Tag Archive | grief

Reach out and touch (somebody’s hand)

When Jude heard the news about his Pop's mom, he sat down to make a sympathy card. We're lucky grandparents.

When Jude heard the news about his Pop’s mom, he sat down to make a sympathy card. We’re lucky grandparents.

As much as it pains me to type these words, the fact is this: My little mother-in-law, the woman who raised the man I love, slipped away Saturday morning, at about 9 her – Yakima, Wash. – time. She was 93.

We fly out tomorrow, as already scheduled (though it won’t be pretty – when John checked us in online, he was immediately notified that at least one flight is overbooked). We couldn’t get anything workable sooner – this time of year flights are scarce.

I’ve put off writing this, but this morning, as I was ironing John’s shirts for the trip and listening to Aretha Franklin Live at the Fillmore West on my new little retro record player he got me for Christmas, I realized that I could and must reach out and write this.

Reaching out and touching each other is how we get through these times.

Doris and I didn’t know each other that long in the big picture, having just met about a dozen years ago, but it was instant love, partly because we shared this wonderful man. She thanked me repeatedly over the years for coming into his life and I thanked her each time I saw her for raising a gentle man to love me and never think I’m too weird for words.

She started slipping mentally a few years into our relationship but she never lost her ability to love, not even in the later years when she hardly knew which end was up at times.

As I’ve written before, she really said her goodbyes to us in July, when she had a few very, very lucid minutes. She told us she’d had a good life and to take care of each other and love each other.

We do and we will. But we’ll miss her being around to occasionally remind us.

Goodbye, little Doris.

Doris didn't like this photo from Thanksgiving 1981, but I rescued it from the trash. She's with her very long-lived mother – the mother she's been searching for as the dementia worsened. I hope they're together now. And I love how Doris is sassy in red.

Doris didn’t like this photo from Thanksgiving 1981, but I rescued it from the trash. She’s sitting with her very long-lived mother – the mother she’s been searching for for a couple of years as the dementia worsened. I hope they’re together now. And I love how Doris is sassy in red.

 

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I’ve just seen a face

Sunday marked 11 years since the day John and I each left Sufficient Grounds coffee shop in Hillcrest thinking “I’ve just seen a face” that could very well change my life forever.

We didn’t talk about it at the time – and neither of us really believed in love at first sight – not with our life experiences. But we later talked about how we knew, barring some scariness or insanity that might crop up later, that we’d just met the person we might spend the rest of our lives with.

We met on my daddy’s birthday, so I can always remember the day.

Daddy would’ve been 80 this year, a fact that made me wistful and made me wonder about what he would’ve been like as an old man. It also made me miss Aunt Barbara, his older sister, who’s been gone for about 2 1/2 years now, I think.

It made Mother a little tearful – she’s grieving Daddy again, as well as Bill, these days (though she’s really doing amazingly well).

I thought about being nine years older than he was when he died. I felt calm and accepting.

So it surprised me Tuesday night when I was babysitting at Liz’s and thinking how Silas is looking a little like Daddy (though he’s unquestionably the image of my sister, Cathy) and suddenly I felt I’d been punched in the stomach. No tears, just pain. Take your breath away physical gut punch, nauseating.

If someone tells you it goes away, she lies. Time passes and loss gets more manageable, but that feeling can hit at any time.

But life goes on. I’ve just put the finishing touches on a trip Mother and I are taking in little over a month, one she and Bill had wanted to take. We’ll go to Seattle, Victoria (yes, Canada) by boat and to the Yakima Valley, where John grew up – and my mother will finally meet his mother in person.

I’m finished with the zombies and Calvin Trillin’s Dogfight and am halfway through Bruce, the hard to put down biography of The Boss, which creates it’s own nostalgia for me. BruceHis Born to Run album, which shook up my life, came out about this time 38 years ago, just before I turned 20. “Thunder Road,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” and “Born to Run” still give me goosebumps on this softer, saggier flesh. BornToRun

Sigh. But I’m happy about being old and a grandmother several times over. I couldn’t be surrounded by any better faces, all five of them.

The song remains the same

Easter was definitely different this year – partly by choice and partly because we had no choice – but, as usual, the family song remains the same.

We were happy to have my son-in-law’s mother and sister (and Natali’s boyfriend) with us. They and precious little Luke helped fill the gaping hole left by Bill’s absence. We had lots of little ones to bring joy, noise and energy, and we’re so lucky for that. Mother was thrilled to have them all there, even though she’s weak and fragile.

Mother (Grandma, Grammy or, as Annabelle calls her, Gammy) couldn't wait to get her hands on Luke. That went a long way toward cheering her up

Mother (Grandma, Grammy or, as Annabelle calls her, Gammy) couldn’t wait to get her hands on Luke. That went a long way toward cheering her up

But Mother had a hard time emotionally. And we had a hard time watching her have a hard time.

