September 21, 2006

Carry That Weight

Late last week, my grandmother tried to kill herself. I can't begin to tell you how many things are wrong with that sentence.

A week or so ago, I mentioned that my grandmother fell off the wagon after forty years. Fuelled by alcohol and painkillers, this otherwise quirky and lovely woman quickly surrendered to some murky, paranoid, delusion-filled world in which my mother had ruined her life and there were rapists hiding in her house. Then she chose to leave. But my grandmother's never been what you'd call normal and her suicide attempt followed suit. After she dropped the razor blades, she picked up the phone and called for an ambulance. Once stabilized, she admitted herself to the psychiatric ward. She's moving into an assisted living facility this weekend.

Despite the fact that this probably should win the Terms of Endearment Award for Most Depressing Morning Blog Entry Ever and I've probably bummed you the fuck out, I wanted to share the second chapter with you. What I don't know is the moral to this story. I don't really find The Who Philosophy On Aging ("Hope I die before I get old") appealing but I'd like to leave this world with my brain intact...and hopefully my body. So maybe that's it. Or maybe this is just further affirmation that my family, like every family, is fucked up. Or that addiction is bad. Maybe it should serve as a warning that mental instability runs in my family (shock!) and the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree. After all, after the shock wore off, I gave myself a good laugh about the new band name I'd discovered - The Suicidal Grandmas.

Posted by Chris at September 21, 2006 07:24 AM


Chris-I think every human is capable of mental instability given the right (or rather wrong) circumstances.

I'll keep your grandmother and family in my prayers. Its so hard, especially with the elderly. When they are infirm, old, frustrated and their friends have all mostly passed away--can we really truly blame them for wanting to move on? Not that that is what any of the remaining family wants or wants to hear, but watching my grandfather deteriorate--first physically with extreme arthritis and now mentally with his age of 84 is so hard when we all remember the sarcastic, down to earth, occasionally grumpy guy he used to be.

Anyway, all of our families are unique, wonderful and flawed in their own ways. And more families than we want to admit have mental instability. And isn't that exceptionally weird in and of itself?

Posted by: Amy at September 21, 2006 07:33 AM

As *my* grandma would say, Good God Amighty.

I'm glad she's doing better and I'm glad you kept your sense of humor.

Oh, I think The Suicidal Grannies has a cooler ring to it. I'm just saying.

Posted by: Contrary at September 21, 2006 07:34 AM

So hard...

I'm keeping your family in my prayers.

Posted by: Leah at September 21, 2006 07:35 AM

Why is it that the things that affect us so much make 'some of us' force comedy around it? To make it all seem tolerable? To insist on finding the 'san' in 'sanity'? I have no freaking clue. But as I was reading email from a good friend, she said that she could see my pain thru a funny post I wrote about my dad the other day and I had to stop. And think.

Sometimes, as the saying goes, you have to laugh or you'll cry. So sorry about your grandma, and yes all families are screwed up a bit. Ah hell.

Posted by: angela marie at September 21, 2006 07:44 AM

I think the majority of suicide attempts are a cry for help. She called the ambulance and now she's checked herself into treatment and moving somewhere where she'll have some help. Perhaps it was the only way she knew to say she needed help. We know better, but if she has issues than she may not.

Hopefully she'll climb back on the wagon now and things will get better. Hang in there.

Posted by: Alissa at September 21, 2006 07:47 AM

I have an elderly grandmother who, though blessedly free of addiction problems, is struggling with the frustration of increasing health problems after 80 years with zero major ones. Frankly, it pisses her off and I'm starting to see cracks in her usual brave and independent demeanor. Scares the hell out of me.

Anyway, glad your family is able to help her through this tough time. I bet she can put that band together in no time at the assisted living facility!

Posted by: Nicole at September 21, 2006 07:59 AM

In many situations, the only thing we control is how we react.

I think you are doing well

Posted by: DavidR at September 21, 2006 08:09 AM

I'm sorry that your family is going through this, but now at least, she'll get the help she needs.

my MIL struggles with depression and over the last few years has made three attempts on her life. each of them aborted, by her, with a call to the hospital, or to her husband, post taking pills. in many cases, the attempt is not really so much that she wants to kill herself, but that she knows she needs help, but doesn't know how to ask for it...

great big hugs.

