I have a battle to prepare for. I wish I could say it was something physical, like a boxing match or something mental, like a chess tournament. But it’s far more intimidating and strenuous: its an emotional battle.
My grandfather is dying. He’s been diagnosed with Myeloma, a particular kind of blood cancer that attacks his white cells. Before this all went down, my grandfather, whom we all affectionately call “Papa”, was in pretty good shape for a man in his late 70’s. And all of a sudden…
Now he’s in and out of ICU, on oxygen and pretty much non-responsive. I’m fully aware that dying is what old folks do and that this life must come to an end sooner or later. But what makes his impending departure all the more difficult is when I consider what he actually means to me and my family.
He is the Patriarchal figure, to my mother, me and to my children. He has played an integral role in the lives of my children more than their respective fathers ever have. Not only has he helped me with my children, he helped my mother with hers. I remember going to baseball games and various social events with him. Accompanying him to the backyard each time he barbequed. Then it was him picking me up from the hospital after giving birth. Him getting my children on and off their school buses and picking them up from school when I couldn’t. Buying birthday cakes and ice cream for each birthday they had. He was my emergency contact on every school form. He was reliable. He was consistent. He cared. We mattered.
I will never forget him letting me wrap my arms around him in an embrace that seemed to go on forever, as we both cried after hearing about his diagnosis. We cried together… something I’ve never done with any other man.
Now the thought of losing someone so entangled my day-to-day life makes me feel so selfish. I ask myself, what am I going to do now? But honestly, I think he chose to fight this disease, using chemo and radiation, just for us. He knows how necessary he is. He knows his value to us. And although he is a man of very few words, we always knew how much he loves us.
As I prepare myself emotionally for his departure, I’ve seemed to have misplaced my armor… that protective coating that can take most any blow. I know I have to be strong for my children. They cried over my mother’s dead dog, for pete’s sake! I’m predicting his death will devastate them. We are all extremely close. They’ve seen him just about everyday of their lives. And as a looked through photos of his many photo albums recently, I noticed that my mother, children or me are represented very little. It was then that I realized that he didn’t need pictures of us; we were with him all the time.
So how do I deal with my own grief while simultaneously helping them cope with their own?? One article I read online said to encourage them to ask questions or talk about how they feel. I really don’t think I can get through that. I’m extremely impatient when it comes to that sort of thing, especially when my mind is already too heavy to carry. A grief counselor is another option, if all else fails.
I just need to find this armor, or I will be no good to them nor myself. My babies will need me and I will need to hold onto my sanity. I need my armor. I need my Papa.