The dust has settled a little here.
As I write that, what I think of is what happens when I blow on a surface covered with dust. It lifts and dances and clouds into my eyes and nose until I'm sneezing. And then it settles. But it's still there--the dust, I mean. Nothing changes when a person simply blows the dust to move it.
And so it is in our lives in these last few days, these first Grampie-less days. We blow and blow and blow on our lives but nothing changes the true tenor of what we face now. After Beve's brother and sister-in-law left Saturday, we looked at each other and, in a collective gasp, decided to herd up our adult kids, dogs and more food than we needed, and head to our little lodge in the mountains to simply be together for a night.
It seemed right. A long time ago--up until Thursday evening--we'd intended President's weekend to be what is called respite for those in the position we've been in of caring for an elderly parent in our home. We'd made arrangements for Grampie to go back to the skilled nursing facility where he lived before moving in with us. But that changed on a dime when his dying became a reality rather than an abstract idea. We were glad to change our plans. I think I wrote about telling the hospice nurse, "We'd rather change our plans and he live eight more days than go and he die Saturday morning while we're gone." It turns out what I barely meant, was actually true. He DID die Saturday morning, and thank God we were there to be with him. Last September 30, I wrote that my hope was that the line beyond which we could care for him would be his last breaths. That is, our wish was that he lived the rest of his days with us. And God honored that. Hallelujah!
But after making many huge decisions, and running all kinds of related errands, Beve came home Sunday morning and said, "I'm ready to be irresponsible." So that cabin-plan which had been so easily jettisoned seemed the perfect place to escape. And it felt like Grampie himself helped orchestrate it. I wouldn't put it past him. He never did like his beloveds to miss out at his expense.
So we were off the grid for a little over twenty-four hours, just long enough to put the lodge in order, sleep in newly put together beds, and spend a whole lot of time talking about Grampie. Favorite stories, favorite moments, favorite expressions, favorite everything. We talked until we were dropping from sleepiness, teary and laughing in turn. It was the hard work of grieving and life-giving at once. Beve told me as we went to sleep that night that it was exactly what he needed, just his own three kids and me, to help give voice to all he can't say on his own.
Now we're back in the world, with doorbells, and emails, and messages galore. Decisions to be made and obituaries to write (Yikes, I've got to get that finished!). We have photo albums spread across our living room floor, culling the best of him from them. SK told me today that it's hard to look for photos with tears threatening every second. But we're in this together, each doing our part. It's the hard work of mourning we do.
Someone reminded me tonight Beve and I will have a rough go when the dust settles because we've been responsible for Grampie's care--for his life--for the last five years. I don't know what life will feel like next week, when SK is gone and Beve's back at work and I'm alone in the mornings. Sad, I think. Very sad.
But there's this: when our children remember Grampie, not one of them think of him as he's been in those last five years. They think of Grampie tall and straight, strong, witty and intelligent--the way he was in their childhoods. And I know that whatever was robbed from him through the dementia has been given back to him completely now. The man my children remember, the man Beve remembers, is the man who lives now. Yes, lives now in the rarified air of heaven itself.
I just can't be sad about that. When the dust that is 'ashes to ashes and dust to dust' settles, what was lost (his mind) is now found. Given back, I suppose I should say. God has given Grampie back himself. Yes, I thank God for that.