Monday, March 7, 2011


My grandfather passed away a couple of nights ago.  I'm starting this post with that news.

To understand who he was, you'd really have to know his children and his wife.
He,  himself, was a meteorologist.  You know, a weather guy.  The guy who KNOWS by SCIENCE that it will rain tomorrow, because he has the tools to talk to the sky itself... and then he's wrong.  That guy.

I am convinced that, somehow, he actually did always get the weather right.  Not because he was psychic, but because I think the sky was probably terrified to let my Pop-Pop down.

He was my father's father.  Now, my dad has always been a momma's boy.  He's very proud of this fact.  However, his father's influence is very clearly there.

This got me thinking about my grandparents in relation to my own upbringing and values.

There are five grandparents in my life:
1.) My mother's father is the first.  I never met him.  He passed away when my mother was eight years old.  However, from stories told by my grandmother and by my mother's sisters, I knew that he and I had a lot in common.  He had a wonderful sense of humor and a good work ethic.  He loved his family.  That's really all I need to know.

The story of his death was a bit muddled when I was a child.  I was told that he was on the phone with a friend, was told a joke, and laughed so hard that he died.  In reality, he may have been laughing when it happened, but it was a heart attack that did him in.  This led to my mother stating that we have "heart disease" in the family, and that I should watch out for it.  While high cholesterol and high blood pressure are common among us, it should be noted that my mother's father had suffered more than one heart attack (and yet survived, which was not so common at the time) and he was a heavy smoker.  As such, I don't know if I would brand us as a heart attack family.

Still, the idea of passing away while laughing is kind of nice. 

2.) My mother's step father, Grandpa Walter, was a tailor during WWII.  He made Nazi uniforms in order to survive.  By the time I met him, he was already attached to oxygen. Unfortunately, all I really knew directly was that he didn't think I was old enough to play board games, and that paprika is only used for color and has no taste.

Turns out, he was actually a very interesting man, from Nazis to a strange court case involving something he didn't do.  He even came complete with "evil stepsisters" for my mother.

3.) My mother's mother is a different story.  I knew her as simply "Grandma", but she'd sign everything "Grandma Mildred" or "Millie".  I had a chance to know her, thankfully.  She didn't get along with my sister, (there was an incident which led to her reading a Smurf book to my sister, but replacing every "smurf" with "dumb") but she was someone I personally looked up to.  She was a writer.  She was witty and very intelligent.  She did not take shit from ANYONE.  You could be the president, but if you tried to talk back to this woman, she would have put you in your place without a second thought.

Grandma would always say that she wasn't terribly happy about outliving everyone.  All of her friends and both of her husbands were gone.  She told me that if she ever lost her mind, I should just proclaim her dead.  I listened.

She, very sadly, suffered from Dementia towards the end.  I guess she knew it was coming.  She'd go back and forth between being aware and in pain, or being physically healthy but having no idea where she was.  She once called the house to ask when "Benjamin", her first husband, was coming home.  We told her that he'd be back very soon.

I will admit, I did not visit her often during this time.  I wish I had had the ability to see her more before then.  My sister went, knowing Grandma would not know who she was.  This was not as kind as it sounds.  I think everyone knew what it really was about.

In any case, eventually, Grandma got to go home to her husbands.  I had let her go by that point, because the woman I love and still wish to emulate, had already gone long before her body caught up.  I should have gone to the funeral for my mother.  That I know.  However, I thought that having time to be with her sisters would be helpful.  I have since attempted to get closer to my remaining relatives, but I don't know how well that's working.

I live far away and while growing up, my anxiety and pain kept me from trusting anyone, including my blood relatives.  I blame my sister for a lot of that.  Or rather, I blame my reaction to my sister for a lot of that.  I did not really know what Borderline Personality Disorder or Bi-Polar Disorder were at the time.  Of course, with an eight year age difference and parents who also did not really know, my knowing would not have kept me safe. 

Still, last Winter, my boyfriend and I managed to make it to Nevada, where my father's family resides.

This brings me to
4.) Mom-Mom
and finally, 5.) Pop-Pop.

Mom-Mom told us never to call her "Grandma", because it made her feel old.  She's that kind of person.  She's very stubborn and strong willed.  She's started to waiver mentally a bit these days, but she still maintains a personality and inner strength that I find inspiring.

My father being a "momma's boy" is not an insult.  Believe me when I say this.  True, she treats him like a child even now, (he was well into his fifties when she called the police because he had been "missing" for a couple of hours in Las Vegas) but she, much like Grandma, never takes any shit.  This is what makes the next part so difficult.

With Pop-Pop gone, as strong as Mom-Mom is, she doesn't drive and does not really take care of herself.  Putting her in a group home of some kind would be preferred.  It's Vegas, so she'd still get to go gambling, and she'd be able to go to a dinning hall and meet people.  She is social and should remain so.  However, she has this image of people rotting away, left and forgotten in an old, dingy hospital setting.  This is far from the truth, but it is difficult to convince her of this.

Seeing all this makes me more desperate to get over my fear and to get my license.  I want to be able to help Brian more, and to not wind up completely dependent on him.  I care about him, but I don't want to be stranded if he wanders off (emotionally or otherwise). 

My parents are currently over in Nevada, talking to her and attending Pop-Pop's funeral.

It might be the left over flat affect from the PTSD, but I don't seem to react to death in the "right" way.  At least, not in the American sense.  Perhaps, growing up with my father as clergy, I managed to get a sense that there is something else after this world.  Perhaps (and more likely), I have lived the kind of life that has led to my simply not caring one way or another, provided the life lived was lived well.
After all, everyone dies.  If everyone does it, it probably isn't so bad.

Pop-Pop was ready to go.  He said goodbye to my father.  When I saw him, he told me he was "tired of being tired" and he laughed at this.  Even in the pain he was in, he still laughed.  Maybe it was to make sure we didn't feel sorry for him.  Perhaps he didn't want to upset anyone.  I think he simply understood the ridiculousness of it all.

When you get to that point, you have to laugh.  It's the only way to go.

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