12:16 – When Gramma Left Us

You never know when your life is going to change forever. I never thought, when I woke up on November 17, 2017 that it would be the day I said goodbye to my lovely Gramma. My Grimmy. My Grimmy-Grim.

My poor Gramma had a hard life, but she was a trooper. I think that’s what saddened me the most: that she never had it easy. She was always in a good mood and was the sweetest little old lady. I don’t remember the facts perfectly, but she got Polio when she was 26-years-old, when Mom was only 6. She had surgery, and she literally died and was brought back to life. That’s where the large scar on her back came from and the reason she lost some mobility in her hands, the reason her speech changed forever and the reason she would be bed-ridden for the rest of her life. Mom became responsible for Gramma when she was 18 or so, making it hard for Mom to have any type of career, but that was their life and Mom and Gramma would be together till 2004 when Gramma would become sick and move into a nursing home. We thought back then that she wouldn’t make it because she was so sick, but she overcame that obstacle, like all the others in her life.

I can’t for the life of me remember exactly when they found tumors on Gramma’s thyroid and then her lungs, but it couldn’t be over a year. Gramma’s never been one for surgeries–in fact, she hated to have to go to the hospital for anything at all–so it wasn’t a surprise to anyone when, at 86-years-old, she refused a biopsy. So we would never know how serious the potential cancer was. The doctors also told Aunt Nora that starting chemo on her, or any other type of cancer medication, would probably kill her before the disease would, so nobody pressed the issue. We would just let her be, and that’s how she wanted it.

The last few months were hard on her. She went from having hallucinations due to UTI’s, to a Bell’s Palsy episode (that was grossly ignored by the nursing home until I went in and had a fit), to just being uncomfortable all the time.

Aunt Nora, Linda and I had a meeting with hospice a few months ago–which I NEEDED to have, because Aunt Nora had already brought it up to me and I just felt like the nursing home was trying to “free up a bed”. I’m incredibly cynical, especially when it came to my grandmother’s health. I felt a little better when the social worker told us that this was just to make her comfortable, and it could be 2 weeks or 2 years or more, but it was just extra help for her. So they stepped in.

She recently stopped listening to her music, I noticed, and she always loved her music. The last few months I tried visiting her as often as possible after work, because I knew I needed to spend that extra time with her. The last few weeks I saw her less, because of work, or because the kids had something going on. I had the Mexican Artisan Expo going on last weekend, so I missed seeing her from Thursday to Monday, and Monday only because I had to pay bills and do everything I didn’t get to do over the weekend. When I went in to see her on Tuesday after work, she seemed confused and uncomfortable. She kept saying she was hot and I tried pointing her fan at her from all angles and it just wasn’t helping. She was confused about eating, telling me that she hadn’t eaten dinner and kept bringing up her postre (dessert) telling me that they hadn’t given her one at all. So naturally, I started fuming that they would ignore my Gramma, and called the CNA in. She swore up and down she’d fed her and that Gramma said she wasn’t hungry, and didn’t like her dessert. I said that was odd, because she ALWAYS eats her food and most definitely her dessert. I tried making her as comfortable as possible: fluffing her pillows, fixing her fan, moving her oxygen wires and call button wires around and finally lowering her bed more and turning her light off like she asked. I left feeling uneasy. I wanted to text Aunt Nora, but I had seen photos of her at Disney and didn’t want to bother her yet.

Mom told me that night that when she and Linda had visited Gramma during lunch that she also didn’t want to eat and kept nodding off. I was about to text Aunt Nora when she texted me about hospice wanting to start Gramma on a morphine drip because she was uncomfortable. I hated the thought of it, but I didn’t want her to feel terrible.

