Friday, April 19, 2013

On in-permanence and the ephemeral nature of wonderful old people who you wish would be there forever

(Below are a couple long e-mail responses sent a few years ago to a friend who had just graduated to that part of life when she became a member of her middle generation - her parents are now the oldest generation, a bit of the details about my experience during my progenitors' lastdays/moments & a bit of my ramblings about us as a species, just-sort-of-come-across-without-looking while doing this morning's email survey. Italics indicate additions for clarity.)

I'm unsure if I ever laid out this timeline, but...

   In February of my second semester at college, the phone woke me up
   one morning. It was my mother who called to tell me that my Aunt
   Gwen was dead.

   Out of the blue

   They came and got me for the funeral, and I went. I flew back to
   Houston - it was the only time I flew while in school...actually
   it was the first time I'd been in a plane since the single digits
   and the last until I was in grad school many years later....

   I know I talked to my grandmother during that, but I've no idea
   what I said or what the last thing she said to me was,

   but I know that was the last thing she said to me, or least the
   last time I heard the voice that I recognized...

   Two weeks after my aunt's funeral, she had a stroke and never
   regained the use of more than half of her body. It probably wasn't
   even half.

   The last time I spoke to her and she was at all lucid, it was at
   my aunt's house . At that point I think she could utter sound, but used a block
   (a kid's letter block) to indicate responses and a basic hand signing
   system that she and her daughters had worked out. She could use
   one hand enough to wipe her face a little - she could (not) close her
   mouth fully, so saliva would run down her cheek. I don't remember
   what I said and didn't really know what to say...much as I doubt I
   knew what to say the last time I saw her standing...

   Something blandly encouraging..I don't know.

   I didn't stay in the room long. I leaned down and hugged her a
   little or kissed her cheek; I think I was worried about making her
   feel self-conscious of her getting my face wet. I think she
   reached up with the arm that wasn't paralyzed.

   That was probably 3 months after the stroke.

   She'd go on to have another two strokes before passing as the sky
   was becoming dawn-colored on the first day of the following year.
   She was 3 weeks shy of turning 66 (according birth records).

   A few months later, my other grandmother, who'd lived for a few
   years after having her first stroke and being taken care of by her
   (numerous) daughters passed in Illinois. The last time I saw her
   she was in a  wheel chair...I doubt she recognized me.

   The only grandfather I've ever known was her husband. He'd passed
   back in October of 1991. The last time I saw him was in a hospital
   with my dad. I remember my dad handing him his urinal so he could
   relieve himself. I thought of that later when I had my night's stay
   for my knee surgery. I tried the urinal. I failed. I had to change
   beds. He had a better handle on his situation than I did*.

   That gaunt, tired face is what I see on my father more and more.

   Along with his mother's bowed, stubby, African forest, super-calf

   (I assume that's where he gets it from anyway).

   I never really knew any of them. I think I tried to talk to my
   maternal (Annie M.) once while I stayed a couple weeks with
   her before college. Don't remember (much of) anything about it. My paternal (family)
   (Marie B.) I spent far less time around. They lived
   farther away.

   My mom's grandmother actually outlived my grandmother. She died
   while I was up here. No excuse for not trying to talk to her more.
   My mom tried to find out about her biological father from her, but
   didn't really get anything.


(friend: But what does one do with all of one's grandparents passed on?)

correction - Marie B. was a year after Annie M. I had one family death near me for each of my first 3 years of school.

You prepare your self to be the vessel to pass what they had on to those who never knew or barely knew.

I think more and more that we are far more like ants than we think...humanity is a colony. Like mold >:)

We all birth, we all live, we all die.

But we exist as a whole...each individual life is not so important as we like to make it in the "West".

As one of us is born, we are all born,

so on with life and death.

We are nothing without the connection. I used to think that greatness justifies the connection, but it is the connection that inspires greatness ( I think ).

Thus, we come and we go.

WE come and WE go.

The only way to deal with the loss, is to perpetuate them.

And I don't mean "they'll always be alive as long as we remember...."

I mean pass them on in spirit as much as they passed on their DNA. Understand what they wanted to give. Eventually you understand it the way they did.

About that time is probably when it will be time for someone to pass it on for you (us).

Human life really is a blink. You have your eyes open for a while,

and then blink.


*(it is only now, 3 years later, that I recognize this unintended pun and insert a posthumous rim shot)

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