Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Grandpa, My Hero

This past week has been awful. Grandpa passed away last night in his sleep. That's the important news..now let me back up and start from the beginning. Thursday night (Oct. 14th), Mom called to tell me he'd had a heart attack and was at the hospital but that they were just making him comfortable and not taking any drastic measures. That's never good news. Plus, she usually waits a few weeks to tell me that anything has happened, so the fact that she called me the same day was alarming. He'd been in the hospital a few times during the past 6 weeks for angina, but they'd just run tests and send him home. I decided I was coming up here to visit for awhile and left early Friday afternoon.

Friday evening, he was talking and being his usual self..goofing off, telling jokes and war stories. Saturday afternoon, the 16th, I was on my way to a friend's house to visit when Dad called to tell me that my uncle had called with news that Grandpa had taken a turn for the worse and they only expected him to live a few more hours. I whipped the car around and drove the 5 minutes to the hospital. Mom and her brothers were at the VT football game b/c they thought he was fine. When I got into his room, he was napping but I took his hand and he looked over at me and smiled. We chatted for a bit and other than his hands being cold, he seemed ok. I thought, "What was all the fuss about? He's fine." The nurse told me I should've been there all morning b/c he perked up as soon as I got there. His family is his strength. I updated everyone else and they arrived shortly afterwards. I had a good 45 minutes with him all to myself. He told stories, we laughed, he held my hand. That was around 3:30 and we stayed until visitation ended at 9. He even got to see his great granddaughter and that just made his whole face light up.

Sunday, we went to visit and he seemed more tired. He was still smiling, laughing and telling stories, but I could tell he was very tired...and the fact that we have a huge family who didn't want to leave didn't make it better on his energy levels. I'm not saying the family shouldn't have been there, I'm just saying it took a toll on him. He had a larger than life personality and always loved to be the entertainer. We should have given him time to rest instead of staying in the room with him the whole time. We couldn't help it though. We love him so much we didn't want to be away from him. He was so much fun to be around and the greatest story teller I've ever known. I'm sure it made him happy to have all 3 of his granddaughters together in one room though b/c we all live so far apart. I had planned to leave on Monday to head home b/c he seemed to be ok despite being tired. I thought that was due to having people in his room all day visiting. He did have a weird episode where he started coughing and then just stared off into space while jerking, like a petite mal or focal seizure. It lasted for about 30 seconds and then he was fine. It was really scary.

Monday, I packed my stuff to head home and was going to stop by the hospital to visit for a bit before I left. Once I got there, I found out he'd seen a woman standing above his bed looking down at him. He didn't know who she was but it took him a minute to realize she wasn't real. Then, he saw my Uncle CG standing at the foot of his bed. He's been dead for several years, so i was automatically put on alert. While this could have been due to morphine, my paternal grandmother saw my grandfather just before she died and my Uncle CG saw his mother shortly before he died and I've heard of countless other instances where this has happened. So, I stayed.

We were there most of the day and did our usual shifts in his room so we wouldn't all be in there at once overwhelming him and I got a bit concerned because he had no appetite. Grandpa was always a hearty and voracious eater..so much so that we'd get done with grace and he'd be halfway through his plate. =) Any activity at all just completely exhausted him...even just cutting up his food..which is what started the episode Saturday where they thought he wouldn't make it. They made a decision to move him up to palliative care so he could rest better. The rooms are bigger and he'd have a view. There was no way he could go back to the V.A. b/c he was beyond the skilled nursing there. We had to accept that he wasn't getting out of that bed. Just shaving his face exhausted him.

Once he was moved, we stayed until around dinner time. As we were sitting there talking quietly so he could sleep, he choked in his sleep and started coughing again, which sent him into another seizure like state. It was more violent than the first time, but didn't last as long. Once he was out of it, he started trying to vomit..but it was stuff from his lungs. Mom got upset b/c this was the worse we'd seen him. They gave him more morphine and we decided to let him sleep, so we left..agreeing that the next day, we'd just hang out in the lounge instead of in his room. I had a very fitful nights sleep. I was so worried and I just knew it was going to happen this week. I kept thinking, "he's 90 with congestive heart failure and a bad aortic valve....and he won't eat. He's never not wanted to eat. And he was quiet today. He's rarely quiet."

Tuesday morning..today..the 19th...I got up a little after 9am and went downstairs to see if there were any updates. I got to the den and Mom was crying. She told me he'd passed away in his sleep during the night. She got the call around 1:50am. They told her it was peaceful and quiet. He just slipped away. He'd fought for so long and had been living on borrowed time for more than a year...he just had no strength left. I found it interesting that he was in room 1040..my department's 10 code for "fight". Before that, he was in room 518..which is my street number. There's nothing interesting about that, I just thought I'd throw out the parallel. His funeral is Thursday with full military honors. I will forever miss his war stories. He survived 35 missions in WWII as a tail gunner for "Double Trouble" and he survived Korea. He was a machinist, a coal miner and held other jobs, but most importantly, he was a father and grandfather. He loved making people happy by making them laugh. He was always ready with a hug and a smile.