I visited Gramma Wednesday evening after work. Again she was uncomfortable and confused about eating. I asked the CNA if she’d eaten and she said, “Very little.” Very, very unlike Gramma. I was having trouble understanding her more-so that day, but tried my hardest to answer her questions. She kept grabbing onto the bed rails to shift herself and when she would, she would cringe or moan from pain. I think the cancer in her lungs was bothering her 🙁 . She even grabbed her side once. I panicked and texted Aunt Nora and she told me to go to the nurse’s station before I left to ask them to give her something for the pain. One of the dad’s of one of Emily’s little classmates, Mark, was the nurse on duty and told me he would take care of it. I believe this is the night they started her on anxiety medication. Linda spent the night with Gramma.

They moved Gramma to a new room the next afternoon where there was a chair-bed to accommodate Aunt Nora and Linda when they’d stay the night. When I picked the boys up Thursday evening I told them we’d stop by to visit Gramma. Linda was just about to leave when we’d arrived into the room because Aunt Nora was going to relieve her. She told me that Gramma had been knocked out for hours after they gave her the morphine and anxiety meds, because she’d been hysterical the night before. Linda said, “If you’d seen her, you’d ask them to give it to her, she was bad.” It was heartbreaking to see her in the state she was in: pale, labored breathing, so frail 🙁 . Linda said the nurse told her that she was doing a “death gurgle” when she would breathe. I couldn’t believe they had a name for it. I knew I was being selfish, but I was hoping this was temporary; that–like all the other times–she would defy the odds and make a complete recovery. Poor Eenan was distraught and Jaylen was holding it in. So was I; I had to be strong for Eenan. We stayed with her for a little over an hour and left at 8pm, only because the other kids were at home and needed to eat dinner.

The next morning we woke up super early since Jaylen needed to be dropped off at Mario’s, like usual on Fridays, and I needed to get cash for the girls’ “Snack Shack” at school. Mario gave Alaethia some cash since we wouldn’t make it on time to the school if I’d stopped at Walgreens, and Emily already had hers. Alaethia had been having pains in her tummy all week, and when she got them again that morning I told her she needed to see the doctor, as it had already been 4 days of the stomach pains. I really wanted to text Aunt Nora, but I was afraid I’d wake her, so I texted Linda instead. She said there wasn’t much change, but that the nurse told Aunt Nora it was “the beginning of the end” and that she was showing more signs of it. I hated to hear that, but I needed to stop being selfish, and I knew it. After running around with Alaethia all morning and trying to find the prescription they gave her, we gave up and went to HEB to get her some broth and yogurts with probiotics, per the doctor’s recommendation. I dropped her off at home, since it was past 10am and she’d be counted absent anyway.

I got to work and answered a few e-mails. I had just gone into my boss’s office to ask him if I could skip out on working Unplugged that night since I needed to spent time with my grandmother and explained what was going on. He said, yes, of course I could have the night off. I went to my desk to finish up some bills and help my co-worker, Lee, translate a letter when I got two texts: one from Aunt Nora saying, “Linda said Mom just stopped breathing” and one from Linda that said “Call me”. So I did. Linda was crying that she and Mom had arrived and not 10 minutes later Gramma stopped breathing and she hadn’t breathed since. I couldn’t believe it. It was too fast. I grabbed all my things with tears stinging at my eyes and just started bawling when Lee asked what was wrong. I told him, and then told my boss that I had to leave, then I ran into Gerry and Michelle and then Rosie. Rosie told me to calm down and breath since I had to drive, so I did. I called John and Jorge on the way to the nursing home. John felt awful because he was planning to visit her on Saturday, but he never got the chance to. I immediately stopped crying to be strong for him and told him she knew he loved her. I arrived at the same time Aunt Nora and Tio Arturo did. I couldn’t believe how much Gramma changed from the night before. I couldn’t believe she wasn’t with us anymore. We all hugged and cried and collected her things. They called the official time of death at 12:16pm. They let us stay with her about an hour before the funeral home came for her.

