I think I’ve finally discovered the one thing I hate most about working the graveyard shift at a hotel when it starts to get cold. If we are completely booked up, and no one is checking out the next day, I am left with absolutely NOTHING to do. NOTHING. NADA. I completed the audit, and that’s about it. Then I’m left spinning in circles going “Is this right? Am I forgetting something? But I didn’t batch the credit cards… That’s because we didn’t have any. Well so! IT FEELS WRONG TO NOT DO IT.”
And so forth. That’s been my night thus far.
As a side note, it has been a long, very sad weekend that I am now going to share with you.
My grandfather passed away.
I got off work at 7 AM on Thursday, a welcomed off day after working a pretty long schedule. I was so excited! I took my daughter to school, came home, and at 8:30 I was asleep. That’s all I wanted to do in that moment was just sleep. I don’t even remember what I was dreaming, now. I think I was being chased by people trying to kill us, and if we could make it to the top of the house, we were safe. I don’t remember, because at 11 o’clock, I heard a knock on my bedroom door. It took me a few minutes to register, then wonder if I was hearing things. The knock came again, and my dad’s voice came through from the other side. “We need to talk.”
This is never a good thing to hear. Especially when you’ve just woken up. So I grunted a response, and tried to adjust my vision as my dad came in and sat on the edge of the bed.
“I wanted you to hear this from me before you heard it from anyone else. Especially Facebook.” He began. See, my family has a bad habit of posting things to Facebook before making sure the rest of the family has found out any news. “Your mother and I have been trying to call you, but I guess your phone was on silent.” Was it? I thought I’d left it on sound. I’ll have to check that, I thought. Good thing the school didn’t try to call me or something. Phew. “Papaw passed away this morning.” Static.
Maybe I heard him wrong. Maybe I’m still dreaming. Could this be a hallucination? I could hear a buzzing in my head where thoughts should be. I’m sure he said more, but I was trying to swim back to the surface from the blow he’d just landed me. My heart raced, pounded at a deafening volume. Why is he still talking, surely he can see I can’t hear him over the beating of my internal drums?
“What happened..?” I finally managed to choke out. He told me, which we later found out wasn’t quite right. I’ll tell all later.
I was in shock. All I could reply with was “Okay.” I could feel a lump of glass forming in my throat, threatening to tear its way out in the form of a heart-wrenching wail. I kept my composure. My father, exhausted of things to say, left the room. The door clicked into place and my tears began to fall. I curled into a ball, and I sobbed hopelessly. “Please, no. Anyone but him. Please not him.” I begged to anyone that would listen. I rocked back in forth, I pulled my hair, I dug my nails into my arms. Please wake up, I thought to myself. Just wake up and this will all be over.
I felt as though someone had thrust their hand into my chest and ripped my heart out before stomping on it, stabbing it with blades coated in acid, then sending it through a shredder. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see. So I grabbed the phone. There were the missed calls, and a few text messages. I felt thankful that I hadn’t answered, since I really wouldn’t have wanted this information over the phone. Almost as bad as Facebook, in my personal opinion.
So saying, I also couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud. So I texted my friends. I texted my boss/other mother. I tried desperately to put into words the pain I was feeling, while I could hear a little voice chanting in my head “Hold me, help me, save me. Hold me, help me, save me.”
Condolences immediately began to flood in, plus phone calls. I couldn’t really bring myself to answer any of them. Until I had to call my other boss and explain that I was going to be out of pocket that afternoon, just in case I was needed. I tried to keep my composure over the phone, until I was forced to say the words. “My grandfather died.” I choked on the last word and very nearly threw up. I cut off a sob. It was the first time I’d said it out loud. I immediately felt sorry for Other Boss, and apologized, wrapping up the phone call as quickly as I could. This started a new round of sobbing, pleading, rocking back and forth, and penguin holding.
Interestingly enough, since I’ve started carrying the penguin around as my “therapy animal”, I have felt a lot better. I don’t know where I suddenly got this idea from, but I’m glad I had it.
I decided, finally, that I needed to go out to my grandfather’s house, as this is where the family had gathered to start the process of making arrangements. I headed out, stopping by the hotel to drop off my name tag. It’s amazing the things your brain grabs hold of and claims as important in a time of high stress. I knew what I was doing when I dropped it off, but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t important. I needed normality. I needed something that made sense. Something I could control. In the time it took me to walk inside and walk back out, it had started storming so badly that the world turned white. It was ironic, because my world was black.
The drive that normally took ten minutes took twenty minutes, and then I arrived.
I remember everything in hyper detail, like I was grasping at everything in hopes of remembering it for later. I’ll skip the boring details and move on to the important ones. There was visiting, laughing, joking. It seemed like a normal visit. We shared memories of my grandfather, had a few good laughs.
Then we went to the funeral home to make final arrangements. This is where things get a little weird.
After we argued over which casket we wanted (I disagreed with the final choice, but whatever), I asked if I could see his body. The funeral director was very much against it. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Trust me, tomorrow will be so much better.” “I don’t care.” “You will. Just wait until tomorrow.” “No, I want to see him now.” Finally he gave in and let me see him.
All they’d done was washed him off and added a bit of oil to his skin to keep it from drying out. He looked peaceful. He looked just like he was sleeping. It was surreal for a number of different reasons.
One: It finally really hit me that he was gone. I had my solid proof.
