It's strange how there are moments in your life when you remember exactly where you were, what you were doing, who you were with--moments when you might recall what you were looking at, how you were dressed.
9/11: I was in the shower. It was a Tuesday, which meant I had my degree project class--with Michael Dennis Browne, a collection of memoir pieces. My husband (then-boyfriend) knocked on the door, telling me a plane hit the World Trade Center. Like so many others, I shrugged it off, thinking it was a prop plane, something small, insignificant. A week previous, he'd knocked on the door to tell me the fire alarm was going off and we had to evacuate. It was nothing then (too). I spent the day, like so many Americans, glued to the news, glad we had gotten cable weeks before, addicted to the news ticker.
Yvonne: When my mother called to tell me Yvonne had passed away, I was at home. I got the message as I was leaving the bookstore's parking lot, and I knew what she wanted to tell me. I waited until I got home, and, sitting on the mattress in my bedroom, staring at my bookcase full of dramatic texts, I called her back, finding out Yvonne had died, living fourteen days after her surgery to remove cancerous tumors. I had said good-bye only days before, one of the most emotionally jarring days of my life. I had never had to say good-bye to someone I loved so fiercely.
And last night: I had actually just called my father, planning the trip back to Michigan, knowing it would only be days, talking to my dad about how he would leave after class. It snowed last night, thick and heavy, and my husband and I spent the night shoveling and snowblowing. I smelled like gasoline and sweat. We were just balancing our temperatures out again--the heat from the effort, the chill from the fluffy snow, our fists weary from tossing clumps of ice from the end of our driveway. Husband came from the kitchen with the phone, a heating pad pressed against his neck (he injured it when playing with the dogs and Bear, our foster-dog-for-two-weeks backed up on him). It was my father again, this time to tell me that my grandfather had passed away, peacefully, at home.
And here's the thing about this kind of grief: he died, eighty five years old, at the end of a very good life. He made it to my wedding, which was so important to me. We were able to say good-bye to him in the nursing home just a little over a week ago. What may have been his last coherent words were spoken to grandma, with me right there: "I love everyone in that group, just not equally." It was as close to a perfect good-bye as someone can get in these circumstances.
This grief: I cannot thump my hands wildly on my chest, nor would I, as this side of the family is quite stoic about these sorts of things. I cannot anyway, because the pain that was his descent was brief--he only spent a month or so in the homes, he went to the hospital and was taken home, where he died, only days after he stopped eating, stopped responding. It was as close to peaceful as someone can get in these circumstances.
This, I know: My grandfather passed away last night. He was a month shy of his eighty sixth birthday. He had Alzheimer's. He was a good man and lived a good life. He is the first grandparent I have lost. Our family is traveling to Michigan again; the memorial service is scheduled for Saturday the 15th.
life, week 16
14 hours ago