Friday, March 27, 2020

Resilience in a Health Challenge #ResilientRoots

 I've written before about my maternal Grandmother Eila Mae Romney Dana.  She was a beautiful lady and a wonderful grandmother to me.  She was always generous and I never doubted for a moment that I was the favorite.  She grew up in challenging circumstances.  Her father died of an appendicitis attack while on a business trip.  That left her mother, Viola, as a single mother in 1928.  Eila and her younger brother Douglas were only 7 years and 2 years old.  Her mother went back to business school and then to work at the local department store while Eila and Doug were shuttled back and forth with family and friends.  Shortly thereafter, Viola married Gifford Talbot and Eila had a step father.  They moved several times while Eila went to school so she got good at making new friends.
I've written here about how Eila married my grandfather Darrell Dana in the middle of World War II and he shipped out the day after they were married.  Truly they were part of the greatest generation.  They made alot of sacrifices when they were first married, but they ended up in Southern California and raised three beautiful children.  My grandfather worked for United Airlines as a mechanic and then always had a second job as well to support the family.  Eila served in her church and took care of the children.  They enjoyed a few vacations when Darrell could get away and went to Disneyland as often as they could.

In 1967, just months after her oldest daughter (my mother) was married, Eila was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  She started dragging her feet and couldn't do anything about it.  It quickly got progressively worse.  She was in the hospital when she received a note that my parents had called to tell her they were expecting me.  They released her in a wheelchair to go home for Christmas.  She was able to get up and around some over the next little while, but essentially when I started walking, she stopped walking.  Our trips to Disneyland included a stroller and a wheelchair.  

We visited my grandparents often to try to help as much as we could, so I got to spend a lot of time with my Grandma Dana.  She was a gentle soul and a great example to me of faith and peace amid crisis.  I don't remember her before the disease so I don't know if it made her more peaceful and ok with whatever comes.  But when I knew her, nothing rattled her.  I went to visit them by myself for about a week when I was about 8 years old.  I remember going out into the kitchen and trying to cook something--I'm sure I was making a mess. Grandpa was at work and it took great effort for Grandma to come down the hall and see what I was doing.  So she'd call to me and ask what was going on.  She was so patient.  And I have very fond memories of that trip and many other moments with her. When VCRs were invented, we watched many many hours of Disney videos together.  We loved Pooh Bear the most.

I never heard her complain although I knew she was frustrated with MS.  I heard her moan and grumble in pain when Grandpa had to lift her, but I never heard her speak a frustrated word about her situation.  Grandma and Grandpa looked for cures and help to get her walking again all through my childhood.  There was always some new hope that would help.  But nothing ever did.  Thankfully, medicine and help for MS would come, but by then, the disease had done too much damage.

One of the great ironies of their later lives were the chances for travel they had because of Darrell's career at United.  They had free tickets anywhere they wanted to go but it was so hard to travel with the wheelchair.  They bought a camper so they could visit their family members, and they did get to take a grand trip to Europe with their son Ken along to help.  Luckily they were able to move closer to the family in 1991 and they were able to stay close to their siblings, their kids and of course their grandchildren.

I remember lying next to Grandma in their adjustable bed watching TV one day when a program about Christopher Reid came on.  He had been paralyzed and was in a wheelchair.  She  shook her head and said, "I just don't know how he does it."  I don't remember if I turned to her and said, "Grandma, you're in the same situation." but I certainly thought it.  It didn't even occur to her that she was dealing with the same challenge.  It just was and she just dealt with it.
Alot of credit needs to go to Darrell too.  My Grandfather took exquisite care of her their entire life.  He rigged up a system in their bathroom so that she could use it without help and could be self sufficient while he was at work. At a time when men didn't take care of households, he took care of everything.  He was so good to her.   

Eila died in 2000, 33 years after her initial diagnosis.  She was the epitome of grace during a challenge.  The day she died, my mother sat with Darrell and thanked him for all of the years he took such good care of Grandma.  He said to her, "When you have something so precious, you take good care of it."  That is what both of my grandparents were to me--precious.  The 32 years I had with them were such an example to me, of true love, of perseverance, and of resilience.  I'm so thankful that I carry their DNA.

Post written by Janet Hovorka, Owner, Family Chartmasters LLC

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