My apologies in advance. Anyone who is living a fun, care-free life right now: I hate you. Do you call yourself an “International Playgirl” or something along those lines? I hate you. Are you anyone other than me, whose life feels like it is grinding to an interminable, soul-sucking halt? No? Well then, I probably hate you all.
My grandfather passed away last week. We had just gotten the hospice bed set up so that he could pass his remaining time in a familiar place, and the medical equipment fellow had just left, after explaining the ups and downs and ins and outs of how to operate the thing. The oxygen machine was running in the corner, a steady hum that I suspected I would get used to over the next few days.
My phone rang again, and I answered, expecting that it was the medical transport folks informing me that they were bringing him home; that they were on their way. Instead it was hospice phoning to tell me he was gone.
He was a 97 year old man. This shouldn’t have surprised me…and yet it did. I paced between rooms wondering how on earth was I going to share this heartbreaking news with my grandmother, who had been so happy earlier that her husband of 72 years was finally coming home. I could still hear the slow hiss from the oxygen tank, and the realization that he never even had a chance to use it sadly dawned on me.
His presence lingers in the house, his imprint still on everything. A pair of shorts, a worn leather belt still looped through, hangs from a hook on the back of the bathroom door. His glasses sit on a table next to his chair, which none of us can bring ourselves to sit in again. A magnifying glass on the kitchen table, a WWII aircraft poster in the garage, a stack of bills in the office which had not yet been paid.
It is this last bit, and all items related to it, that make the grieving process difficult, if not impossible for me right now. Despite how heart-wrenching it is that my neither my grandmother nor I nor my sisters had a chance to say a proper goodbye to a man who was everything to us, I cannot even bring myself to stifle a sob. There is nothing there.
I suspect that this is because I am utterly consumed with the care of the person who is left behind. Who is, for all intents and purposes quite helpless, and her finances, her property, her health and well-being, it has all been entrusted to me. I know that I am not alone in this, as I have my two sisters – but as I am the only one local, most of these concerns fall squarely on my lap. I know they do what they can, and I know I have their full support and it’s no one’s fault really, that I am here and they are there – but none of this makes it much easier for me, to be perfectly honest.
And it’s not like I don’t have a job, although granted, my job makes it a little bit easier than someone else in my situation might have it – I both have a very understanding employer, and I work from home – but 99.9% of my usual stress in life in job related and now with missing as much work as I have been missing, gosh. My anxiety is through the roof.
At the end of the day, after taking into account my grandmother’s schedule and appointments and issues, on top of doing the same thing for my job – I just can’t do any more. I’m not exercising, I am not eating right (that’s an understatement, I have probably gained 10 lbs in three weeks but I don’t even want to think about that), bills are probably going unpaid, the house is a mess and I . just. don’.t care.
I’m probably pretty depressed. I’m sitting in front of my computer screen, I can’t even look at the things I like to look at, art blogs, new music blogs, recipe sites. This might seem like a small thing, but I think it’s telling. I’m not the sort of person where you’d notice a dramatic change in my personality… because I think I am too repressed to sink into a profoundly spectacular depression. Instead, it’s that loss of interest or enjoyment in things one usually might take pleasure in, a feeling of hopelessness. Resignation. This is never going to end. This is what it’s going to be like forever and ever. And then I realize of course that is not the case, my grandmother is 94 years old and she’s not going to be around forever and I should cherish the time I have with her and what the hell is wrong with me? What kind of monster am I? Wash, rinse, repeat.
I try to go through life with a “chin up!” sort of attitude, I really do. But I just can’t even fake it right now. And you many people who have reached out to me with condolences and concern and thoughtful gifts and kind words – I cannot thank you enough. For as much as I want to curl up into a ball and disappear at the moment, it’s things like this, that someone cares enough to reach out in some way… I might not think I want these things, but you know, I desperately need them. And I thank you for realizing that and acting on it.
And I don’t hate any of you, don’t pay attention to what I said several paragraphs ago. I am just feeling bitter and resentful of people who don’t have these worries and who may never have them.
In the meantime, I have got to get it together on a personal level. My bank account probably can’t handle this level of grief shopping that I have been putting it through, so I am going to have to find different, healthier ways to cope. More on that later. Though…if new stuff and things can’t cheer me up then perhaps all is truly lost.
Friends and folks who have been through something similar – how did you pull through? How did you not totally wreck your life while trying to take care of someone else’s? Your thoughts, suggestions and insights are, as always, deeply appreciated.