Mom called me today and told me you’re “actively dying.” Couple of things:
- I feel like paradoxes just aren’t fair, at this point in our relationship. Let’s put it accurately and succinctly: you’re dying.
- In a literal sense, we’re all dying. From the moment we’re born. As opposed to seeing that fact as bleak, I see it as a welcomed annoyance: get up and do something with your life, stupid.
- Since that verb is still -ing, I’m writing you a letter to tell you how I feel about this. I feel like you should know and although I can’t be next to you to verbalize it, I feel like you’re somehow going to hear me or feel this…or maybe this is my neurotic way of dealing with my grief.
That’s it: grief. Beyond my great-grandmother passing away, I’ve been so
fortunate happened upon to not have someone remarkably close to me die. That being said, there will not be a funeral, I’ve been told. I can’t come to say my piece watch you close your eyes. I’m mad. I’m frustrated. I’m completely at a loss as to how to quell this swarming emotion inside of my guts. It’s wrenching and I’m alone. I lack the patience you always had mastered; I’m without the ability to see things in a cool way, to keep my poker face like you could. So I’m blogging to you…which…is ironic since you don’t know what blogging is.
You see, even before Alzheimer’s sank its claws into your beautiful, swirling, always sharp wit, you lived simplistically. Never complicating, never idealizing, never seeming to desire more. That’s not to say you didn’t make things better, faster or more efficient. We never rushed the chores we did and you always took the time to collect your thoughts before you spoke, a quality I can only dream of someday having.
I can imagine sitting by you, sans Alzheimer’s, and asking you what it’s like to be “actively dying.” Maybe you’d say it’s bullshit…that I should mourn the living and not the dying. Maybe you’d adjust the brim of your hat, smile and look off into the distance and kind of smile and say, “Well, doll…it’s not fun, I can tell you that. But we can’t run away from it…I never tried to.” Maybe you’d just close your eyes and your mouth would turn down and relax…you’d look just how you did when you “rested your eyes” when the news came on (can’t blame you…that shit’s boring.) Maybe you’d say nothing at all and just beckon me to follow and we could take a walk through the garden where you’d teach me how to not over-water and show me how your ‘maters ripen on the window-sill.
Grandpa, what happens if I forget how your laugh sounds? I never got the recipe to your drunken tomatoes…we’ve never toasted glasses of scotch. I can’t say you’re leaving me too soon but I think there’s surely things you forgot to show me…things we never had the chance to do together. I’m being selfish though…I know you never wanted to live forever and if I had it my way, you would.
So, now…what am I supposed to do? Sit in the middle of the living room floor in your empty little blue house, your scotch-glass filled up, toasting to the ceiling and drinking alone with a sour face?! Smell you all around and see the bits of you scattered about…like a Grandpa-grenade exploded everywhere? The places where you rigged up something so something would work? Smash the ice cream bowls against the walls and be mad at the little whittled whimsies you carved just because you fucking could?! Who does that?! How can my world move on knowing that there will never been another Homer Card in it? Just feeling a Homer-shaped-hole in my heart forever?
I just can’t. I just want something from you…can I, please? Can I ask that in my next alive years you give me your passion? Albeit anger, drive, persistence, stubbornness and most of all the way you loved? You loved everything! You loved by showing respect. I see the best parts of you in my daddy…I want to see the best parts of you in myself. Although the aliveness is fading from your eyes, the silent lessons you taught are lighting up. I can see now what you wanted to plant in your grandkids…in your kids…what I’ll give your great-grandkids.
They just don’t make them like you anymore…humans, I mean. The caliber at which you flourished is simply unheard of. You lived without a sense of entitlement, with a sense of dignity in what you created as opposed to what you owned and pride in who you are and from where you came as opposed to how far you traveled.
It’s a testament to a good man…proof of a man I can be proud to say “I sat at your knee, grandpa…I felt your hand. You hauled me around in your wheelbarrow and fed me sour raspberries. You taught me what it was to die and what it was to grow. Above all, you taught me patience and how to wait until the answer arrives, not by luck but by determination and weighing options.”
Go if you have to. I know you wouldn’t see tears on my face but they’re there, Grandpa, see? I know now you can come from small beginnings and rise not so far as to not be able to see your origins. Roots are just as important as the culmination.
I got married grandpa, and much to my chagrin (although I’m fantastically and hopelessly happy), I changed my last name. My last name was always something I thought defined me, so. Like a scar…like a medal and it came from you. I realize now that even though it’s different (and much, much longer), I’m still a Card. It’s a badge on my heart.
I wish I could spend a years’ worth of weekends waking up to Grandpa’s oatmeal and games of Hand and Foot. I wish I could fall asleep tonight and dream I’m with you and Grandma.
And Grandpa, I’m still being selfish…Grandma’s losing her best friend. More than your patience…woodworking…handiness or your green-thumb…I can survive not having any of that if I can just be the kind of spouse you were. You loved limitlessly for ALMOST SEVENTY YEARS. What a bar to set, Gramps… Please keep loving her after you’re gone. Keep reminding her that you haven’t totally left and that this was what you meant when you said your vows.
I expect when the aliveness fades from your eyes, you can feel relief. I hope that you can feel the strength of character you’ve burdened me with by which I’ll hold every. single. damned. man.
Blood or none in common, you’re my grandpa and you’ve never been anything except that. I love you, Homer Leroy Card and I know that your “actively dying” is just you making room for another spectacular human being to come along and change a life or two.