In Memoriam

>> 11.13.2009

Today would have been my grandparents' 66th anniversary. Last year we celebrated their 65th, and in July we had a party for my grandma's 90th birthday. Last night, just three hours shy of his anniversary, my grandfather went to his eternal home.

We're giving them credit for 66 years, since in Greenland, where he served in the Coast Guard during World War II, it already was the 13th.

This week has been interesting, and nothing I've exactly experienced before. As of last Sunday, we knew Grandpa wouldn't live through the week and wouldn't regain consciousness. Relatives flew in to say their good-byes. His 90-year-old wife sat at his bedside every day, holding his hand continuously. People sang hymns and read to him, told stories, and asked Grandma about the past.

He was the only grandfather I ever knew, and as the oldest grandchild, we were pretty close. A few thoughts:
  1. No matter what your observations of a couple's relationship have been over the years, you'll see the true relationship when one member of the couple is dying. Obviously they were together for 66 years, but my grandmother controlled all conversations in the relationship and dominated the household via the kitchen (like a good German woman). But to hear her talk about her loving husband this week, she will be lost without him.
  2. Everyone reacts differently. I took the "let's talk and tell stories" approach so I didn't turn into a puddle of tears (that was reserved for quiet moments at my office desk, which conveniently was across the street from the hospital). We had one marvelous day when, though uncounscious, Grandpa reacted by squeezing hands, smiling, and moving to various comments and questions. This biggest reaction came when we asked if he wanted to go buy a car. Grandpa had still talked about getting his car back years after he'd stopped driving.
  3. My father-in-law entered the hospital this week also and will head to a nursing home permanently. It's a whole different set of relationships, reactions, and approaches. 
We shall see what unfolds.


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