In January, I received a phone call. That phone call was to let me know that my grandfather did not have much longer to live and that a second phone call would soon come to let me know when he was gone. It was a very difficult and strange stretch of time between those phone calls. My mind raced, my heart felt as though a dagger had been plunged into it, I couldn’t sleep, I barely ate.
Then the second call came. And I grieved. Still am.
Now, once again, I find myself pressed by the weight of the space between two horrible phone calls. On Easter Sunday, I received word that my father has gotten worse. Much worse. When the hospice nurse came to check my father, when she had a moment to go over the hospice handbook with my mother and sister, she turned to one of the last pages in that book. One marked “From Days to Hours”. Another nurse called this stage “a walk through the strawberry field”.
This is where we find ourselves. My mind is again racing, my heart brings pain with every beat, I have barely slept the last two nights and have only eaten when I have been reminded to do so.
I hate this. I hate this so much. I feel lost. I feel numb, though not numb enough.
My father, my hero, my friend. He is half a country away, soon to be further than I or anyone else can reach, and there is nothing I can do.
The tears are blurring this as I type and I need to dress for work. Not even sure why I’ve written this, other than to get it somewhere outside my own head.
Hug your family. Tell them you love them.
A lot has happened in the brief two months since my last post.
The weather has begun its shift from icy winds licking at your skin and the skies tearing open to blanket the world in fresh snow, to assorted peeks at the tans and muted greens of what was once and will again be grass. Shorts, t-shirts, ice cream cones. Signs of Spring show themselves, reminding us that things move forward. Time marches on, ever and ever and without you, whether you wish it to or not.
Over the course of a single week in January, the following events transpired. In order:
1: My father entered hospice care.
2: My grandfather was hospitalized, a total of two times.
3: My grandfather entered hospice care.
And 4: On January 25th, my grandfather, Charles Gustav Kaas, passed away at the age of 96.
It has all felt like a whirlwind from hell and it has all weighed on my soul in ways I never knew were possible.
My father’s health has continued to deteriorate and now we’re simply being told no one knows how much longer he’ll be here.
Through the kindness of both loved ones and people I barely know, Danielle and I are able to fly out to California. This will not be a fun-filled vacation, it will not be catching up and reminiscing with old faces or partying at the old stomping grounds.
This trip, put as simply as I can put it, will be me saying goodbye to my father.
We leave in a few days. This weekend will be devoted to housecleaning and preparing for the trip. We want to make sure Ben is comfortable while he graciously plays housesitter for us. We’ll return one week later and will have a day to process and decompress, both physically and, I’m sure, emotionally. Then it’s a return for what has passed for normalcy in recent time, which disguises itself as my spending afternoons making pizzas.
My grandfather and I had a strained relationship for many years, the reasons for which I will not divulge here. But when I was a very young boy, my grandfather was my best friend. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve spending time with my grandparents. We’d hop into my grandpa’s maroon Oldsmobile and go up to the corner Thrifty drug store to buy scratch-off lottery tickets (I’d pick them out and if he or I won on any of them, I’d get to keep some of the money) and pineapple ice cream cones. We’d watch boxing until it was time to pick up my grandmother from bingo. It really is the simplest things that stand out.
A lot changed in our relationship between those days and where he left us, but I’ve never forgotten how close we were. I’ll never forget pineapple ice cream and scratch-off lottery tickets.
I turned 32 three days ago.
The world is an upside down place that makes little sense.