Taking Care

I’d like to be able to say that it gets easier to prepare for a trip home to go to a funeral. In some ways, the packing and managing of our lives to get ready to go has gotten easier with practice. Remembering to take Liza’s sound machine and to hold the mail before we leave has become a bit of a routine. It’s a day-long routine for me, getting the four of us ready to go, but I start to cope during that time. I take comfort in handling our clothes, our books, the snacks we’ll eat on the road. As I am packing, I project out to the day after the funeral, when the kids will have time with the grandparent we’re there to comfort. I pray for the smile Eli and Liza’s presence might bring to them.

My dad called two weeks ago to tell me that his dad had pneumonia and they were taking him to the hospital. I could tell by the things he wasn’t saying that he was worried. All I could do was tell him that I was sorry.

I’ve never been comfortable around my dad’s dad. When I was young, he seemed mean to me. When I was old enough to understand that he was of a generation used to back-breaking labor and few words, I hadn’t spent any time around him for more than a decade.

My feelings for my dad’s parents have always been complex. I loved them as family and resented them for how they treated my dad and, by extension, me. It’s been tough to forgive things that were said and done, but I feel like I’ve done a decent job of forgiving them and the decisions they made that they thought were right. All the forgiveness in the world doesn’t get back all that lost time, though.

When I called my dad last Thursday to check on Pawpaw he was already gone. My dad’s sadness was so very much more overwhelming to me than my own.

The same second cousin that performed my Grannie’s funeral performed my Pawpaw’s. Once again, I was struck by how he had memories that I didn’t have. It’s hard for me to not feel cheated. And each day since then, I have been practicing falling back on that forgiveness that I’ve been working on for so many years.

In January I had a cold. At the beginning of February it was a sinus and ear infection. I ended up in the ER on the way home from the funeral because I was having trouble breathing. Pneumonia kept me in Arkansas for an extra day to rest before heading back to Alabama. My dad and step-mom took care of the kids while I slept in my Vicodin-induced, no-coughing haze and Stephen headed to DC for business.

My dad has called several times since we’ve been home to check on us. I keep mulling over how we went there to comfort him and he ended up taking care of us instead. I’ve been thinking that sometimes caring for our family is all we have and why we are here. I heard my dad say once that he didn’t want to take care of his parents. Watching him doing it anyway has been very powerful for me to watch.

I’m sorry my Pawpaw is gone. It hurt a lot to watch my dad grieve for him. I am frankly a bit surprised to feel the hole that his passing has left. Should I have tried harder to have a relationship with him? Undoubtedly. I am counting myself blessed, however, for having watched my dad care for his dad and seeing how that has strengthened the bond between the two of us.