Enough about the sender. How about those on the receiving end?
I do wonder from time to time what people think when they find a letter from me in the mailbox. To be honest, no permission to send is ever asked. Things just sort of arrive and the readers are left to their own devices. (It’s a different kettle of fish with Ellen and Reid. They know what’s coming and why.) To tip people off would be akin to asking someone if its okay for me to send an email. It just isn’t unfeasible. My version of don’t ask, don’t tell, I suppose.
I’ve never once asked if what I sent was received and, more importantly, how it was received from their point of view. Rather than point to the letter, the page is allowed to stand (or fall) on its own merit. Folks can take the contents for what the few hundred words are worth. The presumption here is that their thinking ranges from ‘why this, why now?’ to this is okay or maybe it’s nice to get something in the mail that isn’t a bill. If it piques their interest for a couple of minutes, so much the better. Far be it for me to assume it is of importance to them. Everything is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.
Here is last week’s letter to Ellen and Reid.
June 14, 2010
Ellen/Reid: The only way to take things in regards to your grandparents is one step, and one day, at a time. Things seem to be stabilizing a little bit in that right now there are no more planned moves, no more pulling the two of them hither and yon. They each have their own rooms and that really meets each of their needs.
Your grandfather is in good spirits given his condition. In some ways the nine days there were very good. Our conversations were just very conversational. I think that to talk about things openly is good in lieu of dancing around or avoiding the topic. It was refreshing to him and cathartic for me. We got a lot done; the service mostly mapped out and some of the other arrangements in order for casket and clothing (blue blazer with an Air Force lapel pin, white shirt, gray slacks). When I walked in the first day, he handed me a legal pad with his wishes for pallbearers (Reid, that means you and Tim), honorary pallbearers, etc. It was surreal in a lot of ways. But there was no place else I would rather be for those days.
He is sleeping a lot. He’s not many weeks from major abdominal surgery on top of his cancer. We’d be beat, too. He does not seem in a lot of pain although his breathing is labored only because of the fluid build-up (edema). The head nurse there, Erin, was very good with him. She walked him through what was happening and why, and he was very understanding. It’s just the normal progression of the disease.
Your grandmother is having a hard time with all this. She doesn’t quite understand why they can’t be together in the same room and it makes her frustrated and angry. As your grandfather and I both said time and again, it’s not her but her ailment. Still, I twice lost my temper with her. Once was not 30 seconds after Erin had laid out the candid scenario for him. Your grandmother came into his room, very angry with him – let’s go home, you’re not sick, etc. – and the dichotomy of the two situations just couldn’t be further apart. But while it rolled off his back, I took it to heart. She turned her walker around and bolted out of the room and I just lost it. She and I had quite a set-to out in the hallway. That was my one regret during the entire time in Omaha.
In fairness, we made her move very quickly without her knowing much about it. If we had told her she’d be in a new space, and potentially locked up for two weeks with no visitors, it would have been very, very tough for her. My cousin Eric and his son Klint helped move everything while my mom was kept occupied. When the time came, I gave her personal sitter the high sign that it was time to take her to her new lodgings. Ostensibly, the rules are that once a new resident is in the memory wing, there is no leaving the unit, plus no visitors, for 14 days to help them acclimate to the new surroundings. But your uncle and I prevailed on the staff to bend the rules, and they agreed. Grandma and grandpa have seen each other regularly. It’s hard to watch them separate when the time comes. But there are glimmers for her. She said she likes her new room – one of the best in the memory wing – and she likes all the photos of you guys and Andy and Joe.
My uncle Henry and his wife Mary were driven down from the Twin Cities by their son Tim. It was a highlight of the week for him to see his sister, your grandmother. Henry is an incredibly dynamic person, but he has his own issues: early onset Alzheimer’s. We took them all out to eat except for your grandfather who stayed behind. Family time doesn’t get much more precious than this. I don’t know if Henry and Mary will make it back for the service, so it was the right time for everyone to say their goodbyes. It was a great moment, and it’s what your grandpa truly deserved. It’s just a process that rolls onward to the conclusion we expect it to be.