Things came to pass as we expected at 2:12 p.m. on Monday, June 28. The end was as mercifully pain-free and serene for my father as any of us could have hoped for. As soon as my brother and I gathered ourselves, it was on to the necessary details. As you know better than we, the planning for visitations and a memorial service don’t wait. Perhaps that is for the good.
The family is starting to assemble. Reid flies in the late morning today (Wednesday), while Ellen and Tim arrive by car in early afternoon. My dear uncle Henry, his wife Mary (from Portland, Oregon) along with one of their sons, Tom (Eugene, OR) land at the Omaha airport about that same time, as do my nephew Andy and his wife Steph from California. (The obituary is posted on Omaha.com.)
I’ve heard new terminology – ‘pinned’ ears, modeling, etc. – that I don’t need to hear again for a long, long while. It is the language of death. In its own way, it was an interesting element to the process because it put into context what was happening to my father and why. The nurses of Hospice, and the facility where my father (and mother) lived out these last few months, were incredibly professional and caring.
I’ve written before that much of this will find its way into the weekly letters. How Ellen and Reid navigate themselves around this sad process while they are here and how they handle the expressions of grief, etc., that will come their way, will be interesting for me as a father to witness. In the coming weeks and months, the three of us will have time to digest everything that has happened and to, hopefully, share our interpretations of it all. I’ve been storing away snippets here and there from this past weekend (indeed, the past few months) and this will no doubt resurface on the pages from a father to his children. This may not be the sort of teaching moment we would like to have but it has come to pass and we will all see what lessons it holds.
There’s one equally sad note for me: my father will receive no more letters. Ironically, the final letter to him probably arrived Monday or yesterday. But you can be assured he will live on in paragraphs to others.
After this week I thought to ditch the idea of posting the usual archived letter to Ellen and Reid. However, I’ve located one which was an early effort to bring the kids up to speed on the health of their grandparents.
March 16, 2009
Ellen/Reid: The ducks around here never had it so good on a weekend. Steady rain and low temperatures made things just ducky. This is the first weekend in months that I have not played golf at least once, but it was a good weekend to mop floors, stow extra paperwork (of which there was a ton) and just laze around. Did the latter in quantity. Even thought about doing taxes, too.
It didn’t stop the birds from chirping up a storm. The trees are almost in full bud, and in a couple of weeks the units behind me will be hidden from view. I was home with a cold Monday, and from my upstairs office (which is now clean) I watched a red shouldered hawk swoop down from his low perch. He stomped on something, and in a flash it was a small snake which, in one deft move, was down the hatch. Never had seen that display before. I fetched my binoculars and watched the hawk once he retreated to the same perch. The identification was made in the green Audubon book. The hawk sat there for 15 minutes then swooped down again on a small bush and made all sorts of a racket before he emerged with some small rodent. Hey, we’ve all gotta eat.
I head to Omaha next week for a most unpleasant trip. I’ll be able to see Grandma but am not wholly prepared for it. And the worst part may be forcing grandpa to go around to assisted living centers. Not sure how that will work because he probably won’t want to leave her. He is going against doctor’s orders by taking her home. Neither of them are dealing with reality, and he knows that your uncle and I are not pleased with this. Even before your grandmother’s first stroke, we had nosed around about a new living situation for them. A one floor unit, perhaps aligned to a retirement home. They stew about losing their independence but really, it just means a change of address. I did it. They can, too. It’s not as if either of them would have a monitoring bracelet on their ankles. Their situation reminded me of something this week. Before the storm hit, I was driving home from a meeting several nights ago and the moon was full as it broke through some light clouds. The scene was almost exactly like a painting your great grandmother, Mary Bradley, had painted when she was a young girl shortly after the start of the last century. It was the only thing I wanted when she passed away. Unfortunately, the painting vanished shortly after her death. When the inevitable happens to your grandparents, I’m not sure what their equivalent will be to my grandmother’s painting. I have Mary’s mother’s cast iron skillet (it gets used several times a week) and that’s good enough for me.
Thinking about lasik eye surgery. Tired of reading glasses and everything being indistinct. May help my golf game, too, although that is not the reason I’d do it. Just need better eyesight.
Have my biker friends Brian and George rolling into town this weekend. Brian has been spending some of the winter in Daytona Beach, and George flies in there later this week. They’ll take their sweet time to come up this way along about Thursday. George will borrow my Harley for some charity ride in these parts, and he may ride it up to Bristol, TN for some NASCAR race up their this weekend. That’s okay with me. This will be the fourth time they have stayed with me, and literally, all I have to do is say “hello” and Brian takes the conversation from there. He has never been at a loss for words. He rivals your uncle in that regard. He can turn emptying the dishwasher into a three part saga.
Reid, I hope this letter finds you employed with ______ or at least close to it. They must see something in you that others do not. ______’s gain and a loss for the others. I hope you get the job. We continue to hack away people down here, and you never know when the axe man will turn his utensil your way. If it happens, I’ll just do something else. “Supersize that for you, ma’am?”