I had the task of telling the kids when I picked them up from Mario’s at 5pm. Emily and Alaethia broke down. Eenan, who had already broken down the night before, took it well, but weeped a little. Mario told Jaylen not to hold it in and he broke down, too. Even Mario got teary when he gave his condolences to Mom. It took a bit to compose ourselves, but we told the kids the important thing was she knew they loved her and she was in a much better place now.

Mom was devastated, but she did so much better than I thought. Linda was taking it really hard; I know how much Gramma meant to her. She meant the world to all of us. She isn’t suffering anymore, and that’s the thought I’ve had that has helped me cope. I really do hope she knows how much I loved her, how much we all did. She’s finally free of any pain; walking, talking and together again with my great-grandparents and her siblings. I love you Grandma.

Firsts: Las Vegas and Flying

Jorge told me to keep my Friday open: no appointments at work and give my bosses a heads up about possibly being out. It would be tough since we had our Mexican Artisan Expo coming up, but I made sure to complete my daily to-do lists to leave everything ready, just in case. 

Thursday afternoon comes around and I get a text from Jorge: “Fill out your absence form, the trip is happening!”

I was in disbelief and panicked since I hadn’t filled out my form because I didn’t think we were actually going anywhere; it was already late in the week AND we had lots going on, like La Guelaguetza that evening and leaving work early for Alaethia’s Awards Ceremony. But I get my form filled out, signed and submitted with no problem. Our events ran late, we grabbed Whataburger and although we still needed to pack and I needed to put a few things in to wash, we were exhausted so I would do it all in the morning.

It was kind of like I was floating around witnessing my own life from the outside; we were going on an All-Expense-Paid trip to VEGAS, and I just couldn’t believe it. Never in a million years did I think we’d get to go–and for practically FREE??

I took my sweet time the next morning since our flight had changed to a later time, making myself a lovely, un-rushed breakfast and then chit-chatted with Linda and Mom…for a while.

When Jorge texted about needing a few things packed I finally went into panic mode when I realized that I had 2 HOURS to finish getting ready, so I started showering, doing my hair and packing. I had to admit that I had butterflies in my stomach. At the tender age of 35, I’d still not flown in an airplane, nor had I been to Vegas and wasn’t sure what to expect. I had visions of myself flipping out like Annie in Bridesmaids.

Jorge gets home and we finish packing. I check my lists and re-check to make sure I didn’t forget anything. We start getting everything in the car and I start to feel super nervous, but I will not admit it. We load the car, I give Mom an hug and we take off.

Jorge, being a Veteran flier, gave me a rundown of what to do and not do to make our airport experience quick and easy: no earrings, put your jewelry in your luggage, don’t wear socks and wear slides. I dressed as appropriately as possible.

We’re near the mall almost to the airport when I realize, “Holy shit! I forgot my fucking flat-iron! And I didn’t bring hair gel or anything!!”

(And my toothbrush, his toothbrush and toothpaste! FAAKKK!!)

My wonderful husband–who isn’t too good about gently telling you to calm down–says, “You had all day, how could you not pack that??” And then I see him take a turn into the JC Penney parking lot. I tell him, “No, I am not buying a new one. That’s ridiculous.” He said, “You’re not buying one, I’m buying one.” So he practically drags me inside and he’s showing me all these awesome CHI ones with really cute patterns and shows me one he really likes and suddenly I feel overwhelmed. I tell him just to get the one he liked and I step outside for fresh air. And then I get teary. I attribute it to the fact that I’m nervous about flying and just not knowing what to expect.

I finally calm down on the way to the airport. Jorge packs my flat-iron and we’re off to have our baggage checked in.

Excuse the no eye makeup

It was a long-ish wait, but we went through just fine and the portly, kind TSA agent told me my pink fuzzy slides were the coolest shoes he’d seen in a long time, aww!

We found the correct gate and stopped by a gift shop so that I could get some water and a snack, since I decided to be an idiot and not have lunch 🙄 . I was going to try my best to stick to Keto foods, so that left me with the option of jerky a snack protein pack and water.