Posted by: suze at September 21, 2006 08:12 AM

So sorry to hear about your grandma, at least she was able to call for assistance and is getting the help she needs.


Posted by: Lisa at September 21, 2006 08:13 AM

It's good to find humour in things, even if they suck. My mom committed suicide seven years ago after my dad died of cancer. Not sure I've found the humour in that yet, but I do like "Suicidal Grandmas."

Posted by: Heather at September 21, 2006 08:16 AM

This really sucks, Chris. This is the second case I've heard of - where an elderly person has succombed to depression and must be placed in an assisted care facility. I'm glad she's in a place where she can be helped; but it's just all so messed up, isn't it? Whatever happened to the storybook Grandmas with fresh cookies for a nice snack?

Posted by: samantha at September 21, 2006 08:17 AM

I had relitively normal grandparents. Their deaths were nothing unusual. They were such great classy people.
Wish I could say the same about my parents, who are trying to make both my sister and myself crazy while they wait to die.
Dad even feigns heart attacks, complete with ambulance rides to the hospital, to get attention.
I refuse to play the game any more, but my poor older sister gets all upset every time.
I just pray that insanity skips a generation.

Posted by: Maribeth at September 21, 2006 08:27 AM

(((HUGS))) I'm sorry about your grandma... but the silver lining is that she's alive and seeking help.

Posted by: Betty at September 21, 2006 08:47 AM

You're not alone - this sort of things happen in every family. My family has so many skeletons that if you rattle our closet it sounds like several xylophones are trapped inside!

I hope things get better for your family and that everyone stays healthy from now on. xxoo

Posted by: E :) at September 21, 2006 08:50 AM

Damn, that's heavy, man. The best news is that she wasn't successful in her attempt and that she is getting help and going to assisted living. Maybe it's still possible for her to rebound to the quirky and lovely woman you knew not long ago. I'll be thinking of you and your whole family.

Posted by: donna at September 21, 2006 08:56 AM

oh my god, Chris, i don't really have ANYTHING to say. wow.
yes. all families are fucked up.
yes. addiction is bad.
and yes. suidical grandmas is a great, great band name.

Posted by: ali at September 21, 2006 09:02 AM

Oh my god, how scary. I'm so sorry - and I don't really know what to say other than that :(

I do agree though on the aging. I just want an "easy button" when I'm ready. Click. Done.

Posted by: mingaling at September 21, 2006 09:04 AM

Although her major issue is falling off the wagon you might want to have a geriatric pharmacist look over whatever meds she is taking as well. My husband's grandmother's personality completely changed several months ago (going from sweet grandma to bitch) and I had her meds looked and and then switched her care to a geriatric physician. After changing meds the sweet grandma came back (most days). So meds can really be hard on the elderly...especially if other things are thrown in as well. A side note is that when I questioned her meds to her then doctor the doctor released her from her care because I dared to question her. Sad. That's when I switched her to someone that specializes in elder care.

Posted by: daisy at September 21, 2006 09:06 AM



Posted by: shelley at September 21, 2006 09:08 AM

Jesus. That's all I can really think of to say. Just that, and that (sadly) I have some idea what you're probably going through. It's horrible that it had to come to this, but just remind yourself that your grandmother had it in her to ask for help. That's no small thing.

Posted by: Fraulein N at September 21, 2006 09:11 AM

Oh, jeez. Well, at least it sounds like she's acknowledging that she needs help and hopefully she's in the place to get it.

And the fact that you can, indeed, laugh about this? Nothing short of healthy, my friend. Because if you don't laugh, you'll lose your mind.

Posted by: candace at September 21, 2006 09:12 AM

Coming from experiences from your Grandma's side, at least she called the ambulance and seems to be willing to get help.

Posted by: amber at September 21, 2006 09:22 AM

My heart goes out to you kid. I think that the whole world is just one dysfunctional family or seems to be. Bless your grandma's heart. At least she will now get the help she needs. I have been on "my" wagon for 18 years now and was beginning to feel "safe" up here but this just goes to show that no one is truly safe. Every day is a new day and must be handled carefully.
Thank you for sharing sweetie. Everything is going to be fine, I think, for you and the rest of your family.

