The Transformation

April 4, 2011
By , Fort Wayne, IN
I have never been a huge fan of medical T.V. shows such as “ER” or “Grey’s Anatomy.” I was never one who was into all of the drama that they attempted to create. The situations seemed to be overly sensationalized and far-fetched. I did not believe that the shows could possibly be an accurate representation of real life. I was right; reality is much worse.

I was at a Sanctus Real concert jumping up and down with the music blaring in my ears. One of my favorite bands and I had the best place: first row, right by the speaker. It was ironic. Who would have thought that I would be enjoying my favorite passion, music, when my worst nightmare came true? Following the concert I got the call that would change my life. My sister called telling me I had to get to the hospital right away because my grandma had gotten very, very sick. She told me that our friend Jim was on his way. So I waited.
I left the event table and went downstairs to wait by the doors for my ride, considering the situation. My grandma had had problems with her diabetes for the past five years. My step-grandfather, Fred, had been the catalyst of these problems. Not allow her to use insulin, taking away her pills, and not letting her check her blood sugar level was only part of his plan to torment her. She was forced to sit all day on a couch, not allowed to use the restroom or do anything she wanted to. Fred even went so far as to not let her eat. Time and time again he would tell her that she was not hungry and she became so intimated and was afraid to eat. We would get calls from her yelling for us and then the line would go dead because he had unplugged the phone. Eventually, she began to develop a small bit of dementia which only allowed him to torture her further. All she had left was my mom, my sister, and I, but he told her we were no longer alive. To make matters worse, we were not allowed to see her so she had no reason to not believe him. He threatened to call the police on us if we showed up at her house, and actually followed through on the threat. Since he was an attorney and judge he could get away with anything. Even murder.
After Fred sent her to a nursing home telling the workers that she could not eat and was ready to die, we found her and started seeing her on a daily basis. We promised her we would take her home when we could because she was so depressed when we were not there. We helped her to overcome her fear of the backlash she expected from eating and she began to gain weight. Although some of the health problems she faced were irreversible, she did improve. However, that was only because we were the Power of Attorney. When Fred found out, he tried to get the POA taken away from us. I helped prepare a multitude of reasons and evidence why we should care for her and he should not, but to no avail. We were in his district, with his friend being the judge. Without any real evidence on his side, Fred was granted temporary POA for the next thirty days. Now was the perfect time to strike.
As soon as my grandma contracted an infection, we told the nurses to give her antibiotics. They said that Fred would not let them and there was nothing they could do. Eventually the infection got into her bloodstream and she was sent to the hospital with a death sentence attached to her. I had to help her, I thought, letting my mind return to my current surroundings.
The minutes slowly ticked by as the crowd rushed by me. Eventually even the staff for the band and their merchandise crew had packed up and left. The security guards must not have seen me waiting there because the lights flicked off in the back and I was left in a low-lit entrance by myself. Well, not completely by myself. I still had God. I prayed constantly, not being able to form the right words, but hoping that He understood what I was trying to say. Although this brought comfort, it did not block out the strange darkness that surrounded me. The absolute silence made the atmosphere even more eerie, since I had just been listening to blaring music for the past few hours. Finally, my ride arrived.

Jim was an extremely compassionate man. He just simply did not know how to show it. He spent the forty minute trip to the hospital filling every moment with none-stop meaningless chatter and avoided the subject at hand at all costs. So as soon as I sat down and shut the door to his black Taurus, the nervous questions instantly began.
After the ride, he pulled up and dropped me off, and I stepped out of the car, leaving our peaceful conversations behind and reluctantly reentering reality. When I entered the room I went straight to the bed by my mom, half-noticing our friend Diane and my sister sitting in the corner. My grandma lied there with an oxygen mask on hooked up to a couple of different machines. The number of tubes attached to her was sickening. This could have all been prevented, I thought. I won’t let him get his wish.
I walked up to her and looked down at her face. Her violet eyes pierced my heart. They were not the peaceful eyes of a woman who knows that she is passing on into eternity; they were pleading eyes of a woman drowning in pain and fear. Desperate to give her some small ounce of comfort, I launched into a pep talk filled with promises that would soon be broken. The words still haunt me today.

“Hey, Grandma,” I began. “Listen to me. You have to hang in there. You’re doing great! We’ll get you out of here soon and bring you to our house. I promise! We won’t let anything happen to you. I won’t let anything happen to you. I promise! Look at my bracelet. You love jewelry. Hey you’re still wearing the bracelets I gave you. We kind of match. You’re doing good, you’re doing good. I promise it will be okay. You’ll be fine. I promise!”

