I am grieving.
I hate that word, “grieving.”
My grief is acute. It’s the pain when you first break your leg. The sharp pain that makes you gasp and you can’t breathe because it hurts so much and consumes you. Maybe if the situation had been different I would have more chronic grief. The dull, constant ache that comes later, after you’ve worn the cast on your leg but the pain doesn’t fully go away.
I know I need to write, I know I want to write. But there is absolutely, not a chance in the world, that I can write anything coherent. So I will just….write.
I wasn’t supposed to lose my grandpa.
There is no hierarchy of grief, no rule book. Grief varies situation to situation. My grief in this situation is different than that of someone who lost a loved one after a year-long illness, and that’s different than that of someone who lost someone immediately in an accident or stroke or heart attack. This is my own, personal grief. I don’t have to justify it or defend it. I get to just feel it.
Four weeks ago, my grandpa was healthy. In my head, I knew he would live many, many more years. He laughed and talked and walked and drove. He was healthy. Four weeks ago, he had some trouble breathing. He went into the hospital. Three weeks ago, they found a mass. Two weeks ago, he came home and hospice moved in. Yesterday, cancer killed him.
It wasn’t supposed to happen.
People say things. People try to say words to make a situation better. A situation that really, has no words. People mean well. But some of the things people say, don’t help. That doesn’t mean I’m selfish and don’t appreciate their intent. It only means just that: that it doesn’t help. That’s okay. The thing is, I don’t believe there’s a “better place” that he’s in. Because truly, he wasn’t in pain, he wasn’t suffering. It doesn’t give me comfort. It doesn’t give me comfort that he had a long, healthy life. Because that doesn’t change the fact that now, he’s gone. And that shouldn’t have happened. The fact that he had a long, healthy life does not, in any way, make this easier.
I am not selfish or ungrateful. I appreciate every single person trying to provide comfort. But I have to be allowed to feel how I feel.
I call my Gram. “Jeremy and I are coming,” I tell her. “I know,” she replies. “I know it’s a non-option for you. I am so glad you’re coming. Grandpa and I will be so happy to see you.”
Jeremy and I drive to their house, from the airport, upon landing in Florida. This is the last time I’ll land in Florida knowing Grandpa is waiting for me. This is the last time I’ll drive on this road knowing Grandpa is there. This is the last time I’ll drive into their complex, knowing they are both there. Each thought makes me cry again, but I have to keep saying it to myself. I have to focus on the reality of it.
We are down in Florida. Jeremy and I manage to get Gram outside for ten minutes to walk. She hasn’t left his side. We go for a walk and run into Gram and Grandpa’s friends. They start tearing up immediately, seeing Gram. The gentleman looks at me, and shakes his head, bewildered. “He was fine,” he says to me. “We just went out to dinner with your grandparents a few weeks ago. He was joking and talking. He was fine.”
I had hoped for maybe a few minutes with Grandpa. But he wanted us around him the whole time. Each time we tiptoed out of the room when he started dozing off, he asked us to come sit near him. He asked us questions, when he had enough energy to talk. He wanted to hear about things. About our apartment, about work, movies we had seen. He joked with us, the hilarious sense of humor he always had, still there with him.
Grandpa didn’t treat me like I was too fragile to be real with. He was real with me and so I could be real right back. He looked at me and said, with a defeated sigh, “Man, this is a terrible way to go out.” And yeah. That ripped my heart into a million pieces. But it also gave me permission to feel it and cry and agree. I really appreciated that. No sugarcoating.
Gram was so lovey with him. In a way I don’t think I have ever seen. Kissing him, holding his hand, rubbing his back. “People keep asking what I need,” she told us. “But what I need is for my husband to be well. And that isn’t going to happen.” Heart ripped open again. But oh, how I preferred that. Preferred to feel it and live it in the moment for what it was, other than pretending we were all okay with it.
Gram is now alone. And that’s the piece that unbearably pains my heart.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. I wasn’t supposed to lose him. She wasn’t supposed to lose him.
This was not supposed to happen. And I’m allowed to say that.
There are moments when I am factual. Okay. This is happening. This happened. I am living this and going through this. Grandpa is gone. Gram lost her husband. My mom lost her father. Grandpa will not be at my wedding. He will not meet my children some day. Okay. And then there are other moments where the pain of it all hits me so hard and raw that I can’t breathe and I forget how to inhale without gasping.
So I take it moment by moment. Because what else can I do?
And that’s all I can say for now.