Posted by: Pat (Trish) at September 21, 2006 09:23 AM

Man...there are just no words. Alcoholism will make you do some awful yourself as well as to others. I'm sending a hug for your whole family.

Posted by: wordgirl at September 21, 2006 09:34 AM

Just hugs!

Posted by: Traci at September 21, 2006 09:44 AM

Damn, Chris.

I don't know what to say, despite having been through pretty much the same thing you are going through myself.

It's hard. It's hard to watch someone you love sink into a pit of hopelessness and despair.

It is one of the most helpless feelings a person can experience, watching that and not being able to take their pain away.

Hang in there.

Posted by: Allan at September 21, 2006 09:54 AM

Internal chemical warfare sucks. Depression, alcolholism, whatever the combo -it's hard to untangle. I'm so glad you still have your grandma and that she's getting some help. Hope you get the hugs and support you need too. Peace, peace, peace.

Posted by: lilymane at September 21, 2006 09:59 AM

Chris, sometimes all we can do is laugh. It beats crying (although that's okay sometime too).

I hope her bungled attempt will be what was needed to stabilize her. At least for now she's safe.

You're probably no more or less "normal" (whatever that is) than any other family. Mental illness may or may not be genetic. Either way, it doesn't mean it will target you.

Posted by: ann adams at September 21, 2006 10:21 AM

craaaaaaaaap. I'm glad to know she admitted herself rather than having to be nudged into help.

I'm familiar with the creepy factor: one of my grandparents successfully offed themselves before I was born, it's not a fun thing to remember when I'm feeling a little mental myself - I'm with ya, Chris.

I think a self-induced suction cup forehead hicky would take your mind off your troubles . . . .

*evil grin*

Posted by: Betti at September 21, 2006 10:25 AM

Oh, Chris, how awful.

I'm so glad your grandma realized maybe she didn't want to die after all and is getting help. I hope life gets better for her now.

Posted by: bad penguin at September 21, 2006 10:32 AM

Sorry about your grandma, Chris. *hugs* As others have already said, at least she realized in time that wasn't what she wanted, and is now somewhere with people to help her.

I choose to believe, thanks to my own crazy family, that perhaps the predisposition to addiction and mental instability is inherited, but it's up to us to realize that and do what we can to avoid falling into it ourselves.

And the Suicidal Grandmas would be a great band!

Posted by: Kate the Shrew at September 21, 2006 10:38 AM

I've nothing new to add, so I'll just wish you and your family good luck. I hope that your grandmother recovers well and has many more happy and healthy years.

Aging is cruel.

Posted by: Derek at September 21, 2006 10:56 AM

I don't have any words of comfort, because anything I say will not be enough. Plus, the others have been pretty damn eloquent. So this is where I just give you a hug. *hug*

Posted by: Alison at September 21, 2006 10:57 AM

I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother, Chris. I hope she's doing better. All the best to you and your family.

Posted by: MetroDad at September 21, 2006 11:01 AM

oh boy, chris. i'm sorry about sad for you but more so for her.

i am so afraid of losing it when i get old. luckily so far my family members have gone out with dignity and make it really far first, so i guess i should look on the bright side...

hope you are feeling okay today.

Posted by: Sarcomical at September 21, 2006 11:05 AM

Dude, Chris. My Grandma just refused to go on oxygen because she won't be able to smoke, and was feeling super-depressed when they changed some meds from something to something else. It's weird isn't it? I wanna be old too, like 200 years old, I just don't quite know how to work it.....

On a positive note, Britney Spears is a low-class trollop and Whit.Ho. (for you) is still bat-shit crazy. So the world turns.

Thought you might need that.

Posted by: andy at September 21, 2006 11:07 AM

I'm sorry. That really sucks.