She was not able to talk with her mask on, but I knew she could hear me and could understand me, and that was just as good. Although her eyes exhibited fear and her body was broken, her spirit was not. My mom and sister told me how a couple of minutes before I arrived, she had said the Lord’s Prayer with them with a mask on that should have prevented her from talking. However, as she always did in life, she placed her faith above all, and defied the odds once again.

After talking with her, I turned to my sister and asked her what was going on. She explained to me that Fred would not allow my grandma to have life support. We had a document stating that she wished to be put on life support, but the nurses said it was not valid because even though it was in her own writing, Fred had temporary Power of Attorney so his decisions concerning my grandma override even her own decisions regarding the preservation of her own life. I shook my head in disgust, and felt my hands ball into fists.

“What? What? He can’t do that! Where is he?” I demanded.
Diane turned to my sister, “Ashley, don’t tell her where he is.”
Repeating my question, I asked “Where is he?”
“I can’t tell you. It won’t help,” my sister quickly replied. “There’s nothing we can do.”
“Then let me talk to the nurses.”
I turned and headed towards them, but Diane and Ashley blocked my way.
“No---!” both of them yelled. They attempted to hold me back, but my determination got the best of them and I broke through. I ran up to the nurses on duty and slammed my fist on the counter to get their attention. Glaring at the two women who held the fate of my grandmother in their hands, I swallowed back tears and attempted to save my grandma one last time.
“You can’t do this!” I said with as much authority as I could muster up. “We have a paper that she signed. My mom was her POA. You can’t just let her die.”
“Sorry but he is the husband and the temporary guardian,” one of them responded matter-of-factly. I could tell that she was not going to change her mind. Knowing it was hopeless to try to convince them further, I turned and sulked back into the room, still steaming with fury.
The next hour or so consisted of us sitting and talking with my grandma, and hearing the steady beeping of her heart monitor. Her eyes never stopped pleading, and my heart never stopped aching. Eventually the space between the beeps slowly grew longer, but I still could not believe she would really be gone. After a while, they told Fred in the other room that his wife was dying and he should probably see her for the last time. He stepped in the room and looked down at her with his small, cold, black eyes. They held no sadness or pain. Only a mixture of hate and pleasure. That was the face she had to look at during her final moments on this earth. However, it was our words she heard. Our words of love and encouragement.
I never heard the final emergency beep that signaled the end of her life. My mom, my sister, and I were hugging each other and crying, something which I rarely ever do. I told my mom it would be okay, and she looked at me and said, “Honey, she’s gone.”
I told her that she wasn’t. The nurses would have told us if she had died, wouldn’t they? I turned to one of them and asked why they were turning her machines off and they look at me told me in an emotionless voice that she had died.
Then, my grandpa went out to the counter to call my grandma’s brother and tell him about his great accomplishment. He was laughing as he told him about her death. It was sick. Meanwhile, after my mom had her alone time with her mom, my sister and I stepped in. After talking to her for a while, I gave her one final hug. As I bent down I could hear a faint breath. I looked at her unmoving chest and thought I was imagining it, so I asked my sister if she could hear it. She leaned down and nodded. A small flame of hope flared up in us, but it was soon extinguished. Ashley and I knew she was gone since her chest was not moving.
We were not able to attend the funeral since a certain friend of Fred was there. That friend was my father, who all three of us have a protective order against. He would say that he was there first and call the police on us and we would have to leave. So we went to the gravesite and grieved privately.
The anger I had from the entire situation welled up inside of me in the coming days. I knew that the pain and hopelessness I was feeling could all legitimately be blamed on one person, Fred. However, I did not want to use the anger I was feeling for revenge. My grandma would not want that. Instead, I focused all my anger into making a change. I created a memorial website for my grandma with her favorite quotes and songs. Her friends that were too afraid of Fred to come to the funeral were able to post on it and pay their respects. We took out an ad in the newspaper in the obituary section and explained that people who knew and loved Barbara Lou Romero could visit the website and leave a message or share a story about her.
My grandma was gone. Revenge could not change that fact. Anger could not bring her back to life. Bitterness would get me no where. Hate would only destroy me as well. I learned that the best way to honor my grandmother was to use my anger for good. My anger was there to alert me of injustice and show me that I had no right to be angry if I did not attempt to change it. So I turned my hate and longing for revenge into love and respect for my grandma, my anger into action, and my bitterness to thankfulness for the time I shared with her. I underwent a transformation that has lasted until today that has allowed me to change my negative emotions into positive outcomes.

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