Not to make light of it, but this has been Grandma Sue's roughest century.
She was all but self-sufficient until the age of 95, and still very much herself in her sharpness and personality through last year, when she hit the milestone of her 100th birthday. But it hasn't been the same for most of the past 12 months, with her memory and ability to recognize people slipping.
The instructions are for no emergency life-saving procedures to be taken on Grandma's behalf. Last summer, I got a call early on a Sunday that she had collapsed. I'm about seventh or eighth on the protocol – it was as if the Secretary of the Interior had been told he was in charge. I stood there on the phone, faced, as far as I could gather, with the decision of letting her go. I wasn't prepared.
After a minute of being just frozen, I told her nurse to call 911. I just couldn't be the one.
I drove to her apartment in the assisted living facility near UCLA, arriving after the paramedics. She lay there on the floor, unconscious. But breathing. A couple of hours later, in a hospital bed, she began to come out of it.
I didn't really know what to think. We were taking it day to day after that, but that was about 10 months ago or so. She's still going. For a couple of those months, she was doing pretty well, but then a slide began. At my uncle's 80th birthday party in February, she couldn't really place my kids. This week, I got a message to call her, and when I reached her, she kept calling me Jack and seemed to have me confused with someone else. It was like talking to a distant spirit.
Overall, I have seen her and talked to her very little in recent months. I haven't been a good grandson, in the slightest. There's no making up for it. But we'll see her tonight, and in a quiet way, celebrate her incredible life.