It’s Worse Than That He’s Dead

At the end of the day, family is family, right? And you love your family, and they love you, and death is the saddest thing in the world, because you’re losing someone you love.

Wait, wait — let’s back up. There’s no sense starting in the middle like this. But where is the beginning?

I could tell you all some sob story, about my extended family and how we don’t have the closest of ties. I could tell you how they don’t care much for me or my brother, and I could tell you why. I could provide all sorts of evidence showing their disdain (or at the least, lack of care) for us, from both sides. I could tell you about how we “aren’t really family” — but at the end of the day, there isn’t much point in these tales except to depress people. So this is not that story.

I’m sure you’re wondering, why is it “worse than that he’s dead?” And who, exactly, is “he?”

My family, my immediate family, is made up of my mom, dad, and younger brother (who is about to have a birthday, and this makes me feel old, but that is not this story either). My dad has three siblings: an older brother, an older sister, and a younger sister. He has two currently living, still married, parents: a father and a mother. His older brother has no children, his older sister has three children (two boys and a girl), and his younger sister has one child (a boy). My mom has one living parent, her mother, and four siblings: an older brother, two younger sisters, and a younger brother, each of them with two biological children (all girls, except for her older brother’s first child), and one has a stepson.

None of that is important, really, at the moment — except for the part where my dad has two “currently living” parents. You see, the “he” in question is my dad’s father.

And he’s dying.

This is no surprise, of course — he’s been dying for months. He’s also in his early eighties, so it’s not as though he’s dying terribly young. He’s not even young-ish. So, really, it’s not unexpected.

So why is it “worse than that he’s dead?” Well, the answer to that makes me seem rather cold, but the thing is — that’s not the part I care about. It’s the dying that’s bothering me — primarily because the entire thing is upsetting my own dad, which is perfectly reasonable. But I can’t help, here, so far away from home. All I can do is call every few days and talk about inane things, comparatively, like school, or what I bought from the store today, or the price of fruit here and how I hope I don’t get scurvy.  There are other things going on at home that we talk about, of course — something occurred last Thursday, which was great fun to deal with, let me tell you — but there’s this undercurrent of sadness that I can’t help with, and that makes me feel like a terrible daughter.

The thing is, though, he’s going to die soon. This week, maybe, or the next — most likely sometime this month, judging by the events of this weekend (Sunday, apparently, was a terrible day). And when he dies, the grieving process can start. But now, we’re stuck in limbo, with a half-dead man who is no longer mentally sound, his wife who is cleaning because she has no idea what to do, and their son, my father, who is the one they keep turning to because he’s the most stable of their four children. It’s killing him, having to watch this, having to make decisions regarding his father’s medical needs because neither of his parents can/will make them, and someone has to.

I know that, no matter what, things are going to change. I don’t know how, but it will really hurt my dad when his father dies. I don’t know if this means my family will actually spend time with them for a change (we just do holidays, really), or what, but this is going to break Dad’s heart.

If nothing else, though, I hope Dad remembers that his father is a part of our lives in a rather important way. In 1964, Dad’s father built the house Dad owns now, that my brother wants to buy someday. In that sense, his father will never be gone.

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2 comments on “It’s Worse Than That He’s Dead

  1. Very sorry about this situation. I went through a similar experience with my dad’s dad in 2010 and drawn out deaths are hard for everyone involved.

    Can’t even think of how to end the comment, but it’s very brave of you to share this ordeal publicly.

  2. All I can do is echo Paul’s comment here. My 90 year old grandmother passed away a couple of years ago after a long period of suffering. Taking care of her was took a tremendous toll on my mother.

    Difficult as it is to deal with, sharing your experience in this form might be of comfort or help to those reading who might be experiencing something similar. Thank you.

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