I am typing this from Wisconsin as I had a sudden change of plans this week- my grandfather, who has been very sick with Parkinson's for a very long time, died on Saturday night. I knew that he wouldn't be alive when we came back to visit for the summer so over our Christmas holidays, I made a special effort to take the girls to see him one morning and sing carols. I took lots of nice pictures of us all together and, I think in a sign that he also knew that it was the last time we would see each other, he seemed to be in great shape. He had gotten to a point where he seemed fairly unresponsive to his visitors, although this may just have been a result of the disease and mentally he was fine- its hard to tell. We didn't exactly chat but he was smiling and hugged the kids. I guess we all said our good-byes, which I am happy about.
For that reason, it wasn't so important to me to be here for the funeral. I said it a million times when he was getting sick, I thought that all his children and grandchildren should visit while he could enjoy their company rather than save up their vacation time to come for the funeral. It didn't work out that way and when they heard he was dead, everyone booked their tickets to come and pay their last respects. I knew that my mom had taken it all very hard, despite the fact that he had gone into hospice care in mid-December and the end was quiet and gentle, really the best any of us could have hoped for him. So I decided that I would try to see if I could figure out a way to fly back.
First thing was the airline ticket. I complain and complain about all the things that AirFrance does to irritate me but I will say it here for all the world to read, their airmiles program is fantastic. I managed to book a flight at the last minute for only 240 euros, the cost of the airport taxes. This is the second time airmiles saved my ass (the first time was when I was in NYC with a girlfriend having a wild weekend of girly fun and missed my flight home. Ooops.). Then B's parents stepped in and came and picked up the girls on Tuesday afternoon to spend the time in the country with them so I didn't have to worry about lining up sitters for the week. Plus, it gave us a night to recover from our sleep deficit. We have had yet a second round of the gastro go through our house and morale was low...
So the trip went well and I made it back to my parent's house two hours earlier than expected which was an added treat. It is really lovely to see all my cousins who live in Vegas who I never see- which is weird because I'm a girl who loves sequins and liquor and loud cheesy music so you would think that I would be out in Vegas all the time. To be honest, last night we had a great time sitting around the kitchen table, drinking wine, laughing, looking at photos, catching up on everyone's news. I'm not sad at all and I'm having a great time, which is a bit awkward because I'm here for a funeral, right?
My mom had asked me if I wanted to do the eulogy and while I said no, I have been spending all my time since then sort of wondering what I would have said in a eulogy. Its such a hard thing, trying to figure out what to say that would sum up someone's life. Or even if it doesn't sum up his life, atleast makes an attempt at some sort of insight into who he was and what it meant to know him. I realized that my grandfather was a bit of a mystery. He was understated to a fault. Very quiet and rarely asking for anything. Its hard to know why he did what he did and neatly explain his life. He had some very big setbacks in his life and I specifically don't want to call them tragedies because I don't think that is a word he would want to be associated with but, time and time again, he would pick himself up, dust himself off, start all over, and just carry on. No shaking his fist at the sky and asking, 'Why, God?' No crumbling into a heap and crying about the unfairness of it all. Just determination to get on with it and I suppose the faith that it would all make sense in the end. So I try not to feel guilty about not crying because I think if there were two things he would approve of it would be taking advantage of this time to just enjoy family, which was important to him, and just quietly carrying on.
I'll be back in Paris on Monday afternoon and then there will be no question of not just carrying on because life just keeps on barreling forward and I'll have to run to keep. Its nice to have a few days here, with my jetlag waking me up hours before everyone else, so that I can sit and look out at the endless drifts of white snow and the empty tree branches scraping against the pale gray sky. There is something like a zen garden about this kind of scenery. It lets your mind wander places and remember things. It feels good.