Posted by: Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah at September 21, 2006 11:24 AM

I don't know why this popped in my head just now:

You cannot go against nature
Because when you do
Go against nature
It's part of nature too.
(Love & Rockets)

I guess I feel like, despite the craziness of it, it's all perfectly normal. I mean as normal as it gets for humans! You know you're not crazy, right? You are an amazing person and your attitude about it all is really healthy! Getting old sucks. Not coping well sucks. Watching people hurt themselves sucks. But it's part of the magic of life, I guess. Yin & Yang and all that crap. And I am pretty sure you get that.

I just hope it doesn't interfere with your ability to watch Survivor tonight (check your local listings).

♥ to you & your family!

Posted by: Ms. Q at September 21, 2006 11:30 AM

I have nothing to offer but a big cyber *hug*.

Posted by: Kate at September 21, 2006 11:35 AM

OMG I'm sorry about your grandma Chris! :::hugs:::

Posted by: MrsJoseGoldbloom at September 21, 2006 11:56 AM

Holy Crud! I'm so very glad that she called for help.

And let me tell you, your family does NOT have the crazy market covered... there's plenty of us out there, and I think we need to keep the humor or we'd be really Really crazy.

Hmm... Suicidal Grandmas... Heavy metal support hose... yeah.

Posted by: Karen at September 21, 2006 12:06 PM

You and Beth are all about the cheer this week :) I'm sorry though, that massively sucks. I know I've discussed the insanity that runs in my family, so I won't mention it again. But...yeah. I mean, what do you say, right?

Person: How was your week?
You: My grandma tried to kill herself.
Person: ...Do you think it'll rain today?


Posted by: Sparkle Pants at September 21, 2006 12:18 PM

Holy... Chris, alzheimers runs in my family, and I'm scared it will follow the generations. Nevermind the insanity part, 'cause that's definitely passed on in my world.

I think that being freaked out by this is perfectly reasonable. Also? Find humour where you can.


Posted by: Opal at September 21, 2006 12:23 PM

My grandma tried to kill herself on my birthday a couple of years ago, so weirdly, I kinda know how you feel.

I'm sorry your family is going through this. Hopefully she'll be able to be better soon.

Posted by: samantha at September 21, 2006 12:50 PM


I currently have a grandmother in a nursing home who is struggling with dementia. And when I say struggling, what I really mean is she is living in a cesspool world of paranoid thoughts and dreams during every waking moment. It's f**king painful even to visit her.

It's a very positive sign that your grandmother asked for help and that she's going to be in assisted living. She, and all of you, are in my thoughts and prayers.

Posted by: Evil Genius at September 21, 2006 01:02 PM

My family is way messed up as well and yes, addiction is bad - m'kay. Especially if you say it in the South Park teacher voice. I love the band name. I wrote something about my grandma once to that solidified an awesome band name; "My Grandma Owns a Porn Store"

We should team up.
P.S. Hang in there, old age ain't for pussy's.

Posted by: Chantel at September 21, 2006 01:13 PM

I think you know the moral of the story, and you said it in your last sentence, the one that's making me reach for the Windex and consult an attorney about suing you for damages to my Dell Inspiron 9300 IMAX.

Shit happens, it's random, there's no accounting for it, pay attention to your own story, your own life, your own health, learn to fall, roll with the punches and laugh when you can. This is life. The whole messy, sticky, glorious catastrophe of it. Lead with compassion, most of all for yourself.

Posted by: bhd at September 21, 2006 01:26 PM

growing old sucks. my grandparents lived until their 90's and were not happy or comfortable.

ok, that's not comforting at all.

can i be in the band? i want to play cello. i've always wanted to play rock n' roll cello.

Posted by: jodi at September 21, 2006 01:29 PM


I am sad to hear about what your grandmother is going through. All too often do I deal with this in the profession I work in (mental health/ drug & alcohol). I am glad to know that she sought help, especially on her own, which is so difficult for some. I personally would have her evaluated by a geratric psychiatrist to see if there are any underlying MH issues and especially if she is drinking again, that can alter the state of any medications she is currently taking. My heart goes out to you and your family...Stand by your grandma, she may be a little nutty, but she will appreciate your support to get back on the wagon.

Posted by: Michelle at September 21, 2006 01:53 PM

Sorry that you had to go through that :( One thing I always find odd is just how common suicide is among the elderly, and how very UNcommon it is for people to talk about it (my grandfather commited suicide ten years ago next month).

