Flight

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I thought somehow at some point when I was driving home, ignoring my racing heart, that I was totally going to be able to write a storm tonight.

It was going to be easy because there was so much to say.   So much, whoosh, gone.  So much freaking my head out.  So many little moments of us sitting around and trying to answer the question of how do you do anything after a change, even one foreshadowed and expected?

I don’t know.  I don’t know.  It is easy.  It is hard.  It is messing with my head.  My feet also bothered me something fierce today after many weeks of being fine.  I have decided that I…am freaked out enough about that to talk to someone.  My therapist.  On the 12th.  And deal with it from there because right now, there isn’t anyone else in the world who could talk to me about it and it wouldn’t just send me into some sort of state I can’t easily get out of. Doctors…not until it falls off.  I know it can’t come to that.  But I just can’t take it right now.  There’s so many other…but nevertheless, I felt every anxiety symptom today and spazzed out hard after 4 days of perfectly sane driving.  Not enough to stop, or skip writing group.  Just enough that JFC, it felt like I was back at square one.

It’s all part of it, maybe.  Maybe it’s a wasteful excuse.

My father did not cry.  Not that I have seen.  He is dutiful.  Perhaps this is old hat now, three losses in three years.  I don’t think that’s true, still.  He is smiling.  He is laughing and making jokes.  I think he’s laughing because that’s what my grandpa would have wanted.  It’s what he would have done. He told me that he dreamed a few weeks ago when my grandfather was ill, but we didn’t know for sure that this would be the final turn, that my grandfather told him to stop worrying about money.  He laughed about the way he’d say whenever anyone wanted anything “Well, give it to ’em.”  My grandpa just didn’t believe in hanging on to anything if someone else could use it.

My dad definitely worries about money, he worries about everything, even more than me which is saying something.  So this is advice that until it came from the right person didn’t mean anything.

I told you I’d been watching One.  This short film essentially about the death of an old man, about forgiving himself, about the inside work and then the outside work of bringing a person to pass on.  The memories, the medicines, the life that touched so many, it all spinning and dancing and showing itself until there is no more.  I didn’t expect that the story was now.  It was happening while I wasn’t paying attention.

There are other things, other frustrations and fears, but here we are.  Doing this thing called life.

Tomorrow.

Hjemlengsel

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Okay, day, okay.

I have a need to write – to continue this story until it reaches its conclusion.  I also have a need to chronicle, to record the memories of today so that they don’t dissipate out of my mind when I crave to return to the story as it was.  As I know it now.

My grandfather ate ice cream for breakfast, something I can only imagine he’s never done for so long as I have been his grandchild as for these 30-some years I’ve only known him as a diabetic. It’s a matter of him getting things as near as we can to what he wants.  He has been alert all day and recognizing all of this visitors.

My father texted and asked if we wanted to talk to him.  Of course, dear readers, I will admit to a sliver of trepidation.  What do you say?  What do you say in your last conversation with someone?  You say, apparently, “I just wanted to be sure you know that I love you so tremendously much.”  To which, your grandfather replies, because he is your grandfather.  “I love you, too.  Well, all things must come to an end.  And I hope it comes sooner rather than later.”

We’ve always been the far-distant children.  We don’t, as my cousin who spent so many more hours under my grandparents’ watchful eyes at the farm, call him Gramps.  We weren’t first, we don’t have children and rooted lives to connect to him as they do, they weren’t needed as surrogate parents as they sometimes were for others.

But that never mattered.  My visits up there always made me feel their love.  My grandfather’s stoicism never for a minute hid his grand attributes of humor and endurance and a big open heart.  That hand patting my shoulder.

We being all the way out here, it seemed like somehow, we weren’t meant to be a part of the goodbye.  But we needed to be.  I needed to be.  The last time we spoke he seemed tired, out of sorts, all that moving around nursing homes and assisted living.  All these changes.

It wasn’t a long conversation, but it was important.  I didn’t get that with my grandma, not really, even though I feel her with me and I know I can reach out and connect to her spirit in my dreams, I wish I had.  This feels so strange to me.  It hasn’t registered.  It doesn’t feel like a loss so much as a move even just a bit further away.

From a long distance, from what I can gather from my father, my grandpa’s not comfortable, he’s ready regardless of what his body has to say on the matter.  There’s no way to know how big the hourglass is.  I know that he wants this to be as inconvenient as possible and like so much of this, you just have to give it the grace to be what it is.

My dad comes home tomorrow, regardless.

The Starcatcher

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Somehow, as a writer, my skill is supposed to come in handy on days like this.

Days when I’ve had these disparate experiences that impacted me and somehow, I should know what it all means.  Or have, I guess, a way to write them all together and distill a truth.

My grandfather’s not expected to recover now and is just resting comfortably under my dad and aunt’s watchful eyes.  He could, of course, get better, but it would not possibly be for anything that could be considered long-term.   He is on the soft and sunny side of this long hill we’re all crawling ourselves up and I have this vision that he’s walking, steadily and surely, down into this valley where my grandmother and uncle are waiting.  It’s comforting to me when I feel so useless.  Again, I have expectations for myself…how grief should look, how love should express itself, how I should be in this moment when my being is in no way part of the equation.  When there is no word I could say, no magical phrase that would make my grandfather as I see him in memory: solid, sharp, clever,  sitting in the chair next to me watching Megadeth up at the farm because both of us were trying to be kind to the other, both of us weirded out by the idea that the other wanted to watch that.  I feel his hand on my shoulder.  Those hugs.  The way he would insist on washing the dishes after every single meal.  The way my grandmother would say Sammy’s so good to me. Ever so good.  The way my dad would call up there and start with “Hello Pop!” The noises of his life. The quiet.  The little asides.  The steady love he gave everyone.  The farm that was his domain.  I feel all of it and it stays and goes.

