I’ve not opened up very much – make that not at all – with Ellen and Reid about the weeks and months since my dad passed away on June 28. The three of us – mainly me – have danced around the topic. Any reference to the event is couched in terms of how their grandmother is faring out West. As a rule I’ve tried to keep emotions in check when it comes to my dad. But his photo hoisting a cold glass of Miller Genuine Draft shortly before his death (June 11 post) is my screen saver on both my laptop and cell phone. So his image is never far away – to say nothing of his place in my heart.
For the most part the approach of bottled up feelings has worked. But as many of you have seen in your own similar circumstances, even the slightest little thing can open the gates. This week’s letter is, in part, about what I’ve thought about in the past several months.
I don’t know what they will make of reading this letter. Chalk this up as residue from Betsy’s lecture. This new bare-all ground for me, not that it opens anything morose, but expressing these sort of emotions has been outside my comfort zone. If either of them respond, I’ll share what’s fit to be shared.
November 8, 2010
Ellen/Reid: Pretty frosty here this weekend. We got blasted with near record sub 30 temps this morning. Not what the locals are used to. It should be back in the 70s by the end of the week.
Word came this weekend that your grandfather has a formal headstone. I will ask your cousin Joe to send me a photo when it is installed. I would give anything to be there for that just so I could be close to him again. As it is, the best I can do is your grandfather’s photo as my screensaver on both the laptop and cell phone. He’s toasting viewers with one of his final MGDs.
I was looking for some non-family notes the other day and came across a dozen or so pages from one our conversations a couple of weeks before his death. I’m not sure how or why we got on the conversation path we did but he was very open and ready to talk. He went on about his forced landings in WWII, some of his family background (Missouri) and a side of his immediate family that I already had an inkling of but didn’t know all the details. His own father, Ed, was never very nice to your uncle and me, and as it turned out he wasn’t very fond of your grandfather let alone his own wife. I think that bothered your grandfather all of his life. It dawns on me now because I cannot recall him ever talking about his dad very much. He talked and I wrote, that’s pretty much it. If either of you two wants those pages of notes, let me know because there won’t be a write-up or anything like that. (Pops kind of reminded me of that, too.)
The pages reminded me of how much I miss your grandpa. Every now and then there will be some out-of-the-blue, small reminder of him. It’s hard to think that I can’t pick up the phone and talk to him about what I need to do in this or that situation. I didn’t go to him all that often on things, but when I did he usually had the answer I needed to hear. He was a pretty smart guy in lots of ways. Those last days with him were surreal in a lot of ways. It was emotional but not teary for me as I watched him slip away. The two things that bothered me the most were watching him eat alone in the cafeteria. That is no way to spend your last days. He could’ve used a friend right then. That was very hard to bear. And then to watch him need help to get into and out of the bathroom was just heartbreaking. He had lost so much weight. The disease had taken him down to nothing. Honestly, in the end it was a relief to see him finally get some rest. The one time I truly broke down was when I stepped outside to call the both of you. I don’t know why that made me so uncontrollably weepy when I couldn’t summon that emotion in all the prior weeks. It must’ve just been a sense of finality. Someone smarter than me could probably explain it to me.
Your grandmother has never mentioned him in any of our conversations. Maybe she has moved on or her memory has not allowed her to adequately process the loss of her husband. Perhaps that is a good thing. None of us will really know what’s she’s thinking. I have yet to mention or even allude to him when we talk. I’m afraid to see what her reaction might be. If she mentions it I suppose that is an opening. It’s hard to believe almost five months have passed. If the possibility comes up I would like to drive her from Grand Island to Omaha to see the headstone. That could be a sense of closure for her. I don’t know. But she deserves to see her husband at least one more time. I think it would be good for her to get in the car and just go.
Well, I’d better get along. My stretch here at the bank is over after Christmas and I’m trying to build a best-case scenario for working beyond that. But you never know. I’m excited about Thanksgiving and HR has given me the green light to go. I’ll be in touch about arrival particulars very soon, but Ellen, I don’t mind sticking around the airport until you can come fetch me.