I am awake at 5:00 AM because my sweet Grandpa John is in the hospital on a feeding tube because he has forgotten how to eat, and I can't sleep thinking about how much his wife, my Grandma Ruth, must be hurting; their marriage weathered so many storms over the decades they were together...they lost a child, a son, together, and they even almost lost each other for a while, but they love each other so much that they bought themselves a little trailer out on the lake and lived there for many years away from the world and in the company of each other. Grandpa began suffering dementia a few years back, a disease which has already taken people my Grandma love, but now to see her watching her husband fade breaks my heart...
In the hospital, I sang him "King of the Road" and afterwards he tried to hug me. When I kissed him, he kissed me back. I said, "Grandpa John" and I swear a moment of recognition crossed his face.
Grandpa John was always sort of a detached man, a little hard, quiet, keeping his feelings to himself...I never understood that when he would talk about bagging up kittens and throwing them in the river, he was just absolutely screwing with me. Contradictorily, over the last few years, one of his most kindred spirits has been a furry little lady named Miss Kitty. My grandpa has always been the hardest-working and stubbornest man I know; he once accidentally severed his middle finger and refused to go to the hospital until he had dinner. He buried it in the backyard and ate supper with grandma before heading to the hospital. In my adulthood, I have come to understand that "hard" doesn't mean the opposite of "soft," and my Grandpa has always been both.
I keep remembering a time when I was incredibly short, my legs swinging from the stools in their kitchen, working on this 500-piece puzzle from Grandma's pantry, and Grandpa coming in every now and then to help me with a piece or two, teaching me what sarcasm was but adoring me at the same time.
I know I don't have to tell you all how heartbreaking this is, but what I really can't let go of is how much my Grandma loves him...she loves him the way I love Justin...the true, deep friendship and understanding that you would do anything for this person. I held my husband's hand so tightly the way from the hospital, realizing that fourteen years suddenly didn't seem very long, considering what he told me in the beginning of our relationship, that it was so hard for him to commit to marriage because it meant admitting that one day, one of us would have to say good-bye...either through divorce or as one of our lights faded.
I am going to remember how much my Grandma loves my Grandpa and think of their devotion to each other as I go through the days ahead. This is my meditation, that one day, we will all have to say goodbye to those we love, maybe even watch them slowly fade away as in my Grandpa's case; I will try my best to love my people with everything I have, every moment I can. I will try to bring this love into all of my life, even extending to those outside of my family and my tribe, even those who don't always seem deserving of love. Everyone deserves love.
I don't have any pictures of my gramps to post on the fly, but I do have a few from the last couple of days with my own family and my little nephew. I hope these little men grow up to find a love as special and true as any there is, because life is a shooting star.