My mom’s dad is sick. He is very sick, as a matter of fact, and has gone from a diagnosis leaving him with 1-3 years to lying in hospice care clock watching until his last breath.
He first went into the hospital with pneumonia. He would later make his way home with stage four cancer. It’s spine cancer and has taken quite a toll on the 87-year-old man. I actually received a call just this weekend with word from the doctors he had only a few hours left. My mother and her two sisters are actually staying with him until he passes.
Now, he’s 87 years old. He has lived a great life having served in World War II and having spent half his life or more playing golf and being the best grandfather I could ever imagine. I saw him a lot more before I moved away to school, but try to call him a couple times a month and visit him if I can. Christmas is usually the only time I see him. I will never forget walking in every Christmas morning to see him sitting in his chair with a goofy Santa hat on.
Christmas is a fun time of year. We would always get up early, do gifts at home, and then head over to his house. We would all eat, open gifts one at a time, and have a grand lunch prepared by my two aunts. (We try to keep my mom out of the kitchen at all costs!) One of these aunts usually brings a few bottles of wine too. It’s truly a “picture perfect” Christmas morning.
This year I’m not sure what we will do. My grandpa is slipping fast and while I am some 40,000 feet above ground I could very well have a voicemail from one of my family members telling me that he has passed. I’ll find out when I get to Dallas, I suppose.
There are many ways people handle situations like this. I’d rather be a realist about it. Death happens. To all of us. You, me, and everyone you have ever known and will know will suffer through this process. Some might be sudden, others might take a long time to set in. But we all die. That is just a fact of life. And I have accepted that. It still scares me, and I think about death a lot. I probably think about death every day. But I would rather be realistic about it than pretend it’s not going to happen.
When my grandmother passed away some over a decade ago, I was too young to really understand what had happened. I didn’t go to the funeral, but rather I sat outside in the lobby. I am not even sure I have been to the gravesite. Not for a long time anyway. And I do not plan on attending my grandfather’s funeral either. It’s not that I don’t want to or that I can’t handle being there, it’s that I don’t look at death and mourning the same way everyone else does. Again, I know it happens and there is nothing I can do about it. So I choose to deal with my feelings and emotions in my own way. And that’s okay. No one can judge me for how I handle situations like this. Let me handle them the way that is best for me.
I did go visit my grandfather not too long ago. I walked in having no idea what to expect. Because of his cancer and because of all the drugs he is on, he was extremely delusional. While I was there he was trying to take pills that didn’t exist, he was arguing with my mother about taking classes to get his pilot’s license, and talked about the islands of Hawaii a few times. It was weird seeing him so out of whack like that. From what my stepfather has said, he gets worse every day and is slipping faster than the doctor’s had imagined.
I’m glad that I went to see him. I told him all about my future plans, we talked about golf, and he seemed to understand what I said. I left knowing I would never see him alive again. And I accepted that too. I don’t want to see him like this. It was better for me to not see him like this than to have my last memory be jaded by the disease and the drugs.
I honestly believe that he is aware of what is happening. I remember years ago him talking about not wanting to live anymore. When his wife passed away he was alone. He had Steven, his rotten and demonized cat, but that was it. A huge house with nothing to fill it. It wasn’t that he wanted to die, but he had lived a great life. I hear that the older you get the more you accept that fate.
No one wants to die. That’s not what I’m saying. But he is old, has terrible eyesight, uses a walker to get around, and usually needs help getting from his bed to the bathroom. I think he is ready. Ready to say goodbye to this cruel world and see what’s on the other side.
Memories Last Forever
I remember a lot about my grandfather. I remember playing golf with him at Rae Park Golf Course in Terre Haute, Indiana. I remember boarding a plane with him on our way to Paris, France. (That was actually my first time over seas.) I remember waking on the beaches of Normandy where he was stationed during the Second World War. I remember his goofy Santa hats he wore every Christmas and spending the night on the weekends while growing up. Nothing beat a Friday night at my grandparent’s house. There are too many things to list, and I will have those memories for as long as I live.
One great memory I have is playing Atari (the original one at that) in my grandmother’s Avon room. She sold Avon and the basement was her workspace. There was a big screen TV down there and I remember sitting there for hours just playing Pong or some other random low resolution video game. One time I was playing, my grandpa came down and just watched me for hours. I never knew what he was doing, but now I assume it was just to spend time with his grandson. Another memory that will never go away.
The last time I saw my grandmother was at a YMCA basketball game. I scored a ton of points that game, and her and my grandpa came to watch on their way to the airport. My grandma would later board a flight to Detroit, Michigan, and come back just in time for her funeral. She died of a brain aneurysm while visiting her sister in Detroit.
My cousin Christine and I have shared many of these memories over the last few weeks since he has been sick. She loves in Scottsdale, Arizona, and I rarely see her. However, she flew in to visit him as well and we try to talk every day now. Normally we just text each other. She is my favorite cousin! (She is my only cousin!)
I don’t know what’s on the other side; no one does. But he will soon find out. So while I remember all the fun times we have had, I know he’s not in any pain right now. You can thank the morphine for that. When he finally does pass I can trust that he lived a great life, was loved by many, and will always be remembered by his family and friends. So while I might not be going to the funeral, I can use this as a way of saying goodbye one last time. Robert Marshall was a great man, and may he rest in peace.
(I wrote this blog post while on my way from Indianapolis to Dallas, Texas. I was at 40,000 feet above the ground with no cell phone service when I wrote this. When I landed I had a voicemail from my mother. My grandfather had passed away while I was in flight. Talk about a bittersweet way to say goodbye. RIP Grandpa.)