They start boarding and we walk down this tubey-tunnel and into the airplane. It’s cold, so I’m glad I brought my Pikachu hoodie 😆 . We make our way all the way to the end. Jorge says, “If we got window seats, you sit there so you can experience it.” My nerves turn to excitement–I can’t believe I’m about to fly on a plane!! We get to our seats and we’re in the middle and aisle seats. Boo. Everyone’s seated and the flight attendant tells the people behind us that if they’d like to, they could move to a window seat in an empty row. Jorge overhears and asks the flight attendant if we can do the same and tells her I’ve never flown before, and the flight attendant cheerfully says, “Sure!”

Yay!
Jorge tells me to chew some gum so my ears won’t pop, so I frantically lift my bag from between my feet and get us some sticks. A flight attendant does through all the instructions, like in the movies 😆 . My heart is thumping as the plane starts to move. As we ascend, I begin to take video, and as we get higher Jorge says, “Do you not feel that, or are you ignoring it?” As I’m still taking video I ask, “What? What should I be feeling?” He says, “No, you’re good, I think you’ll be okay.” 😆

I had only seen people’s photos of clouds and the earth below from social media, and couldn’t believe I was experiencing it myself! It felt surreal!

We entertained ourselves with the snacks we got at the airport.

About an hour in, we ordered some mixed nuts and mixed drinks 😀 .

Jorge fell asleep and I blogged a teensy bit before I started nodding off, too, but I was too excited to fall sleep! And then I started seeing this:

We finally arrive (it was a 2-hour, 45-minute flight). I’m in awe of the scenery and then by how enormous the airport is. So much walking!

Our friend texts us briefly to let us know there’s a car waiting for us; just look for our name in the crowd.

I immediately felt fancy 😆 . Flying, Vegas, our name on an iPad?? And riding in a brand-new Escalade to MGM???  What is this life??

We see skyscrapers and screens and lights, like in the movies! You can even see the Mandalay Bay, and the windows that were still broken due to the shooter. 🙁 Such a sobering view.

We arrive at the hotel…

I can’t believe how huge and luxurious it is and how many people are in there. We’re like real tourists, standing in the middle of the lobby, stumped on what to do, where to go. Our friend had made our reservation, obviously, and we weren’t sure what row of people to stand behind to be helped. Jorge couldn’t get ahold of him because he was on his own flight on his way to Vegas. 

2 people with anxiety in large crowds is a recipe for disaster LOL. Jorge remembered seeing a certain name on the water bottles in the Escalade and I found a counter with the exact same name. So, me, being the one with less anxiety found a concierge that wasn’t helping people and asked her if she could check on our reservation at that counter. After a few calls because our friend wasn’t present, we were in the system and were taken to our room.

Jorge, enjoying a complimentary apple

We organize our things in the room and snap photos. I’m taken aback by how huge the city is, how tall the buildings are at every turn. We flip through the menus on the TV and relax for a while till we meet our friends in their room for hors d’oeuvres. 

That water fountain tho

Our friends are staying in one of the penthouses and it’s just incredible!! The decor, the ceiling height, the food that was catered in from the kitchen–it’s all amazing. We had some Champagne and bits and pieces from a charcuterie board and got ready to go to actual dinner. I was already stuffed!
We went downstairs through the casino and to the Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grille.

I didn’t want to take a photo of my food because I felt silly in front of these wealthy people, heh. But I did snap a quick photo of the hubs:

Choices, choices.

I had never had such amazing chicken wings in my life! The pomme frites and everything else we shared were incredible as well!

We ended the evening watching our friends play baccarat in the high roller’s room. I was amazed by how much some people were spending! All I kept thinking when they would lose was, “Just give it to me instead!!” 😆

We were up till 3am, which is something I haven’t done in YEARS. We had to get some Starbucks so I could stay awake lol. 

We woke up late the next morning and ordered room service. Jorge had a Bacon Bloody Mary; it was so good!

