2 Hard Trips to Marshfield

It's always difficult when a loved one gets sick. It seems time passes gruelingly slowly, but it also warps. This story started on 1/26 when I called my grandma. I try to call on a regular basis to see how they're doing. Often, on road trips, it's a perfect time to call since I have a lot of time to talk.

In this case, as usual, I just finished work at noon that Friday. I gave both of my grandmas a call. When I talked to my Grandma Margaret, something seemed a bit off. She repeated herself a few times. She also didn't seem fully with it.

While that was the case, nothing really registered. She was getting close to 97, so maybe she was just having a difficult day. I know she always loved to complain about the humidity. I think that started to mess with her as she got older. I figured on this day, the humidity must have been doing that.

Early in the following week, my parents noticed something was off. She was becoming a bit more lethargic. Her oxygen levels were a bit low, so they called the paramedics. They were able to stabilize her, and she could stay at home.

The same thing happened the next day. This time, she fell and broke her ankle, trying to get out of bed. She was then taken to the ER and admitted to the hospital. They found her CO2 levels were extremely high. Her body was not purging the CO2 on its own.

Hearing this, I got nervous. History doesn't repeat itself, but it sure rhymes. This was very similar to when my mother-in-law fell in 2017. She ultimately went to the ICU and then hospice, where she passed. She had to be intubated in between.

I asked if my grandma was about to be intubated. That would be the next course of action, but she didn't want that. They instead put an oxygen mask on her. We didn't know if she'd make it through the night.

Fortunately, she did make it through the night and got better! They had never seen anyone with that high a level of CO2 ever recover like that. There was definitely a bright spot with things! By the end of the week, she was pretty coherent and seemed in good spirits.

Victoria and I will typically reserve a weekend for ourselves every two months. My weekend was that week. I had initially planned to head south and visit counties. I'd follow the Mississippi River east of it and see how far I could go. I would get to Mississippi or even Louisiana.

I'm used to an impulsive change of plans, so I rerouted to Marshfield. I'd visit my grandma instead.

I first gassed up.

I grabbed a Kwik Trip supper of fish sandwiches (the Friday special) and Gatorade. They were running a promotion, so I also got a free energy drink for later.

I started driving.

It soon got dark, but I arrived at my parents' house in good time.

The following day, we visited my grandma. The view from the hospital room was a bit ominous.

While outside was dreary, my grandma was in good spirits. I was able to use my iPad so she could FaceTime Victoria and Austin. She was also able to FaceTime some of my cousins. She was fully with it. I even learned about my great-great-grandfather Anton Grall. He fought in the Civil War for the Union.

For lunch, my mom and I tried a new Indian restaurant in town.

It's amazing that Marshfield is starting to get places like this! When I lived there a decade ago, there wasn't much variety. I got the Tika Masala and some garlic naan bread.

My parents and I visited my other grandma. After that, we went to church. We went to the hospital and visited my grandma. She seemed a little more out of it. We found out her CO2 levels were rising again. They'd put the oxygen mask on overnight and see if it helped.

I looked at the radar when we got to my parents' house. It looked like the weather wouldn't have been the best if I had done my original trip.

The next morning, we revisited my grandma. She was doing a bit better. The views were also a bit better.

It was time to go home. I decided to take the scenic way back down WIS-80.

It was now the week of 2/5. I got news my grandma was declining. She would have to wear the oxygen mask frequently. She did not want this since it was a full face mask. I could see how miserable she was when she had to wear it when I visited. I don't blame her for not wanting to wear it.

They eventually moved her to palliative care. On Wednesday, I planned to take a trip to say my last goodbyes. I was going to take the day off of work and bring Austin with me. This all hinged on her responsiveness.

My parents informed me she wasn't responsive, and it wasn't worth the trip. I carried on as usual at home and knew the end was near. We were just in a holding pattern. That night, they were predicting intense storms for Thursday.

I also started feeling like garbage. Austin wasn't feeling well himself. This was one of the first times I've been sick in a while. Victoria came home from choir practice and knew something was up. I was snuggled with Maya in a blanket on the couch. I rarely ever do this.

The next day, we kept Austin home from daycare. I worked remotely as he watched Mickey.

It was wet during the day. Most of the snow was gone. You could tell something was building.

By evening, it started to get really dark, and you could hear rumbles of thunder.

