Worst. Vacation. Ever.
Posted by PintofStout on November 17, 2006
The past week has been a blur. Looking back on it now, my memories all seem to have that cloud around the borders of my vision, like a dream in some movies. I’ve spent the last week watching a great man disintegrate into a tangle of tubes and wires and postponing my own grief to try and be as supportive as possible to those whose grief was beyond my imagination. I’m not certain, but I think some of my own mourning was an empathetic mourning on behalf of those who had lost so much, or perhaps for a missed opportunity, like mourning a great person one never gets the chance to meet or to only meet once and only briefly.
My wife’s grandfather passed away very early Sunday morning in his hospital bed surrounded by his wife, daughter, grandchildren, and family additions such as myself who were in the room only by chance of caring for one the above-mentioned. To look at his expressionless shell for two days, one would never know the tremendous shoulders (literally as well as figuratively) this man once had in order to carry the burdens of the entire family as he did. The man wasn’t perfect by any means, but there were times when I could tell that he knew that also, and that probably earned him my respect more than anything else – Socratic virtue, I guess.
Among my wife’s siblings, which could, in some contexts, include her mother, it is easy to tell where the big-shouldered patriarch had the most influence. There was his influence in everyone from his wife on down to the family additions, but in some the influence far surpasses any other and it shows. Perhaps I was mourning the teacher of whose work I am a great fan.
I’m very proud of my wife and my respect and affection for her have grown through this blurry week. She has shown great strength and clarity; never losing touch with reality and never running away. She accepted that the whole thing “just stinks” and for all the days that seemed so far from routine and almost holiday-like with the surrounding family, she proclaimed that “this was the worst vacation ever.” When I came down from the podium after delivering a shaky eulogy (I was honored to be asked) it was her who put her arm around me and let me weep. What an amazing woman! It is no wonder I’m a fan of her grandfather’s work, since I can see his influence in her.
Even though I only knew him for about six years, he was the only grandfather I’ve known in my adult life. The pain from my other grandfather’s passing has faded with my childhood, but the regret of not knowing him in my adult life is ever alive. Eventually the pain of my wife’s grandfather’s passing will fade, too, and leave me with only the regret of not knowing him as a child or enough as an adult. As with all who have come before us, we can only remember and enjoy their fruits that were left behind. Rest in Peace, Grandpa Art.