Saturday, October 16, 2010

< three

I don't know how to tell the story of my grandfather dying.

Every day there is at least one e-mail in my inbox documenting his rapid decline. It's only been three weeks since he was diagnosed with late stage pancreatic cancer.

It's been less than three months since I last saw him. Since we walked together, and sat chatting poolside while the kids played.

Three months before that he was still regularly playing tennis, before stopping for his usual summer break as the heat in Florida became too unbearable and his usual partners made their summer treks back north.

But three days ago my mother sat at my kitchen table, tears in her eyes, telling me what it's like to be watching her father die. Preparing herself to fly back to Florida the next day to stay with him until the end. Which cannot be far off. It is happening incredibly quickly, although the days of caring for him creep by incredibly slowly.

Growing up I knew I was lucky to have all four of my grandparents alive. All 4 were there for my confirmation. My high school graduation. My college graduation. My wedding.

My grandfather is the last man standing.

He has lived a full and active 86 years. He will likely die in his own home (thanks to Hospice and the generous care of his three children).

The May Queen has a special relationship with him. For the longest time she insisted he be called Great Grandpa [Maypole]. If I left his surname out in referring to him, I was scolded. He would pretend to nap on the couch while she piled him high with stuffed animals, then he would "wake up" and scare her. She would giggle. He would grab an animal and chase her in circles around the house. He played endless games with her. They sat at our kitchen table and colored. He allowed her to dress him up in the silliest outfits.

impromptu dance party, May 2007

When she heard that her Great Grandpa was sick, she immediately wanted to go visit him. I debated it, but quickly realized it would not be good. I want her to remember him as he was, not as he is now. They just had a wonderful time together this summer. She said to my mother "you're so lucky you get to go see Great Grandpa." It broke my heart. Is it lucky to watch and wait for your father to die?

But we have been lucky. The May Queen has been lucky. Because she got to know him, her great grandfather.
Nov 2008


kelley said...

(((hugs))) What a hard time for all of you, hang on to your memories.

kelley said...

aka--kaye (I forgot I was logged in as my real self *hehe*)

Alice said...

And he is and always will be "great."
Hang in there, I know your Mom is trying so hard to be strong, but it is a hard thing to live out someone's dying.
MQ's Great was always so wonderful for her, let her remember the good times.
My love to your Mom, you, MQ, Grand, and the rest of your family.

flutter said...

oh honey, this is so hard. What an immense spirit he has...

Chrissy said...

Oh PM, I'm so sorry for your grief. You seem to be having more than your share this year. May God bless your family during this difficult time.

Rima said...

Oh, I'm so sorry, PM. There is nothing quite like a grandfather. I wish peace to you and your family and comfort to him in this time.

Anonymous said...

Ditto what has already been said.

Can he listen or talk on the phone? MQ might like to call. And of course, making art for him is something she could do. Will you all go down for the funeral? Because she might not understand why she can go once he is gone, but not when he was still alive, something to talk to her about. Sure you have already thought of all this.

So sorry he is passing this way. I hope he can be comfortable and peaceful, and that there are meaningful moments between loved ones.

MARY G said...

It's sad and it's hard, no question. But he's had a grand life and he is well-loved - that ought to help him.
Maybe MQ could make him a tape or a video?
Hang in there! Holding you in my thoughts and prayers.

Magpie said...

I'm sorry, hon. But it's wonderful that she did get to know him.

Kat said...

How wonderful that you had him in your life as long as you have. He sounds like an absolutely wonderful man. You are indeed lucky.

I am so sorry for your pain. My prayers are with you and your family.