I was so lucky to grow up in the same town as them. Countless trips to Dairy Queen with Grandpa. Countless weekends at their house or dinner at their house. Every holiday at their house. Banging on the organ or piano making a huge racket and they'd never say a word. I remember one time I was about 15 and Grandpa stopped by the house around noon to ask if we wanted to go to Dairy Queen. My response? "I just woke up." With a kind of dejected look on his face, he just said.."Oh...ok." and then left. He drove all the way across town to spend time with us and I turned him down. I could've asked him to stay there or I could've gone with him. Why didn't I go with him?!?!?! That's time I'll never get back. I will regret that for the rest of my life and I can never tell him how sorry I am. I just felt like I had more time. I wasn't ready to say goodbye...so I didn't, and I should have.

He'll never know how extremely proud I was to be his granddaughter and how proud I was of the passion with which he served his country. He'll never know just how much I loved his stories or how much I'll miss his big bear hugs. Could he even understand how much I love and admire him for his strength, determination, loyalty, generosity, selflessness, charm and kind spirit?? For his hearty laugh, his jokes, his stories, his quick wit and his ability to wiggle his ears? He did that for me this weekend too. It'd been too long since I'd seen him do it. Once upon a time, I'd ask him to do it every time I saw him. I'll just miss everything about him. He was a ladies man right to the very end. His nurses at the V.A. even came to see him. He was always so flirty and I found it so entertaining. He could charm anybody. I could write so much more, but it's after midnight and the next 2 days are going to be very long and tiring, so maybe I'll finish this up later. I just wanted to write all this down so I could remember it. I love you, Papaw and one day, I'll see you again. We can go get ice cream at Dairy Queen.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Ever been around someone who creates chaos where ever they go? Not as an accidental byproduct of their passing, but as an intentional shove to everything around them? Try being married to someone like that. He thrives on chaos...has to have it to survive. It's like his air. Let me describe our marriage as best I can. I'm laying on a raft on a very calm lake, lazily drifting along and occasionally redirecting the raft to avoid trouble. I paddle around for fun, creating gentle waves and as I'm enjoying the scenery, an out of control motorboat speeds by causing huge waves that turn my raft over. I'm treading water and sputtering, trying not to drown while saying to myself, "What..was..THAT!?!" That, as it turns out..was Jeff. I'm left dealing with the after affects while he's already moved on to something else. I hope that paints a clear enough picture for you.

Why do I bring this up? Over the past week, I found out our auto insurance payment was late and we had a lapse in coverage. This means I have to schedule an appeals hearing to show that it wasn't my fault for the lapse and that we currently have coverage. If not, I have to pay a reinstatement fee, plate renewal, etc...for every car on the policy. It might be mean, but since Jeff's responsible for the insurance payment and it was his neglect that caused this whole mess, I'm not going to pay for it. If I hadn't scheduled the hearing, the plates would be revoked, we'd have to turn in our plates for 30 days and then renew it. He subconsciously does this kind of stuff. He hates it and complains about his life being difficult and everything happening to him, but he causes it...accidentally on purpose. He feels a need to have excitement and adventure and if he's not getting it, he creates it. It's a lot like a little kid who doesn't get the attention they need, so they start misbehaving because negative attention is still attention.

Don't get me wrong, I love Jeff and his free spirit and sense of adventure is a huge part of why, but it's also incredibly frustrating. I think I feel somewhat responsible for the lack of excitement in his life. I'm very planned, organized and can't do anything without a lot of thought and preparation. He's spontaneous, wild and experimental. I'm all for trying new things, but not without a great deal of thought beforehand. It's not something I fall into easily. If you have to work at being spontaneous, it's not really spontaneous. I wouldn't be being true to myself if I just did stuff without thought. I think he considers me boring because of that and resents that I'm that way but at the same time needing it. I'm his anchor. He needs it, but doesn't want it.

Let me use another analogy. I once told him that being married to him was like trying to hold on to a kite that's caught in a tornado. Without me holding on, the kite would get sucked into the tornado and disappear into the madness. I'm on the ground trying to guide it the best I can but it's whipping around frantically despite my efforts and beating me to pieces in the process. The longer I hold on, the more tired and battered I become and will soon be unable to maintain my grip. Somewhere inside I realize the easiest thing to do would be to save myself and let go, but I can't..I don't want to give up. I can't let go of the kite until I know I've done everything I can to save it. Every time I think I'm too exhausted to fight it, I somehow find strength to do it just a little bit longer, but each time becomes that much harder to push through.

