After 21 days and 21 blog posts, I’ve hit a wall. It’s not the kind of wall you might imagine, but a wall, nonetheless.
Early this morning, my super early rising 9-year old son woke me in bed handing me my phone saying, “Pops, it’s Mama calling from Florida. Grandpa died.”
I was in a deep sleep and tried to grab the phone from him twice before dropping it on the blanket covering me. I was still trying to wake up enough to grasp the situation better than I had the phone so I could be present for her. I looked at the phone and realized slowly that someone was on it and I wouldn’t have to dial.
I put it to my ear and heard, “Beloved. Dad just died this morning at 7am.”
He was not well prior to this, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected, but the decline was quick. She had plane reservations to fly out to see him the following weekend, but, on a hunch, decided she needed to go as soon as possible. She couldn’t have been more right. The early evening of her arrival she spent with him holding his hand and talking to him. He was alive, but non-responsive. She did a video conference on her phone and my son and I were able to see him and talk to, well “at” him. Finally, very early in the morning, she left him to get some sleep.
He died about 6 hours later.
When I got off the phone with my wife, I turned to my son, still lying in bed with me and asked how he was feeling.
“Yeah, me too,” I said. “Anything else?”
“No. It’s just weird.”
“Yeah, it is, isn’t it?”
“You know what I just realized?”
“This is the first time someone I’ve known has died,” he said.
“Yeah, you’re right. What do you think about that?”
“Sad. And weird too.”
“Yep. I get that. We all knew your Grandfather was very ill, but it happened so quickly. Can I tell you a story about my Grandpa?”
“Is it a long story?”
“I’ll keep it short,” I said.
“No offense or anything, but I still have to go to school today.”
“None taken. I was living and working in Asia when I heard my 94 year old Grandpa had slipped into a coma, a very deep sleep, that he would probably never wake up from. My father told me he would probably die in a few weeks, but no one really knew. Like your Mama, I just decided that I wanted to go see him right away when I heard this.”
“Was it a long flight?”
“Yes, a very long one. The whole time I was traveling to the rest home, I kept feeling sad he was no longer awake. I had decided to go anyway, just to hold his hand, talk to him and be with him. Even if he couldn’t respond, I would just talk and hope some part of him could hear and know how much I loved him.”
“So what happened?”
“I checked in, the nurse gave me the room number, I walked in and he was sitting up in bed AWAKE!”
“Really! He was shocked and happy to see me.”
“Did he just wake up when you walked in?”
“No, apparently he’d awakened a day or so before, but no one had told me.”
“That’s cool! So did you talk to him?”
“I sure did. For hours. And then I came back the next day and did the same thing until we were both tired of talking.”
“I’ll say this, Pops, that must have been a lot of talking because you’re a big talker!”
“It was a lot of talking. I think it was more than he and I had spoken in the past 5, maybe 10 years because he tended to be a quiet man. He loved to listen, but unless he was telling one of his famous stories, he didn’t talk much.”
“Yes, sweet boy?”
“That’s not going to happen with my Grandpa is it?”
“No, it’s not. I’m sorry.”
“Well, that’s good because the only way he could do that would be to become a zombie and that would freak me out! I can’t have a zombie Grandpa!”
“I don’t think you have to worry about that,” I said.
“Can I go now and get ready for school?”
“Uh, sure. Of course. Hey, do me a small favor today?”
“Just take care of yourself at school. You might be a little raw since it’s the first time someone you know has died.”
“Will do, Pops. Please, can I go now?”
He bolts out of the room like he can stay ahead of the feelings.
I wish I could run that fast.
Sad. And weird too.