This was happening today and I felt guilty, somehow, for this invitation to a dinner theatre matinee.  Tickets that would be gone to waste if we didn’t use them.  So I found myself sitting across the table from an elderly couple, not so unlike my grandparents at all.  Sharp in their minds, but ever gentle to one another.  And I making small talk and not knowing what to say – not being able to say that some part of it was my thoughts were elsewhere, another part that I was being rusty and out of practice with faking my way through those kinds of encounters.  Eventually, after the free meal that was excellent but entirely filled with calories I did not count regardless of whether I should, this rapid-fire, insanely creative production of Peter and the Starcatcher spilled out in front of my eyes.

The setting reminded of my story – 1885 British Empire on the seas, yet supernatural, players playing a hundred parts and at the center, a female hero the equal of Peter Pan.  Peter Pan’s heart and his light and his mother, his maker.  That, perhaps, was in the end why they had to be parted.  He wasn’t ready to grow up.  He needed and deserved that time to be innocent after what he had endured, to be childish, free of pain.  She knew that being a woman meant the essence of that great Cheryl Strayed quote, being brave enough to break your own heart.  She had to give him up.

That was really where my interest lied – the campiness, the creativity in making the whole thing work on a stage, the side stories…they all had charm.  But for me, of late, I care about the romance.  Even the romances that hurt.

From there, I flew down to the old stomping grounds and sat in my mentor’s living room for 30 minutes.  She had a fire going and her cat came up and approved of me. Suddenly, it was easy to talk about everything.  The struggle, such as it is, knowing I would be met with genuine empathy.  She suggested I could work for her if it would help in the summer.  That it would help her.  Weekends, retail, it doesn’t pay any more than a usual retail job.  I had thought, laughingly, that I could make something like that happen part-time.  That it would give me time to think.  To process.  I told her, possibly too earnestly, that I would think about it sincerely.  We hugged.  Her husband popped in.  It was nice to feel human, to spill the guts and not worry that the guts would be used against me.

30 minutes past and up I flew again to this Mexican restaurant to say goodbye to a dear friend who was intended to leave for Georgia this past October but the house didn’t sell until now and now she’s moving, homelessly to Savannah.  So the old gang was nearly all there.  It was lovely, for the most part, toxic for the rest.  The changes have rocked everyone.  Nobody’s happy, everything is broken when it comes to the thing that united us.   There was a lot of venting and lately, our get togethers center around the brokenness. It is hard not to feel like my leaving was pulling that first precarious piece out of the Jenga tower.  The nostalgia at once powerful and instantly corroded as soon as it breathed the free air. But it had to be.  I had to choose what I chose.  I had to be here now and you there now and time had to pass for my grandfather regardless of my regrets of how I spent it.

It couldn’t have been any way other than the way it was.   The day, my choice, and everything.

That’s it.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

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Saturday morning brings with it bad news.  My grandfather has taken another turn, severe enough that my father is doing his agonizing and all-too familiar rush up to Minnesota while we sit in the peanut gallery and wait for news. And at 94, that whatever the solution is today or this month, or this year, has an expiration date.  We are going to know this loss.

I know that going won’t change what is either to be or not to be, but I feel a hundred, a thousand micro-tremors of emotion.  Regrets, sadness, nostalgia, thinking about my grandfather’s emotions as he experiences this pondering what I should be doing, trying to be helpful for my father who is ever the dutiful son, feeling worried about things entirely unrelated and being frustrated about that.

And all at once, I know, that here we are and I love my grandfather and I know he loves me and my imaginings, my worries and fears, are just ways to modulate the sort of awesome, silent understanding that there’s nothing that needs to be done.  I connect here and now and I don’t need approval or participation or anyone else.  I just am going to do it and hope, as I always do, that he is happy or on his way back towards happiness.

When I received the news this morning, there was a flurry of phone calls and text messages and my father was trying to get ahold of my half-sister to see if there was a quick flight attendant maneuver that could somehow get him on this magical non-existent flight to Fargo.  She’s in Shanghai, but answered and there were options, but no great options.  Finally, I got a call

I’m pleased as punch that I was able to put aside all my odd, foaming, circulating web of fears and negative emotions and basic crap and to hear that unimaginably small shift of tone in my father’s voice.  To hear that tiniest bit of vulnerability about all of it.  His mother, his brother, and now, his dad.  And instead of complaining or worrying myself or telling him what I thought needed to be done, or mentally living in how this rattles and breaks my heart or how I couldn’t feel the depth of it whatsoever, I just said, I will be right over.

And I was.  And we got the ticket booked and I know, in some small way, that I helped.  He wants to get to the airport more than 3 hours beforehand.   Okay.  He wants to ask five times if he’s got the right paperwork.  Okay.

I still am sitting with it all.  Waiting for some revelation, trying to put it all in order, trying too hard when it’s just a game of 52 Pickup right now.

What I have is this:  It was odd.  When I got out of the car at my parents’, someone, somewhere in the houses behind me was playing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones.  It just blared into the quiet street as if it was in my own mind.  Later, as we were waiting for the time to come for my dad to actually go to the airport, he told me to put on my show if I wanted.  I knew what this meant.  MST3K.  After a first attempt at Space Mutiny, we ended up with Overdrawn at the Memory bank which features a memorable scene where Mike and the robots sing the children’s chorus of that song…you can’t always get what you want.  But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.