I think that’s a sign. An allegory, if you will. Even in the darkest part of the year, the coldest part (of course, as I say that it’s already over 60 degrees this morning and all the windows and the screen door to the porch are open), the part of the year where most things fold up and hibernate, life goes on.
Oh, hello, major family health crisis with the chance of death for Christmas, you feel familiar. I would like to punch you in your face. Your stupid, stupid face.
Ten years ago tomorrow, on Christmas Eve day in 2001, we made the decision to move Daddy from the hospital to Hospice. A bed there had opened up, and he wasn’t coming out of the coma they’d induced so that he could have a better chance with his thin, wasted body to maybe survive this round of chemotherapy. He wasn’t going to get better; this was a one-way trip. We had debated for a couple of days about what to do for Christmas. Do we still have it at my house, where it was being held then? Do we move it to Barbara’s apartment, to make it easy for her? Do we have at at Aunt Gay and Uncle Joe’s, where we were going to eat anyway, to make it easier for them to cook? Do we not have it at all? We opted to go on as usual, Christmas at my house where everything already was, and while it was weird to not have Daddy there, at least there was some semblance at trying to be normal.
Christmas Day 2009 Jeff and I drove to the VA to hang out with Uncle Joe for a while. We didn’t open any presents that day; we knew Uncle Joe was going to make it by then (after all, he’d made it that far, right? Surely the Universe wouldn’t fuck with us that much) so as a family we opted to hold off on Christmas celebrations until Uncle Joe was back out of the hospital again. My mom and Dave came up for Christmas that year, and they all went to see Uncle Joe in the morning, and Jeff and I went to see Uncle Joe in the afternoon. I honestly don’t remember what Tim did that day. I think he stayed home and read computer books (like ya do).
And now we have Christmas 2011.
Here’s the Readers Digest Condensed Version, which I have hinted at a little here but haven’t written down the whole thing, because for most of the year I thought there was something wrong with my blog and I didn’t want to write a lot of long, heart-felt posts just to have them disappear, but here we go now because (1) I hope those things are fixed and (2) I need to talk. In 500 words or less: Early this year, Rusty fell in his kitchen, and was on the floor for four days before someone found him. He spent months in the hospital and rehab center. He was finally pronounced well enough to be able to continue to live alone, and sent home, where he was for approximately a week when… something fuzzy happened. Either he slept on the floor on purpose, or he fell again and didn’t want to come clean about it, but they had to break in and get him up again and he’s been back in the hospital and rehab center since then. We had made the decision to bring him down here into a nursing home, but apparently his worn-out body has decided it has had enough, and is beginning the shut-down process. His mind, other than befuddled by morphine for the pain, is sharp as a tack. But his body is done.
Earlier this week (fuck, just yesterday, so not so much “earlier”) there were decisions that were made, and then made differently, involving an amputation (final verdict: don’t do the amputation, it wouldn’t solve anything and would just be a horrible experience for Rusty); Aunt Gay is up there and is really shouldering a lot of the burdens of choices and decisions, and I’m sure your thoughts would really mean a lot to her. She reads this blog, so feel free to leave her some words of love in the comments. And tell Uncle Joe that it’s OK if he wants to go to Dayton next week, that my mom and Dave and Barbara and Sharon and Chris and Laura and Gerry and Jag and Antony and Tim and I can totally handle the New Years Eve party (as long as they don’t mind if it’s still at their house, because dudes, people would show up there regardless).
What do I think…? I love Rusty. He is a rapscallion, and a tease, and gives a good back or foot rub, and he reminds me of a dinner roll because he’s hard and crusty on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. He’s pragmatic, and practical, and is a “show, not tell” kind of guy. I don’t think he’s ever told me he loves me; but he shows up, and isn’t that what love is? He doesn’t need to say the words because he shows you all the time. He’s been to every Christmas, Thanksgiving when we still celebrated it, birthdays when Aunt Gay and I used to have joint parties at Tarrytown or Merritt Island, random month-long visits, both of my weddings, my fathers death, Uncle Joe’s illness. He’s full of stories and I’ve gotten to hear a good portion of them. He’s Santa’s Evil Twin, he’s the Wise Old Man, he’s Gandalf and the Trickster and a librarian and a font of knowledge all rolled into one twinking-eye’d Old Man. He’s the best Grandfather a girl could choose to have.
And now it’s time to say goodbye. Thank you. I love you. You’ve meant so much to me. It’s time to celebrate and cultivate all the things in life I’ve learned from you, and practice them.
Would Rusty want me to mourn, or would Rusty want me to celebrate his life and pass on his stories and attitude? Yes, there will be mourning, there has to be. But I’m goddamn lucky to have had a Rusty in my life, and that joy deserves a nod as well.
Lest you think, though, that I’m without feeling, I’ll end this with something I wrote to Jag in an email the other night –
Also, pain is OK. I welcome pain. I’d never want to be without pain. Pain is a balance; without the pain of hurt and loss, we wouldn’t recognize the joy of bounty and love. If I don’t acknowledge pain upon losing someone, how can I acknowledge I have love for them? If you don’t feel a loss, how do you know there was anything there that you were holding special?