Maw Maw

December 3, 2008
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Here we are, sitting on my grandparents’ cold leather couches, like we have done many times before. But this time it is different. Staring at the brick wall in living room, I silently worry, too shocked to say anything. Just a few minutes ago, Jake and I were in our pajamas playing an intense game of PlayStation, and now we are here. Back at home, my mom is making biscuits for us, with Molly at her side as usual. Then the phone rings, but neither Jake nor I make a move for it.

I hear my mom, generally the epitome of calm and collected, shouting at us to get in the car; we have to go. Where could we possibly be going dressed in pajamas? I hear her yell for us again, so tangled in cords, I run behind Jake, sending the PlayStation crashing to the ground. No time to worry about that; my mom is already in the driver’s seat, ready to go. Without giving us the chance to buckle up, she throws the car in reverse. She sends the car flying around the three familiar right turns it takes to reach our Maw Maw and Boppy’s house. Jake, Molly, and I all ask what is happening, but the only answer we receive is that something is wrong with Maw Maw.

The next few moments all blur together in my eight year old child’s memory, unorganized. I remember my mom running to the back door. I remember seeing Bop cry for the first time. I remember being instructed to sit on the couch. I remember two of my uncles arriving, with Uncle Mark telling us to say some prayers. I remember mindlessly reciting the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be over and over again until the ambulance came. I remember being left with Mark while Boppy, my mom and Rob went to the hospital. I remember riding in Mark’s truck back to my house to turn off the oven left on in the moment of panic.

Now, being 17, I have more clarity about the situation. I know now that Maw Maw had a history of heart problems. I know what happened was that she had a sudden cardiac death, meaning her heart stopped. I know my mom had to unsuccessfully give Maw Maw C.P.R. until the ambulance came. I now also know that my Maw Maw is a miracle. She survived after not being alive for seven minutes. She was in a coma for 24 hours and in the hospital for a month. Since her heart had stopped, the oxygen stopped flowing to her brain, causing brain damage. She had to go through speech and physical therapy, yet still her speech was slurred and her balance off. Also, she could no longer drive or have a keen short memory.

At first, it was difficult for me to see Maw Maw, so different than before. I would be embarrassed when we would go places, since she talked funny or walked really slow. I had to become accustomed to re-answering the same question repeatedly. I had to be patient when she slowly shuffled from one place to the next. But, as time went on, I learned to get rid of my embarrassment since I love her. Because I know if I continued to be ashamed of Maw Maw, however unclear her speech or unsteady her walking, I was wasting time. I want to remember Maw Maw for all the great things she has done for me before her situation and after.
After her incident, I always remember she would go shop at T.J. Maxx, bringing Molly and I small gifts. We would just thank her, even if we had just received something two sizes too small. As years pass, she progressively gets weaker since her heart is so enlarged, making it difficult for her to move around for long periods of time. Because of this, she now spends most of her time in her bed, lacking the energy to do much else. Today, it is still hard for me at times to see my Maw Maw, so different than the old Maw Maw. Yet in some ways, she is the same. I am grateful that even though she may not always know which of her 15 grandchildren I am, she has always loved me. Lately, she has gotten better at calling me Kacey, rather than Jennifer or Lauren, and she is restarting physical therapy soon. Also, I appreciate the fact that her sense of humor is still the same as before. I love hearing her sly comments to Boppy when she disagrees with him, or her mocking of a celebrity’s outfit when we read Glamour together.

Now, I visit my Maw Maw and Bop often, usually first lying in bed with Maw Maw and then going to talk to my Boppy. It amazes me that even though I have to constantly tell Maw Maw what school I go to and which grade I am in, she remembers how to play Gin Rummy like a pro. I look forward to days when I have enough time to go and challenge her to a match, though she always wins. I know it makes her happy to hear about my day or have me watch TV with her, and it makes me happy too. I no longer feel embarrassed by my Maw Maw, knowing that she truly is a miracle. I want her to come to my graduation, and I will be proud that she is there since she has helped me grow as a person. My Maw Maw helped me learn to be understanding and appreciative, and for that, I love her more now than before.

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