Two: I’d never been around a body that fresh before. Ever.
Three: He didn’t look like wax, which is what I’m used to when bodies are concerned.
Four: He looked like he had a grin on his face, which apparently wasn’t there when he died.
And for the first time in a very long time, I got to be alone with my grandfather.
To a lot of people, I realize this is really weird and probably very strange. But before I continue with the story, let me step back in time. The grandfather I knew versus the father my mother knew were two different people. Either way, one thing stayed consistent: He was an amazing man.
When I was a kid, I would go out to see him as often as I was able. My grandfather even watched me a few times when my mom was working. We would challenge him to races, and somehow he’d always win. He’d poke out his dentures at us, and of course we thought his teeth were falling out. He loved us unconditionally, and thought the world of us. I remember birthdays were a big deal when I was little. He would pick me up and take me to the store, and let me pick out whatever I wanted. Then he’d usually add a little something extra to top it all off. I loved every moment I got with him.
But as an adult, alone time with my grandfather became fewer and farther between. He started getting weaker, so birthdays didn’t happen. He still tried to bring us things. Then it was reduced to a card. Huh….. I just had the realization that I’m not going to be getting a card from my papaw this year…. And my birthday isn’t far away…..Wow….And the pain starts all over again. Anyway…. Any interaction I had with him was very special…..I just wish I had more time with him.
I stood in that room, alone, with my grandfather. He looked peaceful, and yet he looked different. He looked like him, but at the same time he didn’t. You don’t realize how much your soul changes the appearance of your body until you look upon a fresh body that no longer has a soul seated within it. He looked like he was sleeping, but something was missing. I can’t even really explain it.
I talked to him. Just he and I. Like when I was a kid. I apologized for not coming out more often, and I hoped he understood. I told him I was sorry if I disappointed him, and that I didn’t mean to… I reminded him that I did love him….and then I said “What am I going to do..? Where do I fit into this family now..?”
My grandfather, as I said, loved unconditionally. I didn’t need to be talented, or a boy, for him to love me. I could be as rebellious as I wanted to, and he was still proud of me. He loved me no matter what, and he loved us all equally. I don’t get that with the rest of my family. To those members of my family who may be reading this: You can try to argue on principle, but I will prove you wrong each and every time. Moving on.
I felt an odd sense of closure that I’ve never experienced before when it comes to losing someone I love dearly. It is a new feeling for me, a strange feeling for me. I’m so used to wondering how they died, and my brain going all sorts of dark and morbid directions. Having the image painted out for me made it easier. I realize the same does not apply to everyone, so I won’t go into details about his death. All I will say is he went peacefully, he went quickly, and he went at home which is precisely what he wanted.
The rest of the week was hard, even with my closure. Even now I’ll have memories and I’ll get choked up. The hardest part is having to adjust to normal life again. I want to apologize to every customer that walks in and explain why I’m flustered, but I know I can’t. Or I think to myself “People lose people every day, my case isn’t special.” When you lose someone, it feels like the world should stop for just a little bit. But stepping back into work is a harsh reality that the world just keeps on ticking.
I remember one time he called me. It was Friday the 13th in July, I believe. He called me because he wanted to wish me a happy birthday. I hadn’t answered because I’d been sleeping, but when I woke up I called him back. He laughed and said “I called to tell you happy birthday, but then I remembered you were born in October. It was Friday the 13th, just the wrong one. But at least you know I’m thinking about you.” I had forgotten that memory until my mother and I started talking earlier. I laughed and laughed all over again.
You forget just how much grief wears you down until you experience again, and then its like… how could I have forgotten this existed? All I really want to do right now is sleep. But again, the world keeps on going, and you have to keep going with it. It’s hard, it’s very hard.
So I’ve been trying to find ways to deal with my own grief, and to help make the transition back into reality a little easier. After much thought, I’ve finally decided on how I’m going to do that. Throughout the day, I have tendencies to get caught up in daydreams. I’ll daydream about anything, really. Sometimes they’ll be really interesting, and I’ll want desperately to make a story from them. I’m going to start doing that.
100 Stories in 100 Days is what I’m going to call it. Every day I’m going to write a little something. It might not always be long, but I’m going to write something. It’ll be my therapy. At least, I hope it will be. Whatever pops into my brain that day and I cling to, that’s what I’m going to write about. I’ll start on October 10th, which seems like a good day for some reason.
I’ve shared my thoughts, my feelings, and my actions. Right now, my brain is too tired to think of anything else I should say. Except one last thing.
Between the arrangements, the visitation, and the funeral, I said many things to my grandfather. I told him I loved him, and that I missed him, and that I would always do those two things. But there is one thing I never said, because I couldn’t bring myself to say it. It was too permanent, and I wasn’t ready to except that it was over. I never told him goodbye. I tried. Every time I opened my mouth to say it, my words couldn’t pass through the lump in my throat.
This chapter of my life has ended, but the book is still being written. Instead of occurrences, my book will only include memories now. But those memories I will cherish more than many things, because they are precious. So it is now that I shall say my goodbye. To my grandfather. You meant the world to me. I wish I could have told you more often just how special and wonderful you were. I can only hope that you know all of those things I never told you now. You will always live on in my heart, and in my memories. I love you so very much, and every day you’re gone I will have a wound in my heart.
“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” –Rose Kennedy
Goodbye Papaw Bill. I hope I make you proud.