Saturday, December 22, 2012
We had been expecting it, he was 87 and had been ill for a long time.
I sat with him on Wednesday evening and other than being in his pajamas at 5:30 in the evening, he was pretty normal. Naturally he knew the jig was up; the doctor told him Tuesday that he wasn't going to continue treatment and that he didn't have much time left. He had grown thinner and thinner over the past few months, so he looked strange, his giant Popeye hands and forearms, not matching up to his withered body.
My mom had been staying with him at his place for a couple of weeks. My kids stayed with her last weekend to help and keep her company. I think it was good for them, having not really been around old people, the way I had growing up. Sometimes I am struck by how different my children's lives are from the way mine was as a child. Mostly I think that is a good thing, but in some ways, I think there is something lost.
On Wednesday we were about two thirds all there. My mom and her brother, my brother and our cousin. My mother's sister has a hard time with a lot of things and finding appropriate ways to express grief is one, so it was just as well that she wasn't there. Mom had been cleaning out all the closets, all those funny crooked spaces under the eaves, that were crammed full of woolen blankets and dolls and old newspapers. My cousin asked for the hutch.
She said "that has always been there, and I would really like to have it if no one else wants it."
I said "that has not always been there, that is new, that came from Uncle Lee's house."
My cousin is younger than I am, for her it had always been there, but for me, it had only been there about 30 years, hardly always.
My grandparents had a simple life, they had humble sturdy, plain belongings, there wasn't much to split up.
Nothing of value.
It was decided that I would take the table.
A round maple monster with three leaves that seats 20, since I entertain.
My cousin was given the hutch, and I took a quilt that had a water stain, but also some lovely embroidered animals. "I can cut up up, dye it to hide the stains, bind it and give everyone a little piece." is what I said, but I knew darn well that no one but me would be interested.
I will fix it up for myself.
Honestly, it doesn't even look like my grandmother's hand.
It looks too simplistic. She was fond of gaudy flowers with lots of French knots and bright colors.
This was done by an austere person, simple animals on a white background, hand quilted with white thread. I would put my money on my great-grandmother, Anna, if I had to guess.
My grandfather told me that he had not had a visit from the preacher for a long time. He said that he had stopped tithing to the church a few months back and instead had been paying the rent on one of his former foster children's apartments. "I figure she needs it."
My grandparents faithfully gave the church a big cut of their income for years and years.
This new minister was not my grandmother's favorite, and shortly before her death she called him an "asshole", which was not her customary insult.
My grandfather also had reservations about this pinky ring wearing fellow, but he stuck with his church community until the end.
Dutifully driving his less fortunate friends to church every Sunday.
He told me "they aint suppose to know who gives what, but this one does" and so with the money gone, the home and hospital visits dried up.
My mother and I had hoped to have the funeral at the funeral home, rather than church, but my uncle wants it at church, so there it will be.
We will lay my grandfather to rest with my grandmother, in one of those tomb things that look like a giant file drawer, in a room that smells like moss.
My grandmother was terrified of being buried, and while my grandfather scolded her that it was unchristian to have such a fear, death hath no dominion and all that , he dutifully shelled out for indoor burial.
She would say "Chuck and I will be together and Larry will be right under us." She found it comforting to know these things, to have her son so close in the after life.
He abided most all of her wishes and whims, right to the end.
I asked my grandmother why she married him, when at the time she was beautiful and young and dating a cowboy. She said she married the sharecropper's son because he came to visit her when she was sick, because he was "good and steady" and that was more valuable than a mustachioed cowboy on horseback.