Elizabeth Santospago is ninety-two years old. She is mother to five, grandmother to eleven, great-grandmother to nineteen. She’s been living with my mom, brother, and his family for years– four generations under one roof! and has always enjoyed a special place in the household, literally and figuratively: in her reclining chair in the living room, usually with one or two kids and maybe a cat on her lap, cartoons or the Red Sox playing on TV.
On Wednesday, June 6th, she didn’t come downstairs for breakfast, so my mom went up to check on her. She was awake, in bed, but unable to speak or move. She apparently had had an arrhythmia, and suffered a large stroke (a classic presentation of an afib-associated CVA, for the healthcare folks out there). After days of monitoring and many tests it became clear: her left arm and leg were permanently paralyzed, and she would never speak, swallow, stand or walk again.
She waxed in and out of awareness, and every time it was explained to her that she had suffered a stroke, her eyes would grow wide. We know her “Betty-isms” and could imagine her saying, each time: “Mercy Honest!” or “Heavens to Mergatroid!” or “Well, I’ll be!”
Family gathered, meetings were held, and the merciful decision to transfer her to hospice care was made.
The past week has been waiting, and praying, and telling lots of grandma stories. How she used to bake chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal squares in huge quantities, to give to neighbors and my Uncle Lou’s entire football team. How, as she couldn’t drive, she would walk to the grocery store with a wheeled cart every week, and her kids loved to walk with her. And so many more…
Right now, it’s waiting, and praying, and telling more stories.