If you are a close family or friend, or you are a close enough acquaintance to be a Facebook friend, you know what has been going on with my grandfather the last few days. I realize now the beauty of the social network – in just the ease of a series of posts from my cellphone, family and friends who knew my grandpa were a part of the most special of his last days on earth. There were many people who emailed me and asked that I continually update, and for that I am grateful that we live in a time of access and information that this was easy to do.
My grandpa was a Nebraskan turned Illinoisan, gone Arizonan, and in the end a Californian to the very core (in a good way though). He was a swimming champion. He was a veteran. He was a teacher. He was a regular at Bob’s Big Boy for their bacon cheeseburgers and chocolate milkshakes.
Most importantly, he was my grandpa.
Like a lot of grandparents do, my grandpa took on a fatherly role towards me. This is just what grandparents did at the time (many still do now, although many are also more removed than my grandpa was). When I was born, he was so proud to finally have a granddaughter that the school in which he taught raised a sign in the break room – “Bob finally has a granddaughter!!” He bought the entire school donuts.
And I will never forget the camping trip when grandpa’s trailer got stuck on a hill and he screamed and swore, while I panicked and thought we would be stranded in the woods. I was eight. We ended up staying in a hotel and the next day Grandpa and Grandma took me to plant a tree at the front of the lot.
On December 10th, my grandpa fell. There have been a lot of ups and downs with his health in recent years, but this fall was different. It was as if he and grandma knew he couldn’t come back this time. The days wore on and grandpa was in so much pain, he grew weaker and weaker until he developed pneumonia. On Sunday, they said the time had come to accept and support him, and to place him in hospice.
Monday I was planning to see them but Grandma had a little cough and was worried about making Grandpa sicker. Within hours, though, I was phoned and told I needed to get over to the hospice center because Grandpa had only days left to live. I spent quite a bit of time with them there Monday, then Tuesday woke up and decided that we had to be there for my Grandma. Her strength is my strength and I knew she needed me.
Tuesday was long. We had to get my mother from the airport. My husband had to come home early. We had to transfer from babysitter to babysitter. And at the in-room services they held for my grandpa, quite a few moments came when my grandmother and I embraced and just reminded each other how strong she is, and how beautiful her life with Grandpa was.
Before I left Monday and Tuesday, I talked to Grandpa and he mumbled – both times. I have never known extreme gratitude for a single moment in time until those beautiful mumbles from my eternally sweet grandpa acknowledged that he knew I was there.
This morning at 5:30, my mother called to say that Grandpa had passed. My Grandmother is the only of my grandparents now to survive, my grandmother and grandfather on the other side having passed when I was in high school.
In all of these years, my grandma has been the one person to calm me down and give me hope. As I said, she is my strength in every sense of the term. When I was little, she would rub my back or draw tiny circles on my face and sing to me. Over the last few days, she did this again. When I spoke with her this morning on the phone, she said she is here with me in her heart, sitting in my bed and rubbing my back again. And while I know that I will see her more in the coming days, her song this morning is particularly beautiful. My grandpa was such a lucky guy.
May my eternally sweet, consistently compassionate, grandpa rest in peace.