Join Date: Jun 2006
I've been sick for the past few days so my mind has been pretty foggy and I've been clinging to that to try to numb myself to the things that hurt. (This sickness, BTW, is so my brother's fault. He gave it to me our second day here. He had slept through the night while I'd been alert and anxious in my grandparents' room and right when I wanted a nap, he was mushing his "I feel like I'm coming down with something" face into my pillow. Of course I got it worse because of the lack of rest - and now he's trying to deny it. As if.) I've been trying not to think about things. Talk about thin ice.
When Grandpa was alive, his pride in me was such a precious thing that I was anxious to preserve it no matter what. I couldn't conceive of pride and respect as things I didn't have to renew with regular proof of accomplishment. While I was putting off so many visits because I didn't have anything good to tell him and worrying when we did get to talk that if I said the wrong thing I might disappoint him and then he wouldn't see me that way anymore and letting myself get called away so easily and being the one to pull away to go ask about or do something, I never got it. I never understood that it was possible to be proud of a person in general, of who that person is, how that person's mind operates and the abilities that person has regardless of whether they are currently being used.
I only started to get it when his body was already lying cold in his place on the bed and my mother showed me my faded Senior photo in his wallet, the only picture it contained, and I just sat there and cried. My grandma keeps talking about how alike we always were in the way our brains work and how we see the world and that's forced the truth into my mind. I had no concept before of how it could possibly be that he truly just wanted to spend time with me to be with me, not to hear some new exciting news from the life I was supposed to have.
It's not fair, I get it now and I can't take advantage of it! It's not right to only let me discover this once he's gone. Grandma will offhandedly mention that he felt the same way I do about some TV show or tell me about some comment he'd made and I just want to force time to unwind so I can use these things as springboards to conversations we could have had but didn't. I'm even thinking about things like that one video with the old people cussing the idea of Mitt Romney for President and how I didn't send it to him when I wondered if he'd like it and how I could've showed it to him that morning we spent together mostly in silence staring at the TV, me with my laptop on my lap and no clue how to use it to engage him in conversation instead of putting distance between us. I'm imagining conversations where I make him laugh constantly and everything flows easily because all I'm doing is being there and there's no pressure. It should have been like that. It could have been like that. It would have been like that if I had only known then what I know now.
I feel cheated. I feel like I cheated myself. Like I squandered the time I had left with the only family I had here who could ever really understand me. I still keep surprising my grandma by actually having my own opinions (her words!), since I so often would just sit quietly at family gatherings (waiting for them to end). I'm still staying with her and it's wearing on me despite how I love her and want to help out. She responded to something or other a couple night ago that I think too much and take things too seriously (I wasn't even saying something serious at the time) and that I'm "too much" like him, and I wanted him to be alive so we could look at each other and smile or roll our eyes and so I could just go to him and talk and be understood. He would never tell me I think too much. She told me I shouldn't "dissect things" when I shared that I agreed that a few jokes in a program were funny but I thought the writing overall had issues. He would never have thought to call it dissecting something to just engage with it enough not to have to like or dislike everything about it uniformly. I'm not bagging on my grandma, really, she just doesn't think the way I do and I never even got to think of going to see Grandpa when I wanted to talk to someone who wouldn't attribute strange motives to the words I speak.
I could have come down here when I was going nuts from having similar rhetorical tricks pulled on me at home and just asked him questions about stuff and had a talk that would make sense throughout and would never involve a random attempt to shut me down. I could've asked him what his favorite movies were besides Stagecoach, which we watched together, and we could have gone through those. I could have taken the walk down to their house so many times while he was alive and recovered while we talked and most likely gotten a ride back from Grandma if I asked so it wouldn't destroy me walking both ways. But I didn't. These things didn't occur to me.
But you know, while all these thoughts of what I lost in him hurt enough to keep tears pouring down my face, thinking of the possibility of him wanting more of me and not getting it is agonizing. I can't recall him being the one to pull away from a hug, and I know I was always the one walking away, sometimes when I didn't really need to. Was he disappointed? Did he wish I'd stay with him longer? I need to keep telling myself that I was always mostly quiet over here and he probably didn't expect me to be chattering away at him all the time, that he was never one for constant interactions while sharing a room with people either, and that does calm me down when I think it, but whenever the painful thoughts circle back, that dam cracks wide open.
The grieving process is a wheel that won't stop turning. I keep swinging wildly between anguish and acceptance. When I was trying to grab a few hours of sleep in the early morning after he died, I lay there soothing myself with the knowledge that I had felt him around me and spoken to his spirit, feeling that he was truly out there and at peace and I could control the rising sorrow. I even made myself a mantra while working to quiet any non-peaceful thoughts: "I am, he is, life is, the world just is." I hated thinking Grandpa was anything and I didn't want to try to reconcile him being gone with the continuation of every other part of existence, plus I didn't want to think of him watching and seeing me continue having to reach so slowly for recovery. So what came of those concerns was "I am, he is, life is, the world just is," with "life is" often dropping off because it was superfluous. My life right now isn't wrong, it's just what's happening; yes, Grandpa's sort of split into his component parts now, but he hasn't vanished; life and the world around me are neither for nor against whatever happens in them, they're just there to be lived in.
I lay there basically conjugating the present tense of the verb "to be," stopping regularly to repeat the word "is" over and over again. Even while I was lying there, I knew that acceptance coming so soon had to be too good to be true. I tried to convince myself I could keep it, but I knew too much about how grief actually works. The mantra did work to keep me from crying for awhile once everyone was awake. I haven't been saying it lately, but it has actually been easier not to cry, except when I'm sitting here deliberately dredging up the things that have been torturing me so I can look them in the eye and refuse to let them drag me down. And then instead of just crying, I can respond to evil brain saying that maybe he was grasping for conversation threads like I was and when I decided to accept the silence and not push when we spoke I was doing the wrong thing. I can remind myself that Grandpa was 81 years old and full of brains and life experience. He knew how conversations worked. He wasn't sitting there being awkward like me.
Grandma just came in to say goodnight. My face is definitely tearstreaked but I don't know how noticeable that is, and my eyes aren't red. I don't know if she could tell I'd been crying. In any case, I'm calm now. I'm glad I forced myself to articulate these things. I can talk sense to myself when I'm not too busy trying to force the bad stuff back down. I know that Grandpa kept quiet for years about not being so into peas, but he wasn't emotionally stunted, so I think he would have mentioned something to Grandma if he had truly felt dissatisfied with our interactions and Mom and Grandma's tone and approach would have been different from just "we/he'd really like to see you" when they brought up visits. Besides, when he started actually telling Grandma about the foods he didn't like a few years back, it was clearly related to the fact of his cancer. He knew he was dying. He knew it was now or never to ask for stuff. (Heh, like when Grandma got a gourmet cookbook and asked him to flag what he wanted and he put post-it notes on practically every page.)
Oh man, this just reminded me of how things were a year and a half ago. He was wasting away, unable to keep any food down, and if medical marijuana hadn't existed, we would have lost him then. No matter how I feel I should have used the intervening time with him, he got to live it. He kept living to see things, like President Obama winning re-election! I wondered if he was watching the inauguration with us while we watched the president get sworn in again. Grandma told me that the first time Obama won, she and Grandpa watched the results together propped up on their elbows in bed and crying. I'm so glad he got to see it happen a second time. Also, he definitely hasn't missed anything by not seeing Congress keep acting like dumbasses while he was still corporeal and botherable.
...It's a siggie