Sunday, September 27, 2009

My Little Bride

My grandma is dying. At a faster rate than the last 15 years, which were at a faster rate than her first 60, give or take a few. Much faster now.

I have known that her Crohn's Disease, the crippling arthritis that bent her spine, her extended morphine addiction, loss of hearing and deteriorating vision will take her completely from us one day. I have known for years now and I think I have accepted that depressing reality. Her body has stolen from her and from all of us. It is so strange to watch the slow progression of near constant pain take more and more of her corporal being from the people left to see it.

(Ohop Valley where my grandparents farm is located)

I miss a great deal of it living the distance away that I do. It probably gives me a buffer and will make her passing less of a striking impact on my life. I take no comfort in that truth. If anything I wonder if the distance I have established from these familial relations risks a great deal of closeness, love and feelings I could be sharing, experiencing... I don't want to get the phone call that she is gone and wonder what I am supposed to feel. But I probably will. And I will tell people out loud that I am thankful she was taken from the pain, safe in the knowledge that it was her time, blah, blah blah. I will also be pinching my own leg under the table. See, you still know how to feel, I will reassure myself.

Someone that will be feeling too much will be my grandfather. He will feel so much that he will cease to feel anything but the loss. Now, I readily acknowledge that I idolize my grandpa. I have always said that I do not use the word hero for anyone but Lucille Ball and My Grandpa. I decided that when I was young and it stuck. So yeah, my hero is going to loose his wife. And it is going to ruin him.

It is a strong statement, but entirely true. How do I know? Easy. My grandma has spent much of the last 6 months in a nursing home in an attempt to have her put on weight, heal deep and infected bedsores, receive physical and medication therapy, etc and every single day my 87 year old grandpa drives 45-60 minutes from their farm to the nursing home, spends 6-10 hours by her side and then late at night drives home. Alone. He has yet to miss a day as far as we know.
He became the staff favorite within days, no doubt in part to his "awe shucks" amicableness and simultaneous old soul/really listens to what you say-ness, but mostly because he so clearly loves my grandma. He has the taken to referring to her with the staff as "my little bride." As in, "take care of my little bride," "we gotta make sure my little bride is getting better," or "how's my little bride doing today?"


He has other pet names for her that only recently came to light in front of the family because he shows his soft side with the nursing assistants. Maybe when my mom, aunt and uncle were young they heard these endearments, but chances are they weren't privy to this inside world either until now. As lovely as he has always been as a grandpa, I know little of his parenting or his married life. And it's not mine to know beyond what they let us see.

My little bride. And she is little, even more now than ever. She used to stand at 5'7" and 120 pounds. Tall, thin, regally hosting dinners at times, dirty and sweaty from the zucchini patch at others. And my Grandpa no doubt has flashes of all those times and more as he tries to get a response from her hunched and nearly gone from this world frame. His love... boggles, inspires, hurts, repairs all at the same time.

What I will feel, regardless of close or far, will pale so dramatically in comparison to his loss it will risk disappearing. And I am glad. I am glad that his love for her is so powerful. I don't pretend to understand their relationship. It is foreign in too many ways to account for, but I understand what he means when he uses those terms of affection. It resonates like Shakespeare or Rumi.

Translated as best I can, My Little Bride:

Your being sustains me, gives me order, thrills me, breaks me, has been next to me for decades (millennia), is all I know, and I cannot bear the thought of losing this gift. I do not know how to live without you. If you disappear, will I also? I think I might. I love you my little bride. I love what we have had, as the farmhand on your family's homestead that teased the farmer's daughter and promised to come back for you after the war. I love you here and now in this smelly, sterile building I drive to and from where you are fading from me daily. I love you in all the in-betweens we spent together that only you and I really know. I learned love with you and I am scared to love without you. So I won't. When you leave me, us I will pack away my heart for the hereafter. I will save it for you as I always have and I will come to you again.

1 comment:

Sadie said...

How beautiful is your grandparents' relationship? Maybe the rest of us have a good 50 years before we really understand the significance of this kind of love. Whatever you feel when it happens is what it is. There will be sadness, relief, happiness: everything. But don't be surprised if physical distance doesn't dull any of your feelings. Just a heads-up, sorry.