I don't even know how to start on the number of things that are eating my brain from the inside out. I have the nasty feeling that if I started a list, I'd be here two days from now, snarling and weeping into my keyboard, and we can't have that, can we? ("Dry your eyes and behave, like a good girl.") My grandfather is dying of Parkinson's, and today is the day I realized that I will never have another meaningful conversation with him. I caught a brick to the back of the head thinking that his brain is being taken over and unraveled by an invisible invader that will not retreat, and there are too many things that I will never know about him. ("Now, now; we all make mistakes. It's not worth fussing over.")
It's not the simple fact of his imminent death: death is such an inevitability that it doesn't even occur to me to resent it. I might as well be furious at the gravity that pulls my body toward the pavement when I stumble. The principle idea that gives me so much confusion/anger/anguish is knowing that I missed my window. The one precious slice of time I was given is now wasted. I, with the effortless self-centeredness of youth, was far too busy to be still and absorb some of the million unique experiences of my grandfather. ("If you poke your lip out like that, a bird's going to come sit on it.")
But I can only hate myself so much. It occurs to me that I should tear my focus away from ME and look around at what other priceless and transient things I'm ignoring. ("Better late than never.") My grandmother for instance. I am beginning to realize that I've never met a woman as strong as my grandmother. She survived the Great Depression, spent World War II raising children, and built airplanes in a factory while her husband risked his life in unknown foreign countries. She lived through years of hard work and near-poverty, and now sits by my grandfather all day every day, patiently and serenely talking to him, caring for him, and loving him. ("If you have to do it anyway, do it with a smile on your face.")
Or there's my mother. I see her dealing capably, although painfully, with the fact that her father doesn't recognize her as herself 4 days out of 5. She accepts that the only person he reliably does recognize 100% is grandma, and leaves it at that. My aunt and uncles are much less graceful about hiding their discomfort; but they are untiring in driving grandma wherever she needs to go, visiting with grandpa, and trying to keep their family whole. ("Blood is thicker than water.")
I need to move through this to some kind of peace. I need to think less of what I missed, and more of what I can salvage and give. But I can't help wishing I didn't have to wait for another world to see my grandpa look at me and say I love you. ("Wish in one hand, crap in the other, and see what you end up with.")
Rest in peace Grandpa.
Dennis Edward Allen, Aug. 16, 1916 - March 9, 2002