That analogy comes courtesy of a 2am discussion between us and how we never work together...we work against each other. We're pretty much polar opposites. We're each strong in areas where the other is weak, but that's only beneficial if you work together...and we don't. We're best friends and we have so much fun together...when we don't discuss life matters. Money, sex, bills, goals, children, plans, etc. Take all that out, and we have a blast. Conversations involving those matters are awkward at best and we usually deflect and change topics b/c it becomes too hard to discuss. Then, we ignore it hoping that it'll go away if we do. So unhealthy.

I don't know where we'll go from here. Maybe I'll find the strength to reign in the kite a bit, or maybe I'll find a different kind of strength. The strength to let go. I don't want to, but I can't live happily while being beaten to death by chaos. It's more than I care to handle. I just need to decide if it's something I'm willing to accept or not. I think if we can decide on how to work together and combine our strengths, we'll be ok. I don't want to change who he is and prevent him from flying high, I just want it to be more like flying a kite on a windy spring day.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

One year...

ago today my granny passed away. I still think of her a lot and wonder what she's doing. Is she watching me at the same time I'm thinking of her? Is she tending a garden? Or is she sitting somewhere enjoying a lemonade and good conversation with her friends and family who went before her. Sometimes, I think I hear her...like she's giving me advice from afar. Not that I actually hear a voice, but sometimes when I'm doing something..I imagine she's giving me pointers. I still remember her hugs, the way she smelled and how her shoulders would shake when she laughed..which was often. Her eyes would twinkle and could light up a room. They'd change color from blue to green to aqua to gray, depending on her mood and her clothing..but they always twinkled. I just miss her a lot and wish she was still here. She had such a pure soul and comforting presence that I'll always feel like there's an emptiness in my life since she passed. I just wanted to take a few minutes to remember her today and reflect on how much of a positive influence she was and the impact she had on my life. I'll always love and miss her greatly.

I realize it's been about 9 months since my last update, but I've been a bit withdrawn and have internalized a lot of stuff trying to work things out. We've been really busy too, so most of this will be a highlight. Jeff got a new job in February for a company called Canonical. He works from home and is making what he was making at IBM before he got laid off. He's still adjusting to only getting paid monthly, but he's managing. He also gets to travel quite a bit for company meetings. He went to Belgium mid-May and is going to Prague in July. There's another trip planned for November, but the location hasn't been decided upon. He missed the February conference in Madrid by a week. I'm hoping to be able to travel with him to some of these places, but we're still catching up financially.

I applied for a new supervisor job here since it'd mean a pay raise, weekends and holidays off and I just found out today that I didn't get it. I was up against one of our part-timers and while I'm disappointed that I didn't get it, I respect him and think he'll do a great job. He's a lot more direct than I am and while fair, is also a better disciplinarian than I am and we need that in here. Plus, I think he'll work with us on a lot of things and make sure our voice is heard, so I don't feel too bad...if I hadn't applied, he would've been my first choice anyway. C'est la vie!

Jeff and I have been having discussions of late regarding whether or not to move. We moved here for his job..and now that he works from home, we're not tied to a specific location. After our Kitts Beach trip a couple weeks ago, we've considered moving to the beach because I can breathe so much better down there. Here, I'm always congested regardless of how much allergy medication I take. Plus, Jeff's parents and his friend Tucker live down there. By "there", I mean the Myrtle Beach area. His parents live north, Tucker south. I have a feeling we'd go south where it's more residential and not quite as touristy. I'd miss snow and cold weather and it'd be the furthest I've ever lived from my family..which I'd hate, but right now, it's just talk. I also wouldn't mind moving closer to my sister..either Charlottesville or Richmond, but it's more expensive to live there. Blacksburg would be awesome too. Or Asheville. Like I said, it's just talk and may never come to pass, but it's something we're at least considering.

Kelly and Tim bought a house and I went up this past week to help them move. I won't deny I'm exhausted, but it was fun playing with Noel. It took her a week at the beach and last week to really get warmed up to me enough to hug me on her own. She can't pronounce Dana, so she just calls me Day...it's so cute! She had a blast at the beach and never wanted to stay out of the water. She ran up to every baby and hugged them all. She's such a sweet, affectionate child and I hope she stays that way. I know it's unrealistic, but I never want her to experience rejection, pain and disappointment. She's such a giving child that I don't want her to become guarded and closed and I just want the world to treat her well. You hear me people? You treat her well and protect her.

I must get back to work, but I'll try to post updates more often than I have been, but no promises. Life tends to get in the way.