94 Years ago today

Sharon December 12th, 2004

Grandpa died a week ago. It was a good death - he died with his family around him, and had a period of lucidity and energy greater than he’d had in a while. His wife and I were holding his hands, he had just eaten chocolate with almonds (his favorite food) and he was excited that his son and daughter in law were present.

Today would have been his 94th birthday. I feel most grieved for Grandma, who was his wife for 62 years, since she was 17. She was on the kindertransport at 12, and there were so many things she missed as a servant in England during her teens. So he was nearly everything to her - husband, teacher, protector, father figure. In the last years she devoted herself to caring for him, and I’ve never seen two people love each other more. It will be very hard for her.

Their daughter, Eric’s aunt, was in transit from California when he died, and when she, her daughter and grandson went home from the funeral last night, they took Grandma with them for a month. Its a good thing for her to have a break, and I think a very good thing for us as well. I checked - until Saturday, except to attend the funeral, I hadn’t left the house for 2 weeks, since Grandpa and then Grandma required so much care.

I planned the funeral. No one else wanted to do it, and I’m not a weepy sort of person. I’m good for about five minutes of hugging and crying, and then I get to work trying to fix what’s broken, and get ready for what’s coming. So it was easier for me to make the phone calls and speak all the harsh details, and better for me to have something practical to do.

So I made all the arrangements, and told everyone what to do and say, packed Grandma’s suitcase, arranged her plane tickets, got the body sent to the cemetary, arranged the funeral lunch, babysat the kids during the hard parts of the funeral, cooked dinner for the relatives, explained death to Simon, Eli and nephew Jake, made everyone eat and sleep when they didn’t want to, even arranged to remove and hide the birthday presents and cards from Grandma. And all because I’ve never yet been able to shake my basic degree of detachment in any crisis. Its a useful quality - everyone always comments on how calm I am when the chips are down, and I’ve used it at times in some scary situations. But it comes with a down side - others perceive me as cold, and I’m not sure they are wrong. There’s a sense that even the strongest and most passionate moments of my life are always something I perceive simultaneously as though they were happening to me and as though they were occurring to someone else - I am always a little disconnected.

I think it was Emerson (John Burt, one of my wisest and best Profs told me this) who said something along the same lines about the death of his son. Now I’ve never experienced a death quite like that, and I don’t begin to imply that the death of a 94 year old man who I’d known and cared about only 8 years bore any resemblance (God forbid!!!) to what it would be like to lose a child. But I have this evil sneaky feeling that I’d be the kind of person that even in the face of the ugliest of personal tragedies, who could to some degree watch herself mourning, and doubt my own sincerity.

Ok, enough about what a dreadful person I can be.


2 Responses to “94 Years ago today”

  1. Shauntaon 12 Jan 2007 at 11:36 pm

    well…this is an OLD post, but since no one else did…Rufus T. Firefly is the dictator of Freedonia. My husband and two-year-old are huge Groucho (and Stooges) fans.

  2. Kasaon 25 Feb 2008 at 3:39 pm

    I know this is an old entry, but it really resonated with me enough to comment.

    While I frequently cry like a baby over stupid shit (yesterday I wept for over an hour because I lost one of my favorite earrings - a six dollar dinosaur charm!), I too have had the same reactions to tragedy. It bothered me for years - I have never cried over the death of my grandfather, or the incredibly quick and brutal illness that took my uncle, both of whom I was pretty close to. It used to really bother me - surrounded by family who were clearly in shock, and stricken with grief for weeks, I thought there was something deeply wrong with me. How can I cry over my own petty shit and not shed a tear over the death of my 40 year old uncle? Obviously I am cold and selfish and just all around terrible.

    But I know that’s not the case. I loved them both. I mourned their passing in my own, quiet way. Promising to never go so long with out visiting family; making plans to go camping regularly, and start gardening, since it would have made my grandfather so happy to see me do so; and most of all, to take care of my family that was still here.

    Grief is selfish - which isn’t to mean it’s a bad thing, or unnecessary. But it’s a coping mechanism. It helps *you* deal. So if you don’t need it, you don’t need it. Feel grateful that you can take care of your family and make these arrangements. The fact that you took on that work shows more than any amount of tears how much you cared for him. And I’m sure he would appreciate it more, as well.

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