I’m lucky to have had all four of my Grandparents alive for most of my life. I actually have five Grandparents (one is a step-Grandparent through marriage). I’m 38 years old and I lost my first Grandparent three years ago. My father’s father. I was never terribly close with my father’s parents, well, the truth is I haven’t been terribly close with any of my Grandparents….but now as I prepare to lose my second Grandparent I’m feeling very sad.
When my second child was three months-old we were preparing for his Baptism. I received a call that my Grandfather (my mother’s father) had fallen in the driveway outside and was in the hospital. He wasn’t himself and through some further investigation they discovered he had suffered a stroke. He and his wife missed the Baptism, and prior to that hospitalization was probably the last time he was the Grandfather that I remember. He was always very much the patriarch of the family, and very proud of his family. He gave great toasts at family dinners and was one of the more interesting people to chat with in my family. When my husband and I were married we had many dinners out with my Grandfather and his wife. We even have been to visit my Grandfather’s family in Italy while we’ve been there to see my in-laws. Three years have passed. We’ve gone to his house to visit several times with the kids, and he’s been conscious and sometimes aware of who we are, but often confused and lacking the confidence that I’m accustom to.
My oldest is named after my Grandfather. We remind him of this often. That’s how he remembers who he is. And now I’m explaining to him that his Great Grandpa is very sick and that’s why Grandma can’t come to his first soccer game. I have to let him know that he’s dying and we’ll be going to a wake and funeral this week but he’s already terrified by the concept of dying and this will be the first death he’s experiencing in the family. My three year-old is a little young to understand and my daughter is just a toddler, so I have to focus on my oldest for now. But I know they will all have a hard time seeing tears coming from Mommy and Grandma….maybe even Grandpa. I also have thoughts about what to wear and how to dress the kids. But that’s more in the back of my mind.
Yesterday was a Saturday and I was working in the afternoon. I’m a Real Estate Broker on Long Island and was lucky enough to have the time to visit my Grandfather after work on the way home. My husband took the kids out for dinner and I had some time to spend with my family. My Grandparents had six kids, five of whom were there with one spouse and one of my cousins. Everyone was sitting around my Grandfather who was sleeping on the couch. I cried when I hugged my step-Grandmother. It was hard to see sadness in the eyes of all of my Aunts and Uncles. I didn’t stay long. But as I was leaving I leaned over and said “hi Grandpa” to him. He opened his eyes, looked at me with a smile and repeated, “hi Grandpa, hi Grandpa.” For some reason I found it surprising and comforting that although he was thin, pale, and looking very tired, his voice was still exactly the same. It triggered memories of him from his younger days.
A few hours later my mom called and said that the nurse came and told them that he was in a half-coma. I feel blessed that in his state he heard my voice, opened his eyes, and acknowledged me.