Chapter 2: Where Do We Go From Here?
*Once I returned from the trip to the Dakotas, I continued writing. Initially, I was undecided about sharing the writing because I was not clear if it was relevant to the story and it became deeply personal, very quickly. However, after much consideration, I have accepted that this is an indispensable and unwritten chapter of the “Life and Love,” story of Everyone But Two. I have also accepted that as a storyteller that is making an observational record of the events as they unfold, I can not exclude other factors of the story that have become tightly bound together, especially if they embedded themselves in the day and in my thoughts.
Benjamin and Frances Graham at far right, image courtesy of the Grahams
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2016
I am home now and over the last few weeks, I have become a silent, intimate witness to the process of the end stages of life. Today, I got dressed in a navy blue tunic with crystals, and beads. Almost Indian inspired. Wore my hair up too which was not like me. I planned on seeing my grandmother. I wanted her to be able to see me and at least like what I had on even if she didn’t know who I was, which is a possibility now. All day I received many comments on how nice I looked. I only told a few people why I made such an effort. I was still not ready to talk about this. I drove to my grandparents after work, only stopping to get my ice coffee from Dunkin Donuts around the corner first, which has become my ritual. When I arrived, my grandfather was in the kitchen eating dinner and my grandmother was sleeping. I didn’t want to wake her. She sleeps with her eyes open now, which is a little unsettling since I have never seen this before. I was a little disappointed but I knew that she was sleeping a lot more lately. I decided to take this time to talk to my grandfather, or more or less listen. Here this man has been married to and affectionately loved this woman for almost 70 years. How do I broach the conversation about his love’s end of life? I mean what are we doing? Am I waiting and watching these last days of her life? Is that why I am coming over? I don’t know how I feel about this.
Benjamin is not the open up type of personality. Although he is very affectionate and warm, he has a tough exterior. I know that is the reason he has managed to stay in exceptional shape for an almost 90 year old. During our conversation, we are discussing my grandmother’s condition, how much she is sleeping now, how her mind is in other places more often than not now, how she has what seems to us, nonsensical conversations, how she is on a liquid and soft food diet as a result of her not being able to swallow, and that a few weeks ago he wakes her to find that food was still in her mouth from the day before, having been there overnight. At the end of the episodic breakdown of events, he said to me in a softer, more vulnerable tone, that a few weeks ago he thought that was it (for her). I assumed that he was referring to the time that I received that urgent phone call in Wyoming. All I could say was, “I know.”
All night, I didn’t know what to do with this thought. Sometimes it is hard when the only person you can have a conversation with is yourself. My mother is up to her eyeballs in this entire process and my grandfather loves this woman so much and is so close to it, I think he is blinded by it; I dare have a conversation with them about how I am processing and observing my grandmother’s end of life. Sadly enough, my boyfriend, the only other person I have been willing to have this conversation with, even though delicate due to the recent loss of his father, would now rather distance himself because of a misunderstanding from a text. I am so numb at this moment, that in my mind, I almost don’t care. How do you not give me the benefit of the doubt on a text, if my love has no reason to be questioned? True, texting has kept us connected between the miles and time, but we aren’t millennials birthed in a world already fully engaged and engrossed in non verbally clued conversations, minute to minute on a backlit screen. We are of the generation where people called each other on phones with cords and antennas and valued talking with each other and had face-to-face conversations. We did not depend so heavily on a typed word. I can’t count on that and at this moment, I feel like I can’t count on him. As sure as I write this, I face the near certainty of my grandmother’s end of life and I am willing to let this ride. Certainly, I will regret this later and have the most broken of hearts, but now I can only use my little energy on these remaining days to hold what parts that are left together, surely it will burst soon.