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Notes After a Funeral

November 5, 2010

The conversation, after everyone else had gone home, turned once again to what we were going to DO with him.  “We” were his son, daughter, son-in-law, grandson and granddaughter. We all wanted the best for him; but several members of the group felt they were at the end of their rope. His daughter and son had been taking some pretty emotional hits as of late. His ranting and raving were usually directed at them; those who were closest. His “you are responsible for this mess!” screams were being directed at them. And that was even before her death. The death of their mother; his wife of 71 years.

Clearly, it was an emotionally trying time. A draining time. Understatements, of course. But still, something had to be ‘done with him.’

Husband for 71 years; father for 63(?); he was 96 years old. Fit as a fiddle to the innocent eye. A closer inspection would reveal the denture bridge where his top teeth used to be, a substantial hearing loss and a rapidly failing memory. Alzheimers had set in and viciously taken hold only a few months prior.

Stand on the recipient end of one of his several-hour-long rants and you would quickly note the dementia, in addition to Alzheimers. If you had known him as an incredibly active (think Jack LaLanne lifestyle of exercise and eating) and quick-witted man, it would be that much more painful to watch. And if you knew how much his son, daughter and now-deceased wife had done for him, it could be near to unbearable to watch. Well, not for an outsider perhaps, but for me. I was his youngest granddaughter. Daughter of his daughter. And it just made me want to cry my eyes out.

For 71 years, give or take a few months, my grandparents lived, loved, fought and did everything else married couples do. They bickered a lot; it seemed she would order him around all the time. But he seemed to listen to her…often.

Their devotion to each other was eye opening and sometimes beautiful to watch. When her will was fading, he still tried to get her up so he could dance with her in the kitchen. And when she was wheelchair-bound and unable to walk, she’d try, at the very least, to stand and hold his hands.

They were an unexpected love story to me. One I didn’t appreciate until I got older and started paying attention. And now they will serve to inspire me. More than they will ever know.

It sounds sappy, I know. I don’t really care. I can’t care. Because it is true. And it’s lovely to me. And it is an important legacy they will have left behind and it makes me proud. Also happy, wistful, hopeful, sad.

He is just in the other room while we’re talking about his future. He’s no more than 10 feet away. But he can’t hear a thing. And we continue discussing his fate.

_________________________________________________

I originally typed this sitting in a hotel room in New York after my nana’s funeral in 2005. My grandfather is now 101 years old. At his 100th birthday party, we danced.

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