Aging with Gratitude by Lori Stevic-Rust


The weatherman, Dick Goddard, was reporting on the extreme cold temperatures and the risk for significant snowfall. It was November 1962, one of the snowiest and coldest winters in Akron, Ohio. The ringing of the phone in the kitchen woke my mother from a sound sleep. The clock on the nightstand next to her bed read 2:45 a.m. While she was in the process of jumping out of bed, my father was already in the kitchen answering the phone. He returned to the bedroom and said, “It was the hospital. Your mother has started to bleed internally and they are preparing her for surgery.” My mother recalls a feeling of numbness climbing over her and her voice repeating, “Oh my God. They said she wasn’t strong enough yet for surgery.”

Two weeks prior it was discovered that my grandmother had bleeding ulcers in her stomach. She apparently had been showing signs of bleeding, but she ignored them, believing that would heal on their own. One morning when she was on her way to work at the local diaper store at 4:30 a.m., she collapsed near the car. She had been hospitalized for two weeks while the doctors tried to stabilize her. They knew she had lost a significant amount of blood and was not strong enough for them to attempt to surgically intervene. Unfortunately, the bleeding had restarted and emergency surgery was necessary. My grandmother’s recollection of that evening was waking feeling weak and ringing for the nurse; then she began to see pigs on the walls, and everything went black.

My parents arrived at the hospital as my grandmother was being rushed down the hallway on a gurney with several doctors and nurses running behind. One of the doctors stopped to tell them that she did not have a pulse and admitted that things did not look good. They saw that my grandmother was catholic and suggested that now may be the time for the family to contact a priest. They went on to say that they had called a Dr. Fox, who was one of the best surgeons on their staff, and he was prepping for the surgery.

My parents joined my grandfather in the waiting room for what would be an all-night vigil that lasted until about noon. As family stories go, I am told that as the vigil of waiting for news of the surgery continued, the doors at the end of the hall finally opened. My mother recalls the hospital hallway being long and dimly lit, so when the doors opened, it created an image of a small silhouette of a man in a surgical cap walking toward them.

They all stood as he approached, anxiously searching his face for clues on what he was about to say. Dr. Fox, or as the family has referred to him over the past fifty years, “the man with kind eyes and God’s hands,” let them know that Nana was still alive but not out of danger. They had to remove three fourths of her stomach. He then gestured to my mother’s belly and instructed her to go home and get some rest, as she was nine months pregnant with me. He felt she should go home to prevent early labor as I was to be born two weeks later. As my mother cried, he assured her that he would sit with my grandmother through the night but it was now out of his hands and in God’s.

Whether God played a role in my grandmother’s recovery can be debated by many. For her, she believes that her purpose on earth had not been completed. At the age of fifty, my age, she felt she still had so much to accomplish and so much to see and enjoy with her family. She always seemed to understand and accept that she had a purpose for being alive. With age that purpose seemed to become clearer and the drive to fulfill it became more intense.

For me, I wonder what my life would have been like if she had died and I had never met her. When I track back in time, decisions that I made, beliefs that I hold, and values that I cherish, I wonder if I would have come to different conclusions without her voice in my head. I sit here today incredibly grateful that on that early morning in November 1962, somebody intervened and gave me the ultimate gift of my grandmother. I received the gift of time, time with her for the past fifty years.

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Genre – Memoir

Rating – PG13

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