A difficult and lovely week
Lake Gaston, 2013.
This photo is of me, my dad, and my grandpa. We’ve been told that each generation is brighter and more handsome than the last. (Not by many, though.)
I spent this weekend in Manhattan with a friend and his girlfriend. On Saturday, I got the call I’d been anticipating for the past year.
Grandpa was admitted to the hospital on Thursday (his fifth time since the summer). On Saturday morning, he decided he wanted to be taken off life support. He wanted to go.
I packed my stuff, canceled my Saturday plans in the city, and drove straight to Virginia. My aunt flew in from Wisconsin and my dad drove down from Pittsburg.
Since taking him off his heart medication Saturday night, we’ve all been taking shifts at the hospital as we wait for it to happen.
It’s all quite fresh, so I’ll save the whole story for another time. I feel guilty even writing about it now. It feels as though I’m using a dramatic moment for content. But this blog is about my experiences and what I learn from those experiences.
And that’s what I’d like to share today.
I’ve gotten thoughtful calls and texts from several friends and family members. One thing I’ve heard a handful of times is, “I know this is a really hard time for you.”
And I can’t help but think, well, it is and it isn’t.
I’ve spent a good amount of time crying this past week. In the car, with my family, on the phone…Realizing I’ll never have another conversation with him or hear another one of his jokes breaks me every single time. This is a wildly emotional time and when it finally happens I’ll feel a level of devastation no amount of stoicism can prepare me for.
But I won’t remember this as a depressing or hopeless time. Not even close.
I’ll remember being with my family. I don’t often get to be in a room with my dad and both aunts. But whenever I am, we’re all laughing and telling stories. It’s been a treat to smile with them, to hug them, and to cry with them.
I’ll remember the blog I wrote when I realized every visit counted with my gramps. That was the starting point for me to prioritize seeing him. Since then, I’ve tried to go down once every two months. I’m so so glad I did.
I’ll remember the last joke he told me. Sunday morning, my aunt put his glasses on him. I was at the foot of his bed. Once he focused his eyes, he said, “You’re telling me I gotta look at Dillan? Take these off.”
I’ll remember how awesome my dad and aunts are. Being there for him at his bedside, taking care of the logistics, and working as an effective and loving team.
I’ll remember the last real conversation I had with him. I stopped by right after he had his mini-stroke. We sat on his balcony, ate grapes, and talked about geography and travel. He asked me about my business and the book I’m writing.
I’ll remember getting pho with my aunt and talking about her dreams for the future.
I’ll remember laughing in the hospital room as my dad cracked jokes and my grandma and aunts told stories about gramps. We all went through our favorite photos, videos, and voicemails of the old man.
I’ll remember feeding him Dots like he was an insatiable kid in a candy store.
I’ll remember my revitalized appreciation for family. And how easy it is to forget what really matters until something like this happens.
And among many other things, I’ll remember the last thing he ever said to me as he lay in his hospital bed:
“Dillan, how you doin’ buddy? You’ve been an excellent grandson. I’m proud of the man you’ve become and of the success you’ve built for yourself. Your mom did an amazing job raising you. Give my best to her and your sister.”
These are the things that will stay with me forever. I’m grateful.
At some point, I’ll return home and continue writing these posts and making YouTube videos. That’ll be a strange time. It feels like everything should stop for a while. But I know that’s not how it works.
For those who’ve made it this far, thank you. If there’s anyone you’ve been meaning to call or spend time with, do it now.
You’ll never remember that weekend you stayed home because it was more convenient. But you’ll always remember sitting down and laughing with the people you love.