The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

This weekend was a weird mix of the good and the bad.

To start, I’ve been teaching Zoe to ride her bike. She’s doing pretty well: step one is shoving her down the gentle grass slope of the backyard so she can figure out balance. She basically has that down. From there she started pedaling (on her own, no encouragement needing), and then we worked on how to use the brakes instead of just sticking her feet out. Or both, as appropriate. All of the above is going very well, honestly better than I’d have expected. There’s some trouble with steering: the bounciness of the grass, added to the leftwards slope of the yard, means that she has a little trouble keeping to an even line. She ran over our pet tree Mortimer a couple of times (he’s ok). But next step is to try it in the driveway, and the road, and I imagine in a few days she’ll have it down.

This, of course, makes me very proud. In spite of her initial fears about the whole thing, she’s taking to it very well and she knows she’s doing well. It is of course fantastic to see your child succeeding. But the real pride comes from when she falls down. She did so a few times of course, and it was no big deal. Eventually she got a pretty bad bump on her knee. I thought for a moment the waterworks were coming, but I smiled at her andĀ helped her drag her bike back up. We peeked at her knee and it was just a bit red, so right back on she went and kept going. Further bumps brought no complaints at all, and even better, she started making jokes. “ACCIDENTAL YOGA!” she’d yell back at me if she tumbled and got tangled up with the bike. I have no idea where she got it from, but she was all smiles about it. And just as importantly, every time she fell she was right back on the bike and ready to try again.

Which somehow feels like a more important lesson to impart than the bike riding thing.

As we did this, I snagged a few cell phone videos to show to my parents. This was comedy in itself: if the camera was rolling, she had a harder time concentrating. Eventually I got a decent one and forwarded it along.

It didn’t occur to me until afterwards that my parents were probably at the hospital with my grandmother.

Grandma had been found last week in her home, unresponsive, by my uncle who is her oldest son. He got her to the ER. She wasn’t moving, or talking, until they tried to CAT scan her, at which point she put up a fight. They admitted her. The next morning she was able to mumble a bit and was trying to communicate, and some time after that she was able to talk, mostly. The doctor came in and started some basic checks, starting with a softball question: “How old are you?”

She told them she was 70. We celebrated her 91st birthday two weeks ago.

This could initially just be some leftover fogginess that wouldn’t be so worrisome, but no. Apparently she’s lost most of the last 20 years. She’s shocked to see my father aged as he is. She doesn’t recall my grandfather’s death, nor her second son’s (I assume her fourth son’s as well). Erin went to visit her at the hospital briefly: for the past month or so she’s made a habit of having lunch with grandma at her home, weekly, to keep her company and help out around the house. Grandma didn’t remember Erin… though she seemingly did remember that lunch was involved. Which is something.

And she’s not in great shape on the physical aspect, either. One night she decided to get out of her hospital bed, only to fall flat on her face and break her nose. Which, if the mental state wasn’t enough, raises serious questions about whether she’d really be able to return home. On her own. Without Grandpa, or anyone close at hand to keep an eye on her.

When all of this did occur to me, it was somewhat upsetting. Here I’ve spent the day with my daughter while the family worries at the hospital a few miles away. I don’t feel bad about that bit at all, of course… but I wonder, would she remember Zoe? Or any of her great-grandchildren? Would she be surprised to find I’m not a teenager anymore?

I don’t know. Too much of it is up in the air right now. And this week I’ll get to temper the ongoing fears of her care and future, with the ongoing hope and incredible pride of Zoe’s future, and her growth as a human being.

Which is all a bit of an emotional tornado for me.