It’s strange how a moment in time can both seem like yesterday, and like a lifetime ago. That’s how I feel about my grandpa’s passing. He died exactly one year ago on the 27th, when baby D was just 4 weeks old, and our lives have changed so much since then that it seems like a decade since I spent the days after his passing going through pictures and making the poster boards to display at his funeral.
I hate that he’s not here. To see D grow and develop into a little human with his own personality. To hear about my promotion to Vice President, a day he really wanted to see and said he’d even throw a party for me. To send me emails of whatever joke, photo, or interesting video he came across on the Internet. I still have several unread emails in my inbox of the hundreds he sent me the last few years he was alive.
I hate that he’s not here for the rest of my family. I’d by lying if I said everyone was doing ok. Of his four children, two of them haven’t stepped foot inside my grandparents’ house since before he died. They can’t. Or won’t, rather. My mom and my aunt won’t speak to each other, and each of them have had what I would classify as nervous breakdowns at one point or another, and they still haven’t dealt with his death. One cousin is battling depression while the other is holding it together physically, but is an emotional wreck whenever he’s mentioned. And my grandma, well, she’s fine most days but she still has her moments. And she’s lonely. I sent her flowers to help make this anniversary a little less painful. I don’t know if it helped.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Having a baby saved my sanity and brought more happiness into my life just when I needed it most.
As anyone who knows how difficult those first few months with a newborn can be, I never felt like caring for a newborn was all that bad. It’s not that we didn’t have a baby that we needed to feed every two hours, or that my nipples weren’t bleeding from pumping, or that my body bounced back quickly from the labor and c-section (it didn’t and I still can’t wear my pre-pregnancy jeans). But it seemed that way, and at many times, it felt that way. And now, looking back, I know why.
Because I was dealing with something much harder, and much more emotionally exhausting than anything those newborn months could bring. It’s hard to complain about things like sleeplessness and engorgement when you’re watching someone you love turn yellow with jaundice, unable to swallow, let alone eat (his last food intake was at least 2 weeks before he finally died). When you’re praying that his heart gives out so that the suffering can end, that’s when all the complaints about caring for a newborn just seem so insignificant, even though most people claim it’s the absolute hardest period of their lives. I say those first few months were the hardest for me too, but not because I had a newborn.
When someone is sick for a very long time, it’s hard not to look back and just recall those last few weeks and months when they were ill. It’s hard to force myself to remember the happy memories that filled my 30 years with him, before the cancer was terminal. But I try, and with a little concentration, I remember the jokes, the laughs, the stories, the singing, the phone calls, the emails, the birthdays, the Christmases, the dinners, the trips, the games and the puzzles and the nights playing cards. I wish I could remember more. I wish I had more pictures. I wish he was still here. I wish I didn’t have to wish for these things.
But this is life. A year later. And if this last year has taught me anything, it’s that life is precious and it doesn’t last. So make good memories while you can because when you’re gone, memories are all that’s left.