It's good that your grandmother's getting help, though!!

Posted by: Kate at September 21, 2006 01:54 PM

And this is how you'll stay sane, finding the humor in the bad stuff. Don't they say that the people who laugh every day, live longer fuller lives?

Posted by: Melissa at September 21, 2006 01:59 PM

It seems when we get out of one pit we fall into another. I love the fact that you find humor in it all. I believe that is how ALOT of people get thru the tough stuff, a bit unorthodox to some, but hey to each his own! If I had a visa priceless for ya I'd sure give ya one! Big hugs to ya rude cactus!

Posted by: CJ at September 21, 2006 02:14 PM

I'm shocked. And sad. And I hope you are doing well.

I simply don't have the language to communicate how I feel about this.

Posted by: melati at September 21, 2006 02:14 PM

Oh, Chris. You have both my sympathy and my empathy. Watching my own grandmother get Too Old is the worst thing that's happened to me in recent memory. It's just so sad.

I hope the move to the facility makes your grandmother's life easier and more enjoyable. And yours, too.

Posted by: Vaguely Urban at September 21, 2006 02:38 PM

As snarky as it may sound, I think you can relate when I say that I hope when (if) I reach this point in my life, my kids take the money they'd waste on an assisted living center and set me up on an isolated tropical island with a case of rum, where I can drink myself into believing I'm some sort of pirate and as the last breath leaves my body I will utter one last word: Arrrgh.

Posted by: krystyn at September 21, 2006 04:01 PM

Humor is an excellent coping tool; be glad you have it in your arsenal. Getting old sucks...watching someone you love get old sucks even more. Hang in there!

Posted by: Jaycie at September 21, 2006 04:07 PM

I hear you. My grandfather died Christmas Eve this past year and my 82 year old grandmother who devoted every moment of her life to her husband, is, obviously having problems. She just had major surgery last week and is at a "rehab" facility. We're not sure where she'll be going afterward. But, this usually lucid (although at times flighty - not a technical word) woman is having moments of being confused and freaked out. I am particularly close to her and talk to her frequently.

Getting old sucks. It is so hard. Thinking of you.

Posted by: Sharri at September 21, 2006 04:13 PM

I never realized til after I tried it how hard suicide (and attempts) are on the members of the family. I'm glad she's getting help, and I'm glad you have a sense of humour to get you through it. And friends like us in the internetwebosphere, of course. We love ya, man. *hug* Ahem. Awkward.

Posted by: Heather at September 21, 2006 04:18 PM

Oh Chris, I'm so sorry. I hope the assisted living will help and she feels better soon. If it's any consolation I don't think there is a one of us out there who doesn't have a dysfunctional family. There are just certain family crises that are worse than others. (I went through one last week, too. Ditto alcoholism, ditto mental/emotional dysfunction.) My thoughts are with you and your family. Please take care.

Posted by: the weirdgirl at September 21, 2006 04:35 PM

I'm so sorry, I really don't know what to say Chris. But I love that you can find humor in every situation.

Posted by: Ava at September 21, 2006 04:54 PM

Christ completely disturbing.

Keeping you and your family in my thoughts...wishing you better days.

Posted by: Kelly at September 21, 2006 06:27 PM

I write and produce a newsletter for four different retirement communities. Do you know how many times I have left and promised myself that when the "time" comes I will park in the garage and the hose and my car will be my best friends?

I am sure your grandmother is NOT in her right mind. It doesn't mean its hereditary. I am sorry for all the pain this is causing.

Posted by: Debbie at September 21, 2006 07:19 PM

My Dad said suicide is like an accident. Like a car accident--a mistake. For a particular person all the stars align in a terrible and perfect way to put them in a state where they see suicide as the Good and Right thing to do. In your grandma's case, she was on various pills and alcohol, so obviously was not in her right mind.

I've walked the razor's edge once or twice and in retrospect realized the factors that put me on that edge--the stars that aligned to create my state of mind. Sounds like your grandmother did the same.

Oh, and "The Suicidal Grandmas" is one of the best names for a band I've heard yet!

Posted by: Ginny at September 21, 2006 07:24 PM

Wow, I'm sorry you and your family are going through a rough time. I hope your grandma gets well soon.

