Grandpa's In The Ground Now

81 days.

Around the time I posted "Giving Up Grandpa" I let my close friends and family in on an estimate: I figured that within 3 months of moving out of our house that my Dad would be either in the hospital, in a nursing home, or in the ground.

It took 84 days to get him in the ground when his care was no longer in my control.  81 days for him to take his last struggling breath and 3 more to bury him.  I've never wanted less to say "I told you so".

The past couple weeks have been an on-the-edge, high-alert time.  Calls from my brother that "this is it" were numerous....but each time proved a false alarm.  My kiddos, who at 6 and 7 are too well versed in hospital routines and knowing which nurses stations have the best candy were a little too comfortable in a room where my Dad lay half awake getting lung gunk suctioned out by a respiratory therapist.  They sometimes needed reminding of the lack of a 5-second rule in the hospital when they'd lose an errant Skittle on the floor, but for the most part behaved themselves.  The days Dad had a roommate they were unafraid of a new "friend" but respectful of the thin curtain boundary that kept them on his side.  Clayton informed me a week before Dad passed that "Grandpa's dead, 'cuz that line on the TV thing that says your heart is beeping isn't going".  He had to be reminded that sometimes the machines don't work right, and that I was pretty sure since Grandpa was snoring that he was, in fact, still alive.

But eventually he took his last breath, a moment we missed though we'd been there 3 hours before, a moment that Esten was gravely upset that we were not around for.  Instead, we only got to see him before the funeral home came to collect him, long enough for Clayton to repeatedly insist on pulling back the blanket and looking at his hands, something he'd seen me do first thing every time we went to see him....I'd grab his hands, inspecting them for swelling and making sure his penicillin allergy bracelet was still intact, and that no IVs were leaking blood or tape pulling oddly on his skin.  Habit.

It was a struggle for me to come to terms with what I had allowed others to do to him.  I knew that this would happen eventually, but even faster if he was not under my watchful eye.  I'd mentally known and prepared myself that this would happen, but I questioned whether I should have fought harder for him, done what was best even if it meant being the bad guy.  I had to let it go a long time ago.  The hardest part up to this point had been trying to explain to my children, who seem to understand more than they should, why on Earth Grandma would want to go back to living in their old house and take Grandpa with her.  Why Grandma didn't want to live with us anymore.  How it would be safe for them without us around.

I don't have an answer for that.  My kids who understand what we may think we do can't necessarily be told "Grandma killed Grandpa, but slow."  She slowly allowed him to get to a state that was completely preventable and he suffocated.  He suffocated over the course of 81 days.  For a guy who left my house no longer tethered to an oxygen tank he went downhill in a hurry.  So it sounds harsh, but it's the reality, and whether I like it or not, my boys are smart enough that they'll figure that out on their own one day.

So all we can do is deal from today forward.  Or from last Wednesday night forward.  I looked toward a memorial service that reflected who he was for those who took the time to come honor him.  It did not.  There were many bible verses and hymns and prayers said and sung for a man who didn't include church in his routine.  More for my Mom's benefit, the funeral she would want for herself.  But it was not him.  At all.  I felt like someone killed him again.  Once when they took his physical body and then again to deny acknowledging the fiber that made him who he was.  His sister, who made it from out of state in time to see him but who did not stay for the service offered this when asked for a story:

When she was too young to drive (let THAT put this in perspective) my Dad would take her down to a local bar, where she "learned how to drink whiskey sours"...and he'd wait while she got tanked and then take her home.  He wasn't a drinker, but the bar was near a produce-rich area, and he'd find a watermelon, which he DID have an addiction to.  And he didn't know when to stop, and so he would make my aunt call in sick for him to work the next day, and when they'd suspect that he was just hung over she'd say, "Oh Christ, no, he's not hung over.  I'm hung over.  He's in there shitting his pants because he ate a whole damn watermelon again."

But that, and many others, did not make it into the service, because they were inappropriate, and there was no room for them between the bible readings.  Three young Naval representatives made a two hour drive to fold the flag atop his casket and give to my Mom at the burial, which was so appreciated.  I also felt a little bad that after all that drive they'd certainly be doing laundry to undustify their otherwise white uniforms that seemed to soak up every dirt particle and star thisle flower in the old hilltop cemetery where we'll have to visit him now.  That spot was dear to my Dad and holds so many of his relatives, he once landscaped his plot to make it look nicer - an effort in futility, really.  His favorite gift from me was a stone rubbing I framed of his grandfather's white marble military headstone there, placed in 1918.  It totally trumped my brother's Christmas gift to him that year.

And so we go on, attempting to settle back into a normal routine that doesn't include 4 AM phone calls to dash to the hospital, to regular dinners and regular bedtimes and preparing ourselves for the first day of school next week.  I know that as the kids go back to school they may revert to feelings of sadness when they're asked to reflect and share what they did over the summer, and that's okay.  Esten's journal from last year included two separate entries about losing Grandpa Bud, and about how Daddy was a JERK for not letting him get up and speak at his service.  If they do, and if they want me to see it, I can't wait to read what these two will write about this whole ordeal, what their point of view is when no grownups are telling them what to think or how to feel.  In the meantime I'll continue to bite my tongue and swallow back my harsh words because I want them to form their own memories and opinions instead of inheriting mine.  I learn more from them that way.


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