Monday, November 12, 2007



"We Was Cute Once"


Two weeks ago, my husband, nearly 37 years old, lost his first grandparent.

Seemingly the most hale of his four living grandparents, his grandmother went into decline rather abruptly, with a kidney infection turning into congestive heart failure turning into pain and exhaustion that sapped her will to fight.

Her husband, a former bank president and World War II pilot, had been the one we'd all been watching. He is the one with Alzheimer's and untreated prostate cancer. He has been the one everyone's efforts have been concentrated upon for the last three years. Tacit agreement had it that he would be the first to go.

Yet he didn't. He hasn't.

Rather, his wife of more than sixty years belied expectations and, after painstaking caretaking of her husband, has left him behind, alone. Forlorn. Wishing for death.

Fortunately--although it didn't feel that way at the time--Grandpa had already moved to the Memory Care wing of the Senior Home a couple of months ago, after he was found by a state trooper wandering down the side of the highway. So his transition out of the immediate life of Grandma (known to our kids as "GGma") had already taken place. He was somewhat accustomed to being apart from her, down the hall, over in his new digs.

However, with daily visits and enduring devotion, they weren't really apart. As GGma's health became more grave, my father-in-law had to break the news to his father: "Mom is dying, Dad."

And the Alzheimer's? You know, that cruelest of diseases? It, of course, provided no mercy.

In this case, it meant GGpa--although unable to recall names and places--remained bitingly aware that his helpmate of decades was passing out of his life.

They had a private religious service together in her last days, led by their pastor. After it, GGpa was inconsolable.

Two days later, when GGma died--peacefully, comfortably, all wishes expressed--it was GGpa, with his unreliable brain, who sat beside her, lucidly, holding her hand, rubbing her cheek, even after she was gone.

The very image of them, there in the hospice, slices me in two.

Today, November 12th, would have been their sixty-third anniversary; yet after all that time, they were not a habit to each other. They were not one of those couples who sit in the Embers, indifferently eating their omelets, not speaking to each other, staring off into space. Rather, after sixty-three years, they had an active love for each other, feeling complete only in the other's presence. Even GGpa's advancing dementia couldn't diminish their interdependence.

It is from this perspective of ongoing conscious appreciation that I greet my eighth anniversary with my groom a day after theirs, on November 13th.

He is, quite simply, my all, my everything, my favorite and my best. There are at least 4.569 reasons that add up to the way I dote on him. Here, I give you five of 'em:

1) He is unflappable and uncomplaining. This is a much-needed and -welcome counterpoint to all my complaints and flap.

2) He knows how to communicate with me in Jocespeak (woe to those who consider it a dead language!). I am, you see, a person who can get dramatically derailed during a slow bend down to tie her shoes. But with Groom giving me directions, I get it done every time. For example, when I go out to run an unknown route, he is smart enough not to tell me, "Turn right at Oneida Street," but instead to break it down thusly: "When you see the big rock on the righthand side that looks like Richard Nixon with his cheeks waggling, turn right. After that, you'll run for about the length of time it would take you to sing the extended dance remix of 'Tainted Love', and then you'll take a left." Now that's what I'm talkin' about.

Similarly, when we were recently up the road at an important crossroads for migrating raptors (Ye Olde Birds of Prey), a place we go to often in the Fall, and he was off hiking with friends while Niblet and I hung around the main vantage point, resting our weary paws and awaiting their return, we got to witness the release of a big bird. It was tossed up into the wind above the overlook, and the whole thing was cool. When Groom and Friends returned from their hike a few minutes later, I tried to describe the bird to them. "Was it a hawk?" they asked. Weellllllll, er.....yea? I could tell them that it had parentheses-like curves around its eyes, and its beak looked rather like a bracket (<>). And, for big sure, it wasn't an owl. So what kind of hawk had it been? "Like, not small," I reported with authority. Groom knew then to ask, "Was it bigger than a package of Double Stuff Oreos?" "'Bout the same size!" I reponded, gleefully. That answer, coupled with a photo I'd taken, narrowed it down. Due to his patience and bilingualism, Groom discerned, "It was a red-tailed hawk. See in the photo those red markings?" Not at all sure how they looked like my beloved Oreos, I nodded agreeably nevertheless.




The bird is released


3) He sighs gently and happily when I rub his wrist.

4) He raises our children with consistency and patience, yet he loves it when I point out the benefits of storing them in the freezer.

5) He has always and ever made me feel like my foibles increase my charm. Were I more perfect, he would love me less.

--------------------------------
For all these reasons, plus twenty-thwifty kamajillion others, he leaves me agog.

In an ideal world, he and I will die together, when I'm 104, and he's 101. We'll be on a hammock together, eating truffles and staring at the branches up above us in the sky, when suddenly our hearts will simultaneously stop beating.

The world not being ideal, this will most likely not be the case, although I am having a truffle fridge installed at the base of our biggest tree, just as a nod to possibility.

