My last remaining grandparent may be dying. They’re over 100 years old, and I am making the daylong trip to my family several states away, to hopefully see them before they pass. They’ve been close to the edge several times over the past few months, but this time seems different. I hope we get there in time.
It’s always a struggle, figuring out what the right thing to do is – we can’t just pick up and go whenever something seems amiss. Because things seem amiss pretty frequently, and then they level out. It’s not a short trip to my family. And I have limited energy and time. Also, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid, so taking time off is very, very expensive.
But this trip looks like it’s going to be necessary. This might be “it” for my grandparent, and I would like to get there in time to say good-bye and “thank you” for everything.
I really owe a tremendous debt to them – they set such a strong example about how to live a good life, and they overcame so many huge odds to really have a life worth living. If anyone has showed me how to stand up straight in a crisis and hold your own, how to be compassionate towards others who are different from you, and how to just love and accept people and the world for who they are (while never giving up hope that things could be better), it’s them. They also taught me the importance of staying curious, staying interested, and always learning-learning-learning about the world and the way life works.
In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I have them to thank for my being here. Obviously, if they had not had kids, then I would not have come into the world. But beyond just making my birth possible, they showed me what it means to persevere and prevail and correct your poor choices whenever you can. I never wanted to disappoint them — even though I often did. So, that pushed me to really step up and challenge myself in so many different ways.
I’ll be leaving in about 4 hours – I have a lot to get together before I leave. I have to check in with work to let them know what’s happening and to get coverage for my projects, I have to pack clothing, get the car inspected (in addition to forgetting to pay my mortgage, I forgot to get both cars inspected, this past summer, so I’ve been driving around with not one but two overdue inspection stickers), run to the bank, get some food for the road, and take care of some odds and ends that are due in the next couple of days. I don’t know how long I’m going to be away – it could be a few days, or it could be a week, but I’ve got clearance from work to stay as long as I need to.
I’m putting my list together now, to see what all I need to do. I’ve been tired lately, and I’m really distracted, so my sequencing is off this morning. I’m doing things backwards, forgetting to do important things (like make my coffee in the proper order), and I have to triple-check everything. Like packing clothes. If I stay longer than a few days, I was thinking I will need all my work clothes with me, and I was going to load them into a garment bag to take with me. Untrue. If I stay, I will be at my parents’ house, and I will not need work clothing at all. I just need one set of dress clothes, in case the funeral happens. I will need casual clothes for the everyday — just to get around and look halfway respectable.
The main thing is taking the right computers with me — my personal laptop as well as my work laptop. Also, I need to remember my camera. I don’t have a smartphone, and my spouse loves to take pictures. And my sunglasses. I can’t forget them. I’ll never make it without. And taking all the crap out of the traveling car, rearranging everything in it for the ride. And packing an extra set of sheets, in case the people we’re staying with use scented laundry detergent we are allergic to. And putting the mail on hold. Just getting everything together.
I have my main list of things to do. Not getting too granular with it is a big change for me. I used to make long lists of everything that could possibly be covered, and I would get so caught up in making the lists, that I would lose track of where I was and have to abandon my plans half-way through. I would also forget important things and wear myself out, trying to juggle everything that didn’t even need juggling.
Now things are very different, and I’m feeling pretty calm and systematic about my planning. I am tired, I know, and my memory and attention are a little sub-par, these days. But I’m taking steps to offset that, using the tools I have to keep steady and stay on track.
I really hate these kinds of situations. I have been through a lot of them in the past with my spouse. There’s been a lot of illness and struggle in both sides of our family over the 24 years we’ve been together, and we’ve spent more time than I care to think about in hospitals, waiting to hear news.
A part of me is selfishly feeling like it’s not fair that I have to leave my cushy new job situation, while it has that “new car smell” to go participate in unavoidable grief and sadness. I am finally getting into a groove at work, and now this happens. I have had a really challenging last few weeks, and no sooner do I feel like I’m settling in and getting things sorted, than I have to pick up and dash off to the kind of drama that I just hate. I stay away from my family because of all the drama. It’s just too much, and I’m feeling too tired to really deal well with this. Times like these are when I can get hurt.
But like I said, that’s me being selfish and not seeing the bigger picture. We need to extend ourselves for others and step up. That’s what makes our lives worthwhile and more than just an exercise in self-serving pettiness. That’s what my grandparent would have done.
My head is in a whirl, right now. I don’t like death, and I don’t like racing the clock. But here we are…