When I turned on the 5 o'clock news, they had the weather on the whole time. It looked like the storm was heading directly for Belleville.

A tornado warning was also issued a little bit away.

I was ready to grab Austin to go into the basement. I also had Maya's leash so I could grab her quickly. In the meantime, Victoria was driving home from work. I was calling her to give her updates. She was able to make it home safely.

Fortunately, we didn't need to go into the basement. The storm subsided, and we went to bed. When I woke up, I had a text saying my grandma had passed away. We had our first tornado ever in February in Wisconsin, 18 miles away, and now this. Things felt a bit surreal.

We were now in another holding pattern. We were waiting for my parents to make the funeral arrangements. On Saturday, I went to mass at St. Francis in Belleville. We then ordered JonnyO's for supper.

On Sunday, we went to People's United Methodist in Oregon as a family. After that, we had Culver's. They make a pretty good Rueben.

Now we fast forward to 2/14, Valentine's Day, and Ash Wednesday. We knew the funeral would be on Friday. Not too long ago, we had tornadoes. Now, we were looking at winter weather. We knew it might affect our drive to Marshfield.

There was nothing to do but wait and see. We got a heart-shaped cheese pizza from Papa Murphy's for Valentine's Day.

On Thursday night, the roads were clear. We were able to get to Marshfield in good time.

We went with a bigger room at the Hampton Inn. It ended up being less open, with the desk in the middle. We found room for Austin's pack 'n-play, but it was a bit tight.

We went out to visit my parents for a while. We later headed to The Lumberyard for supper. I got the Double Onion Stake Stacker.

The following day, I had a vegetarian breakfast.

After that, my parents picked me up for the funeral. I was a pallbearer and needed to be there early. The visitation was also before the funeral mass. It was interesting milling around. I looked at the stained glass windows, statues, and other things up close at St. John's Catholic Church.

I had gone to school there for fifth and sixth grade and never looked at things up close then. There is definitely a lot of beauty and history to that church. The service went well and then we drove a ways to the cemetery in Blenker.

After the graveside service, we headed back to Marshfield. We had a vegetarian lasagna lunch. We then went out to visit my parents. Later that night, we headed into Marshfield for supper. We tried out Casa Amigos, the newest Mexican restaurant in town.

The chips and salsa were good.

I liked what they did with the place. It used to be Hudson's Bar and Grill. When I worked for Marshfield Clinic, a bunch of us would get drinks on Thursday nights there. We'd call it "Conference Room H."

Hudson's abruptly closed, and the building was vacant for a while. It's nice this place put some new life into it!

I also liked how they mounted a rack of condiments on the wall.

I got the Grilled Shrimp Plate. This was good, and it felt pretty healthy overall.

The next morning, it was cold. One pattern I noticed is every Grassl funeral seems to happen this time of year and is very cold. My cousins jogged their memories and confirmed this. We definitely got our dose of winter that weekend!

Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped by my other grandma. We got a nice visit before Austin needed to go to bed.

The following morning, I loaded up on some meat. A hockey team was also staying at the hotel, so certain breakfast items were more limited. You probably see that by the half of an omelet Victoria and I shared.

We had initially planned to have everyone over at our house for Austin's birthday party on that Saturday. Obviously, plans changed. We went to my parents and had a little celebration there with them and my brother and his wife. We then drove home.

The next day, we celebrated with the three of us at our house. Well, four, if you include Maya.

We ate plenty of pizza.

We also had cake.

It was a nice celebration. It obviously wasn't what we had originally planned, but Austin seemed to enjoy it. That's the important thing.

Late January through mid-February seemed like a bit of a time warp. These kinds of things always do that. I will say I felt like there was some Divine intervention with everything. I was able to call my grandma a few days before she went into the hospital. If she had passed then, I still felt fortunate I was able to talk to her.

Then, there was her temporary recovery. Nobody has ever recovered from those levels of blood CO2 without intubation. To add to that, she was nearly 97. She recovered and was coherent. It also coincided with my planned travel weekend. This made the logistics much easier to visit her. It just seemed that things fell into place and that my last visit was a good one. I felt more at peace after that. I really couldn't have asked for more.

It was a bonus I got to try some of the new things Marshfield had to offer. I am glad that things are revitalizing there. My next trip there should be less somber. I look forward to seeing what I discover.

Finally, R.I.P Grandma Margaret.

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