Alternatively and more realistically, then, I wish for a death like GGma's.

Indeed, my acute and illimitable hope is that, in fifty-six years--better yet, in sixty-six--when I am at long last diminishing and facing the Great Beyond, it will be with my constant and enduring companion sitting next to me, knowing me as no other, stroking my cheek as I exhale one last time.

44 comments:

geewits said...

Isn't it nice to have a sweetie pie for a husband? It took me three tries, but I finally found one. Our 7th anniversary is December 2nd. Have fun on your anniversary and pass my sympathies on to your husband on the loss of his grandmother.

Emma in Canada said...

That? Was a beautiful post. Your husband sounds fantastic. But he obviously came from good stock.

He was very lucky to have all 4 grandparents for almost 37 years.

Theresa said...

Wow! That was an amazing post. I'm sorry to hear about your husband's grandmother, but I do wish you both a happy anniversary. Yep, eating truffles in a hammock with your beloved sounds like a pretty good way to go.

Star said...

Yes you was (cute). Happy Anniversary. My condolenes for your loss. It is so often the caregiver who suffers becuase they out themselves last.

Karen said...

That was beautiful Jocelyn. As I read about the failing health of GGma and GGpa I was instantly reminded of my paternal grandparents. While, thankfully, neither was afflicted with alzheimer's, it was so hard on my grampie when my nana passed that he seemed to just give up on life and he passed away just over a year later.

I'm glad that you and Groom have such beautiful memories of their relationship and how it seems to be mirrored in that of you and your honey. Never take each other for granted and who nows, you might just make it to that hammock together.

My condolences.

Glamourpuss said...

Happy anniversary, Jocelyn. You give me hope.

Puss

Jazz said...

Damn Joce, you're not supposed to make me cry on a monday morning.

furiousBall said...

God Bless you two. I'm in a rough patch and not a big fan of love or people in love. But the truth is, this is what I need to see and hear, because if nothing else, I want my kids to believe that love is still out there.

lime said...

perhaps, being the literary type youare, you know of the myth of philemon and baucis. though being poor they welcomed and lavished hospitality upone the disguised zeus and hermes who rewarded them with the wish of their choice. after a moment of private conversation they came back asking that philemon woudl never have to live a day without his beloved baucis and baucis would be spared the agony of burying her philemon. they lived a full life and in their last moments embraced and turned into an oak tree and a linden tree with a fused trunk. seems fitting.

my wishes for such a long and loving life for you and groomeo. my sincerest condolences to you all in the loss of ggma and special prayers for the comoft ggpa needs at this time.

oreneta said...

My grandmother had altzeimers when my grandfather died. We had to tell her that he had died over and over and endlessly over. It was heart rending every time.

My deepest condolences, and congrats on the anniversary for you two! Truffle fridges rule.

Franki said...

If I weren't such a cold hearted, recalcitrant curmudgeon, I would tell you what a fuzzy-wuzzy, heartwarming post this was.

*sniff*

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

This was a wonderfully beautiful post. I am sorry for your loss. I am moved deeply by your tale of love and devotion. I am glad you have such a wonderful husband. I am fascinated by your husband's interest in raptors. You had my emotions going in every direction.

Her Grace said...

Oh. Oh my. I wasn't expecting that today.

Isn't love remarkable? That it can persevere when all else is lost. Your story touched me deeply.

Happy anniversary. That was a beautiful love letter to your groom.

JohnnyC said...

Yous is cute today too.

This is another of your posts that pulls the tears to the fore. Give that hubby of yourn a hug for me...
-j

Jill said...

Happy Anniversary. And may you have many more together.

choochoo said...

You was very cute. Damn right purty, you were. And you're still cute. Cuty petooty, or however you spell that.

Top cat said...

Thank you for this beautiful, touching post jocelyn.

Happy Anniversary

Diana said...

Sniiiiiiiiiiiiiffff.

It's not nice to make me blubber at work.

My sorrow for GGpa. My warmest regards for GGma, who went like we'd all like to go.

I wish we were all fortunate to have spouses like you, the GGs and me.

The tears are forming at the thought of losing my beloved, so I'm going to have to stop. Sniffles I can cover, tear tracks are harder to explain away.

What a lovely post.

(You was sure was cute, yes indeedy. Happy Anniversary. Pass the damn kleenix. No, the big box.)

SQT said...

How is it each of your posts get better and better? Such excellence cannot be possible!

Strangely, my husband's Grandma died last week. She was 95 and ready to go, so it was no shock to anyone. Her sister had died just the week before and she seemed to lose steam after that. But it's still strange....

We've been through the Alzheimers thing too. My mom's cousin was diagnosed with the early onset type before he was 50 and it was brutal. He died before 60 with the brain capacity of a 3-year-old. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

But I love that you finished your post on a hopeful note. What a great tribute to your husband.

Claire said...

