My Granuelita & Ageism in America

I just got home from hanging with my granuelita at the hospital for a good couple of hours.  Gawd, I love that brassy-brilliant-classy-timeless-firebrand brawd.

She was feeling ill on Monday and was admitted to emergency care.  On Tuesday, before we knew what was wrong with her, I had a killer attack of those ancient Teenage/Early 20s Blues. You know those blues?  The I hate life, everything sucks, there’s no point to living, getting out of bed is a joke, I’m going to sleep for as many hours as possible today Blues …

Finally, yesterday we found out that my grandma’s faintness was resulting from a growing heart rate irregularity.  Apparently she can’t relax for too long or her heart skips too many beats a.k.a super slows down.  She must somehow always be on-the-go for her heart to beat regularly, which is ironic because that’s her favorite state of being — Think, Scheme, Talk, & Gooooooo.  The blues have calmed down since we got some answers.  Thank Baby Jesus in Da Manger!  I hate those darn blues.

Anywho, the doctors cut down the dosage of her regular meds to see if the irregularity of her heart beat was potentially being caused by over-medication or if her 79-year old heart was just finally ready for a pacemaker.  Obviously, her aging body needs different medications to keep various organs up and running so cutting down her large dosages to almost nil within a 4 day period is going to reflect in her body as signs of pain and discomfort.  Basically, her body is going to start yelling “give me the meds!” for x, y, and z ailments.

Long story short … My grandma KNOWS her body.  She reads countless medical articles and journals on the human body, studied to be a medical assistant at one point, listens to La Doctora Isabel and other spanish-language Doctors’ radio shows on a daily basis, etc.  She’ll read anything and everything on the human body. A more voracious reader, self-educator, and passionate student of well, everything, I’ve never known (except for Baby Dewds).  I mean Granuelita knows a lot about the body’s compartments and how they function — “Como una machina” a.k.a. “Like A Machine,” she says.

Granted, I’m not delusional, I know that my grandma is what we all are  — A flawed human being with a lot magnificent, astounding, and brazen qualities and a lot of hurt, horrifying, and healable ones too.  She’s not Mother Teresa or Joan Crawford — Actually, somewhere perfectly in between.  Perfect for me, anyway.  We have a blast together.  She’s not only my grandma, but also my friend.

Anywho, back to our kick back at the hospital.  My grandma may be old and talk a lot and over think every tiny detail more than the average bear, but mentally she’s sharper than a tack.  Emotionally, she’s a work in progress as we all are, but mentally — brighter than a florescent light bulb.

I say this because hanging out with my grandma in public is a strange occurrence.  Whenever she tries to reason or discuss her needs and points of view with say, the bank teller, cashier, nurse, etc. they look straight past her and address the response to me … As if her questions or requests were worth less than that of a bratty child.  Maybe it’s because of her physical handicap that many other adults try to treat her like she’s mentally handicapped too?  She’s always dressed to the 9 in her 1940s dresses, gold-rimmed glasses, and fabulous shade of red hair, but she walks with a walker because of ailing hips and knees.

I, on the other hand, think of my grandmother as A Force of Life. Her spirit is like the clenched fist of an old sea captain that releases every once in a while to play the piano.

It bothers me that adults (20 years from being where she’s at) treat her like she’s senile and the worst of it — that they try to wink 😉 me in on the condescension –which, of course, she never let’s fly.

Once she was bargaining down the price of fish at a grocery store and the seafood butchers wouldn’t reply to one of her questions. They kept directing a “you’ve got your hands full with this one” smirk my way so I stepped into the conversation to back her up, mediate between the two you know, and she whispers to me, “Meh, don’t worry. I’m just dancing.”  So I stepped back and let her do her thang.  Suffice to say she got the fish she wanted at the price she set — head, tail, and all.  I mean this woman survived poverty in the 30s, Cuba’s Batista Regime and Castro Regime, and The LA Riots — All while wearing pearl earrings!

Yet, today, it happened again — Ageism.  I was hanging out with my granuelita in her hospital room.  After 4 days of observation, the doctor ruled that to remedy her irregular heart beat she needs an old-fashioned pacemaker put in so she’s due for surgery tomorrow morning.

