Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Who We Are

Things have taken a sad and serious turn in my family over the past week or so. My grandfather has been increasingly ill over the past months and just a few weeks ago was diagnosed with liver cancer. Last week they were talking about treatment options, but he has gotten very sick very quickly and over the weekend they put him on hospice care at home. On Sunday my mom traveled from Texas to St. Louis to be with them all there because the hospice caregivers were saying he could die within hours to a few days.

This picture is from our wedding in 2002 and shows my aunt, my mom, my grandfather, and my grandmother-- a little family just like the one I grew up in as far as siblings and age spacing and whatnot. It is a very different family in some ways, of course, and has its own tangles of history and hurt and love and that are being intensified right now because of the potent stress of dealing with the life’s end of such a strong, central figure in all of their lives. There is significant heterogeneity in their beliefs about spiritual things as well, which makes dealing with death especially hard. They seem to be doing well together right now, pulling together to be a family, as far as I can tell from here.

Being far away both from them in St. Louis and my immediate family in Texas has made experiencing this process kind of strange. It all seems weirdly far away and unreal at times and then overwhelmingly sad and heartbreaking at others. When they first put him on hospice care, I was thinking about trying to make a trip there in the next month but things seem to be happening so fast that I am not sure what to do. Although he has been feeling sick and losing weight for months, this feels like it has escalated really fast.

It has made me realize how lucky I have been to have enduring personal connections to the people who make up my past. At almost 30 years old, I currently have all 4 of my grandparents alive and I knew 3 of my great-grandparents well into childhood and even adolescence. It has made my life richer to know all these people including my grandfather, the loyal, strong-willed, trustworthy, gruff, funny man I know him to be. I look at Grace, realizing that she is my future in the same way that my Papa is my past, and hope that she is so lucky.

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