Lucky, lucky you! Ya done good and he has a million-megawatt smile as well!
How wonderful to have had GGma and GGpa as such good examples of matrimonial bliss. We haven't had any grandparents around for a long time and sometimes I'll think that we should import an elderly person upon occasion cuz they're so smart about life. My mother lives far away and is not a particularly good grandmother to my children. My example of how Not to be when it is my turn.

My Reflecting Pool said...

I am sorry for your husband and your loss. What a beautiful love story you have here. Yours and GGMa.

You two sound like wonderful peas in a pod. And who knew anyone else spoke your language?! What a lucky find for you. :)

Tina Rowley said...

Oh, this is a killer. What beauty. I'm so sorry for your husband, and you, and GGpa. I wish I could import concentrated comfort to all of you.

Love, loss: oh, the terrifying, gorgeous realness of it all.

I am delighted for you that you have the sort of love that leaves that kind of devastation in its wake. You will really have lived, won't you? Is one way to look at it. We've got to pick a good way to look at it.

What a blogger you are. The caterpillar's kimono.

jen said...

sigh. this is the love that matters. good for you for finding it.

Tai said...

Gah.

Dorky Dad said...

Happy Anniversary! A wonderful post, as always. I'm sorry about your grandparents-in-law, but we can all hope to have a love such as that which lasts so long.

susan said...

I hate it when you make me bawl! What a wonderful post.

Happy Anniversary and I'm so sorry for your loss.

Karen MEG said...

That was a beautiful post, you made me laugh and cry, seriously, almost at the same time.
You're such a lovely writer.
Sorry about the loss of your DH's Gma. My husband lost his mother to Alzheimers about 7 years ago. Amazing the times that an Alzheimer's patient can be lucid.
Happy Birthday, happy anniversary, and many, many more.
And let the records show, I called a particular bird a craven for years. You know, a cross between a raven and a crow. Still makes my husband laugh.

rak said...

you bring beauty to even the most difficult of circumstances and it is very evident that you embrace life and find a place for each event in it.

actonbell said...

Wow, that was fantastic. Happy anniversary! That is a very cute picture of the two of you:)
And I'm sorry to hear about your husband's grandparents--that's a very sad situation.

Em said...

I'm sorry for your loss. The story of him sitting beside her bed is heart breaking.

Congratulations on your years together. What a beautiful tribute to your hubby. I wish for you two all 104/101 years and hammock and a beautiful final day together in it.

Maddy said...

Close unions are what we all yearn for. I'm glad that they enjoyed theirs and I hope a similar path lies ahead for you both.
Best wishes

frannie said...

I am so deeply sorry for GGpa and your family's loss.

and so deeply glad that you have Groomeo

Jamie said...

I don't know what to say.
That was beautiful.
You painted such a beautiful picture of his grandparents' love and your love for eachother.
Happy anniversary and many blessings to you both...and to GGpa.

Theresa said...

Tag! You're it! Come and play.

Voyager said...

You've got a special one, for sure. Happy anniversary.
V.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I'm sorry for your loss and your husbands. All of my grandparents were dead by the time I was 16 years old. I can't imagine a life time with them. What a loss.

Happy Anniversary. I'm so glad he has someone to appreciate him.

Spider Girl said...

That was, in the same breath, both heartbreakingly poignant and inspirationally romantic.

I hope my own husband and I are both older than the mountains before we have to say goodbye.

CS said...

Lovely post. I have lost all my grandparents (including a few steps who I consider "real" grandparents). I miss them.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

may your union last as long as his grandparents' did. It sounds like they and you have something special.

HeatherAnn Fragglehead said...

Oh, poor GGpa. That's the only drawback I can see to spending your entire life with someone. When you live together for 50+ years, it must be nearly unbearable to lose them, even though you realize that getting old and dying is all part of the deal.

Your husband sounds like a terrific partner and father to your kids. :) And gosh, if you two aren't adorable in that picture.

Shari said...

Sorry to hear that. It made me think about the song "Where've You Been" by Kathy Mathea. It was about a couple who have been married a long time and were in separate rooms at a nursing home. He was wheeled in to see her and she missed him so much.

My thoughts and prayers are sent to you and yours.

Mother of Invention said...

I am sorry for your and your husband's loss. I am 53 and my parents are 86 and 88. I have been really lucky to have them for so long, but you always want them longer.
Your in-laws were a touching and loving couple and your account shapes a lasting vivid image in my mind of love and companionship eternal.

Hope you guys have many more anniversaries together with truffles!

Ann(ie) said...

That is the cutest picture of the two of you. Definitely a match made in heaven. Sorry about his Grandma. =( At any age it's hard to lose them. I lost my first Grandparent in my 30's, too. Congrats to you, both darlin. You have such a lovely family!!

Princess Pointful said...

I thought you were going to make me cry again, but I ended up smiling at the end.
It is such a blessing to know that love like that really does exist.