Consequently, they started slowly but surely easing her back onto her meds.  Still, she’d been feeling a sharp pain that reached through the right portion of her upper neck into the lower-back of her cerebrum since early morning.  When she tried to explain to the nurse about having had that same problem 4-years ago and that X medication had helped to regulate and alleviate it — of which they’d been giving her half the regular dose — the nurse SHUSHED her.

At the end of the whole hour-long debacle, it turns out my grandmother was right! Medication X apparently helped prevent possible stroke because it did y and z, and so they finally agreed to give her her regular dose.

But still, THIS is what she had to go through to be heard:

First, as my grandmother tried to explain to the nurse the pain she was feeling and how that particular medicine helped, the nurse basically kept repeating an answer that didn’t address her concerns and then told her to shush because the incessant talking was raising her blood pressure.  The nurse then turned to me and told ME to tell my grandmother to “SHUSH” because she talked too much and that was raising her blood pressure (even though her blood pressure was terribly low at that point). The whole time, she didn’t even recognize the fact that my grandma was telling her the blood pressure monitor machine wasn’t reading properly, which was true. Another helpful and compassionate nurse came in after the debate was resolved and had to change the machine chords and everything to get it properly working again. This is a nice grade-A hospital too.

Anyway, let me finish telling you what my grandmother had to go through to be taken seriously: 1) I had to explain and re-explain to the nurse what my grandmother was saying on my grandmother’s behalf because the nurse just wouldn’t give her the time of day 2) We had to call my mom — who is a phenomenal and experienced social worker — to speak to the nurse and then the nurse’s supervisor and then the doctor.  The nurse’s supervisor and the doctor were somewhat helpful, but it was that initial nurse who didn’t want to LISTEN to my grandmother — because she was too old and talked too much or spoke english with a thick Cuban accent or WHATEVER reason people feel they have the right to disregard the rights, voices, and needs of elders — that proved dangerous.  Her prejudice, her ageist attitude could have left my grandmother with a pain increasing up the right side of her skull and a blood pressure monitor that wasn’t properly monitoring her blood pressure!

My grandmother is a sly fox and figured out how to get them to give her the full dosage of that particular medication by having them give her smaller dosages every 4-hours.  I mean what a fabulous brawd!  BUT STILL, if I hadn’t been there and my mom hadn’t spoken up for her, she wouldn’t have been able to get anyone to seriously LISTEN to her needs.

My grandma is a relentless one who won’t give up until she gets what she needs and this definitely helps her, but I began thinking about all the old people in our society who aren’t strong enough to tenaciously fight for their rights anymore …

Stuck in banal senior citizen homes and suffering inhumane social security cuts … Heartbreaking.

Fight for Senior Citizen Rights!!!!

For the record, Elder-Hater, I am not on your side so don’t advise me to tell my grandma to shut up!!!!  Just remember, you’re going to wake up 79 and need a pacemaker one day too.  How would you like to be treated by your nurse on that inevitable day?

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About vanessalibertadgarcia

Vanessa Libertad Garcia is a Cuban – American writer & filmmaker who grew up between the burbs’ and hoods of Los Angeles. A graduate of Loyola Marymount University, she’s completed a myriad of successful projects that tackle both the film and literary worlds. Ms. Garcia has worked in various capacities as writer, director, and producer on fiction films such as the HSF/McNamara Arts Grant recipient “A Two Woman One Act” and documentaries such as “Maid in America,” which debuted on PBS’ Independent Lens. Two films out of the many, which have screened at top festivals such as The Los Angeles Film Fest, The Habana Film Fest, Cinequest, and Outfest to name a few. Ms. Garcia has had writings published by venerated literary staple Lambda Literary and the up-and-coming Amor Fati. Her first book “The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive” is drawing laudable reviews. It’s available for purchase at amazon.com, barnes&noble.com, and many other sites. She presently has a feature film titled “Dear Dios” based on the books’ characters and a second book — the collection of poetry “Bloody Fucking Hell” — in development. View all posts by vanessalibertadgarcia

3 responses to “My Granuelita & Ageism in America

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