I awoke to Mike hovering over our bed where Hazel and I slept soundly. He seemed uneasy, not sure of what to say next. He quickly rested his hand on my shoulder and told me that my mother had texted him. My grandfather was gone.
This was not unexpected. We had been informed that his health was deteriorating last week,and so we went to visit. Upon visiting him I had my doubts. My grandpa has had his bad days, but he always springs back, and he didn't seem drastically different from the man I saw only a month ago. Yet, there was this lingering feeling that this might be it, the last time I see him. Nevertheless, I told him I would be back to see him soon as I kissed him goodbye. Goodbye.... When I told him I loved him he held my arm tight, as he repeated the words back to me, and I saw a glimpse of fear flash through his eyes. He, like me, was aware that this could be it, and it seemed that he felt he had to make it count. He said I love you with a wide awake face, although he had been groggy all night. He caught me off guard, so I said it again. "I love you Grandpa. Hazel loves you. we will be back soon."
I wasn't sure why we went really, until that moment, and until now. I felt like we were keeping him up; burdening him. I had come to feel that way often, when we would visit and grandma would force him up out of bed to come sit with us momentarily, before he would doze off and request to be taken back to his room. We had arrived to find him surrounded by family. My oldest brother hooking up a television for him on the wall, my aunt and uncle who just arrived home from a mission, and lots of tiny great-grandchild faces,excited to see grandma and grandpa. Everyone was speaking to him slowly, as if he were a child. Telling them who they were. There was always recognition though, at least while I was there. He knew what was going on, which of his beloved family members was there to see him, and everything that they were saying. Now I know that we were anything but a burden. We were who he wanted to see. All of us. But then that moment when he grasped my arm and told me the thing I was there to hear him say, I knew why I came. To say goodbye, even if it might not be the last time. But it was.
The funny thing about losing someone you love dearly, but who is removed from your daily life is that, it just goes on. You still send your husband off to work, let the dogs out, make breakfast. You still sweep the floor. You still nurse your child, and post photos to instagram. And then you start to wonder, what difference did he make in my life? What difference did I make in his? But by the end of the day, when you are exhausted beyond any normal measure, you realize that just your knowledge of that person's existence is a part of you. The knowledge of their absence is also a part of you, and it is a draining knowledge. The what-ifs weigh heavily on my mind. Did I know him enough? Did I talk to him enough? What if there are things that went unsaid? Do I remember him when he was active and funny, when he used to pick me up, or tickle me, or is that all made up memories juxtaposed with stories I have heard from the memories of others into the man that I think he was? What could I have done to know this man more deeply? To understand him. Why even wonder these things? Should I try harder with my remaining grandparents, or is this simply how I will feel when each of my loved ones passes away before me. First my grandparents, then my own parents, someday most likely my own husband.
This is not the first death I have experienced, but it is the closest to my heart. A man who I assume I met on the very day I was born, who I have known for almost 24 years exactly, but who I feel I still know so little about. I suppose this is something I must prepare myself for over the coming years, but I can safely say it is not something I will ever get used to. Having someone who has always been there, who suddenly isn't. Just isn't.
|Mary Kae, my mother, with her father William Lorenzo Perkins|
on her baptism day