I found out about five years ago that my grandmother had tried to kill herself when I was young. She would have succeeded had my dad not found her. I was in shock about that for a long time, but thinking back on it, it makes sense of a lot of things now.

Posted by: Beth in StL at September 21, 2006 07:31 PM

What a nightmare. Sorry your grandmother has that monkey back on her back, and sorry it happened to your family, Chris.

Posted by: Jon in Michigan at September 21, 2006 08:43 PM

I'm so sorry to hear about your Grandmother and the pain everyone is feeling right now. I am keeping you all in my thoughts. I know I haven't commented much lately, but I'm still here. :)

Posted by: Dana at September 21, 2006 09:13 PM

I *think* we might be related. Maybe long lost cousins or something?

I hope everything gets better, hugs!

Posted by: Chrissie at September 21, 2006 10:55 PM

Mate - I just wanted to add my best wishes to all the support you're getting here. It seems that about %80 of your readers (myself included) can readily relate to what you & your family must be going through. I don't know what that must say about all of us, but at least we're all in it with you. Cheers

Posted by: IFLYG at September 21, 2006 11:34 PM

Well, i'm glad that you can put the fun in "dysfunctional"! Humor makes most things bearable. "Suicidal Grandmas"?! (Love it!)

So many wonderful words and comments from your readers. "internal chemical warefare..." is a wonderful way of putting it.

My feelings on growing old are mixed. While I'd want more than anything to be sane and aware and engaged in my life at ANY age, I'd want the choice of pushing a button and ending it when it becomes hard to live. But I recognize that in reality, if I reach that point of trying to decide if and when I push the button, I probably won't be anything close to "sane and aware and engaged"! The flip side to that is that I've always enjoyed getting my hair done, and manicures and pedicures--I'd really enjoy being un-sane and un-aware and un-engaged if nothing else mattered except to indulge myself in these activities!

The value of your life, and your perception of it, greatly increases as your own children grow. So it's no wonder that you're struggling with this as you try to picture your future with Beth and Mia and others--and wanting it to be lengthy and fruitful.

Posted by: kristen at September 22, 2006 06:37 AM

I'm so sorry about your granny! I can't imagine what this must be like for your mom. How awful. I hope she recovers well, and that the hospital will do her good. Hugs to you & your family.

Posted by: Nadine at September 22, 2006 09:13 AM

Chris -- I'm really sorry.

I think it just goes to show how fragile we are, and how even when we're older, life is difficult. Wishing your grandmother the best...

Posted by: mamatulip at September 22, 2006 09:17 AM


I'm thinking about you and your family Chris. Hang in there!

Posted by: Tammy at September 22, 2006 11:40 AM


I'm so sorry. It's horrible to think of the sadness your grandmother is living with to resort to this. It's good that she's getting help and that you have your family to lean on. You and your family are in my thoughts.

Posted by: kim at September 22, 2006 04:03 PM

I'm so sorry to read this. Hugs to you. I'm so amazed by how strong and level headed you are. This fruit has most definitely fallen far away from the tree. One should never lose their sense of humor, and you most definitely haven't. Talking of band names, I have planned on calling my band "The Archimedian Spirals"...just cause it sounds sooooo cool and I had studied them in geometry...LOL...Am I a geek or am I a geek!

Posted by: Dee at September 22, 2006 09:38 PM

My thoughts are with you and yours. It's never a bad time to find humor in anything. Love the band name!

Posted by: Chris at September 23, 2006 04:55 AM

It doesn't go with the vision you have of a grandmother...but you know, on my grandmother's 90th, she was looking at that cake with such a sad expression, and I know how lonely she was as all her friends and family died. It's something you don't think about when you are young but it's got to be awful. It sounds like your grandmother knows she needs some help and it's good, although it's awful, that she called someone and checked herself in and the situation ended on a better note than it could have. All families have their instabilities and 'other,' and it's really really hard to deal with. Hope she is feeling better soon.

Posted by: Helen at September 23, 2006 02:01 PM

I'm so sorry to hear about that. :(

Posted by: Zandria at September 25, 2006 03:16 PM