We’ve been down this road before – when Daddy died, Mother grieved herself down to tiny proportions, my sister developed full-blown anorexia, and, from what I can see in photos, I got pretty darned thin myself. But we were all much younger then and Mother was basically healthy. We all recovered over time and, though scarred, survived.

But now Mother’s health is scary (she has myelodysplastic syndrome) and we don’t know what the future holds. She lives by herself a good 20 minutes from me and farther from Cathy. We don’t like at all. I put life on hold for a while, but it’s calling me back to other duties, and that’s hard, too – I still feel like I should be driving out to Mother’s every day, though she says I don’t need to.

Mother never really spent an Easter as a widow, as Daddy died right after Easter in 1982, and by the next year, Mother was a few weeks away from marrying Bill. At her age, she doesn’t see that happening again, though she’s cute enough (and normally outgoing enough) that if her health levels off again, nothing would surprise me.

But that’s a big if.

The kids give her a reason to keep on keeping on, though. And a new one arrives this week.

So we’re sad, but very happy – and also worried. What will be will be. And the song will keep on playing.

Broken heart

This will be a short post. I’ll try to discuss small bowel obstructions in the elderly soon, because everyone needs to know the symptoms of what felled my stepdad of almost 30 years and what should be done about it (which wasn’t done for him), but today my broken heart requires more time to heal.

Some of you know that on Dec. 29, a Saturday night, Bill rushed himself to the ER. Yesterday, Jan. 29, we buried him a few feet away from my real dad, then had an emotional (but very sweet) memorial service at Park Hill Presbyterian Church, the same place as Daddy’s funeral in 1982. We even sat on the same row.

Bill had a horrible, agonizing final few weeks after 78 years of a robust life. He would’ve been 79 on Feb. 10, and he was a strong man until everything went wrong. He’d gone for coffee with his friends the morning of the 29th, run errands and swept snow off their deck.

He was a former runner and ferocious tennis player and, after his knees gave out, a three-time-a-week regular at the North Little Rock Athletic Club (whose staff and members sent Mother some lovely mums – and some of whom came to his funeral). He adored his grandchildren and greats – and said he couldn’t love his bonus grands more if they were blood.

Jude and his Papa Bills (which he came up with from his mom asking if he wanted to go to Grammy and Papa Bill's house)

Jude and his Papa Bills (Jude came up with the name from his mom asking if he wanted to go to Grammy and Papa Bill’s house)

We’re all bereft, but none so much as Mother. Her back surgery (which was not optional), rehab and recuperation kept her from Bill’s side for mujch of the time he was suffering so. She’s very fragile herself right now, physically and emotionally, but at her core, she’s a strong lady. She’s going to need to be very strong in the long run.

Bill and Mother at their 25th anniversary party.

Bill and Mother at their 25th anniversary party.

I ran back and forth between hospitals for part of the month, fueled mostly by adrenaline and coffee (the steroids for hives helped for a bit). Going home to rest was the hardest thing for me to do.

We fought so many battles, first to keep him alive, then, when it became apparent he couldn’t survive, to get him into hospice so he could have some peace and freedom from tubes, poking, sticking, tests. He lasted 16 hours in hospice, slipping away at 3:24 Friday, Jan. 25.

We’re shellshocked. I’m finding it hard to return to “normal” life. We all have to discover our new normal first.

Some of you may remember that a few months back I wrote about a strange feeling of anticipation. I knew something major was coming and that grad school had to wait. I just never dreamed/imagined/anticipated that it would be Bill. When Mother’s back incapacitated her, I thought that might be it, but it was Bill I was sensing all along.

And, yes, I know I couldn’t have prevented it, but I’ve tried so hard to look out for the parents that at times I feel I dropped the ball.

For now our Jeep remains dented, our pickup smashed, our new car un-bought. We managed belatedly to get our Christmas tree and Mother’s down.

The past few days have been bustling, what with planning the funeral and the out of town family being here. Now the out of towners have gone home, except for Bill’s strong sister, Betty, who is spending some time with Mother, bless her.

I’ve been so proud of my children through all of this. When GrandBob died they were 3 and 2, so Grandpa Bill is the only grandfather they remember, and they loved him so. They’re crushed but were strong and steady for their Grandpa and will continue to be for their Grandma. They were precious children and now they’re wonderful adults.

I also want to thank my sweet friends who helped us during Bill’s illness and supported us at the visitation and funeral. How lucky I am to have you!

Time heals a broken heart, but it doesn’t fill a void. Cathy and I had our darling Daddy for the first 26/23 years of our lives and our beloved Bill for the last 29. We’ll never stop missing either.

Me, Mother, Lisa (Bill's oldest daughter), Cathy (who blinked) and Melinda (Bill's younger daughter) with our shared guy.

Me, Mother, Lisa (Bill’s oldest daughter), Cathy (who blinked) and Melinda (Bill’s younger daughter) with our shared guy.