Breakfast! Only had a bite of hash brown.
Bacon Bloody Mary

I started feeling kinda groggy and my nose was running like crazy. So we showered and got ready to explore a bit. And find some Dayquil 🙄 . Only I would get sick in Vegas.

That sun. Jorge realized he left his glasses in the room LOL.

We found a Walgreens, thank God. Got some toothbrushes, toothpaste and Day/Nyquil.

We looked around and visited several stores before our friends wanted to meet up again. As we’re walking back into the MGM, some guys dressed up as a Transformer and Iron Man come up to us and say, “Want a picture, Beautiful??” Jorge already has his arm around my waist but pulls me closer and angrily says, “NO.” I giggle and say, “You’re so overprotective!” He says, “Hello, they were talking to ME!” Buahahaha!!

We played some slots and had some drinks…

And then we met our friends at the High Roller’s Room again. There was a tournament and the amount of MONEY that was being bet! One man was switching back and forth between two tournaments and had $14 Million at one table 😯 I would pretty much cash out right there–or is that something you can’t do yet? LOL

We did some more day drinking:

And then we had lunch at Wolfgang Puck’s Grille again. It was incredible!

Our friend surprised us with tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s “KA”!! So we had about an hour to just chill out in our room. Of course that meant taking a selfie:

Couldn’t resist since it matched my dress.

We got ready to head out and were already running late somehow so I only got to do a quick drive-by photo:

I had never seen a show more spectacular than this! It was breathtaking and I found myself asking Jorge, “Is that actually happening or is it an illusion??” several times throughout the show.  The aerial performers were incredible, it was funny just enough and the crazy stage floor that would rise up to a 90-180 degree angle and drop sand and water was crazy!! I was impressed and so was Jorge.

We headed back to our room, but not before grabbing some Starbucks; my old ass was ALREADY getting sleepy at 10pm! We ordered some drinks in and were all set to relax before we met our friends for dinner.

I was feeling so sick and groggy that I couldn’t enjoy my Starbucks or my drink at all 🙁 . It was quite depressing. Next thing I knew, Jorge was on the phone saying, “We fell asleep…” I shoot out of bed and look at the time: 12:00am!! Apparently, we’d crashed out and our friends had been trying to get a hold of us for the last hour to have dinner! We thanked them, but opted out, washed up and changed for bed. We had to be up early the next day anyway.
We showered and were up by 6am. We were going to get breakfast at the airport and be ready for our flight at 9am. Since we were anxious about our transportation and didn’t really know the airport, we wanted to be ready.

We grabbed all our luggage and checked out. I was feeling better from my cold after all that sleep, heh. 

We’re waiting outside for our car and don’t know which in the world it is; there are tons of Escalades. So I ask one of the gentlemen and he calls in to the office. He asks for our names and says, “Your car is on its way, ma’am.” A black Bentley (that Jorge tells me is worth about 3 houses) drives right up to us and the lady helps us load our luggage. 

Then she turns on our back massagers. I couldn’t believe it.

We arrive to the airport and do the whole check-in and baggage thing. The lady writes out our gate number on a tiny slip of paper and Jorge sticks it in his pocket. We start the trek towards our gate and snap a pic in the tram 

Like true tourists lol

And then we grab some Burger King. It was the most expensive Burger King meal, ever. Ah, Vegas!

It wasn’t 100% Keto; I left the bottom croissant on it 😳 . 

Jorge and I eat quickly and make our way to the gate. I don’t remember if he checked the little ticket with our gate number or if I asked him to, but we were at the wrong gate! We hightailed it across the airport, no tram or anything! Then we hear over the intercom that it’s the last call for our flight, so our brisk walk turns into a trot lol. Thankfully, we make it!

It was a cloudless day.

We get to the airport 2.5 hours later and grab our luggage. We’re still reeling from the last couple of days, but We’re glad to be home, too.  We head to Kusina Restaurant for some lunch. 

I still cant believe I visited Vegas! Another check off the Bucket List!