Those of you who are friends of mine on Facebook are already aware of this, but most of my Twitter followers and blog readers are probably as yet unaware. The past week has been a hard one for my family, and there is more yet to come. I'll apologize now, as this post isn't particularly polished, but I think you'll probably understand under the circumstances.
About a month ago, I moved from the house I was sharing with four roommates, and into my own apartment. Due to the timing of my move, the only people who could help were my friend Dan, my mom, and my mom's mom and step-dad. Our little team was small but mighty, and we managed to get everything from the house to the apartment in two trips, followed by a stop at one of our favorite Urbana restaurants, Black Dog Ale & Smoke House.
What none of us knew at the time was that my grandfather hadn't been feeling particularly well leading up to moving day, and when he seemed a little extra creaky in the days just afterward, Grandma just chalked it up to his age, and his knees, which have given him trouble for years. He did go to the hospital for a couple of days, but his vitals were all good, and he didn't seem to have anything serious wrong with him, so he was released and brought home.
It's funny what you don't find when you're not running the right tests. Grandpa was tired, all the time. Out of an entire day, he might be awake only four hours or so, and then go back to bed. When he was awake, he wasn't feeling well. Last Sunday, Grandma finally talked him into going back to the hospital, where they ran more tests, and Monday evening, my mom got the phone call that gave us the answer we needed, but didn't want. Grandpa has leukemia. They discussed treatment options, but he declined them, and on the phone told Mom, "I've lived a good life. Why put myself through all that?"
The next day, the doctors informed us that he'd made the right decision, as the leukemia is extremely advanced, and at this point, no amount of treatment will cure him. My grandpa is dying, and there is nothing we can do about it. I went with my family to see him in Springfield on Wednesday, and he was awake and mentally still sharp. In all honesty, it was almost harder because while I got to spend some quality time with him, it seemed as if everything was fine, and there was no reason for him to even be in the hospital. The conversations with Grandma, in the other room, were hard, too, because she doesn't want him to know that he's not coming home. As it turns out, telling him or not makes little difference. Returning on Saturday to Springfield painted a much different picture. He was much less coherent, much less lucid, and slept most of the afternoon and evening. He drifts out of the conversation mid-sentence, and doesn't remember that you asked him something most of the time. It's surreal, and impossibly painful, realizing this is the man who was helping me load furniture into the back of a pickup just over a month ago.
My grandparents have been married 40 years; he may not be blood, but he's been here every day of my life. He's the very picture of the stern grandfather, gruff and extremely frugal. Until it comes to the grandsons. If any of the four of us have ever needed anything, he's been there to offer it up freely, and not one of our accomplishments has gone unnoticed or without congratulations. He's a man of few words, but those words have always been ones that counted. There has never been any doubt in my mind that I am loved, nor, I think, would my brother or cousins say any differently. Watching Grandma with him, and in his moments of lucidity, he with her, there's no question how much they love one another, either. At the end of my days, I can only hope to accomplish what he has in building a loving family and friends that care enough to gather at my bedside, too. He's absolutely right to say he's led a good life.
To say he will be missed is an understatement. I'm just asking that this last journey be an easy one, and if you believe in any higher power, please just ask that, too.
Thank you for reading, and blessèd be,