Coming to terms with mortality: 'Keep in touch' has a new meaning

Heads up: This post is about the passing of my grandfather and includes some discussion of hospitals and such. 

I last spoke with my grampie on July 21  - just two months ago.  He’d spent a week in Chicago celebrating all types of family and then headed back to his Missouri bachelor pad to recover from our chaotic clan. When I picked up the phone, he told me he’d just returned home and, as promised, called to give me some info to share with my pops.  He’d also left his beloved address book in our guest bedroom.

The next day marked the last time I spoke to my grandpa. I found myself in Missouri singing the peanut song  to the beat of his intubated snoring. He had suffered a stroke and remained in a deep coma after surgery.

It’s amazing how one can be pragmatic yet unabashedly delusional. You honor the DNR and request that nurses swap out the ventilator for a time machine. You don’t let go of his hand because maybe he’ll squeeze it when he hears someone poking fun at him or the sound of two of his daughters swapping high school stories.

The G was at my house for breakfast Monday and five days later was snoring peacefully in his quiet hospice room. There we sat for hours, all breathing the same air.

I’m convinced the old guy waited for his close friend Greg to arrive steal our attention away with fishing tales before he finally let go. Grandpa never liked the spotlight.

Later on, after we'd found our way back to his house, everyone retreated to their respective corners to grieve. I planted roots in his office. Number one on my 'to-do' list? Sorting through his massive collection of greeting cards because that was obviously the most pressing task.

You get a present! And you get a present! And you get a present!

You get a present! And you get a present! And you get a present!

In the process of culling out the junk (EVERY RECEIPT SINCE 2007 organized by month) from the relevant paperwork, we found eight different address books in addition to the one I carried with me from Chicago. Add to that lists of holiday gifts purchased (and corresponding names) that filled legal pads and the tears shed by everyone with whom we spoke (bank tellers, pet groomers, waitresses, medical professionals, etc.) and there was no doubt that the man was royalty when it came to relationships. King was his middle name after all.

I can't speak for my aunts and cousins, but when I'd met his Missouri family during past visits, never were they allowed to gush about the G. He'd cut them off with a humble “harrumph” and wave of the hand. Then we'd indulge in a slice of homemade pie.

All of that changed when we hosted an open-house/memorial of sorts at his favorite restaurant, Leona’s. Ms. Leona greeted us donning a pair of earrings he’d gifted her last Christmas. The waitress told us she still had the article he’d handed her a few weeks prior about a recall on her car. He'd offered to chauffeur her around until she got it fixed, which was probably more dangerous than driving a recalled Jeep.

The most epic memorial note ever recorded. I love it.

The most epic memorial note ever recorded. I love it.

During the next two hours, we visited with friends, neighbors (new and old), bankers, brokers, medical professionals - he was everyone's best bud. All week they stopped by to help us pack, share stories, cry and deliver food. My grandpa was so goddamn cool.

So now, without him getting to take credit (which he'd never do anyway), I’m trying to be more like my grampie. I have a stack of cards for every occasion, lists of birthdays and anniversaries mapped out and books of stamps ready to go. I may not be as capable as the old man, in fact I've already missed a few, but I’m certainly inspired. He led such a full life and after thinking on it over the past few months, it seems obvious that connecting with the folks you love is pretty much the point of our time here. So thanks, G. I hope I don't screw it up.

More about the G here.

Don't rely on fickle Facebook for updates. Subscribe to Swirleytime below for more stories of screw-ups, caregiving and weird observations. Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Leave a comment

  • Advertisement:
  • Advertisement:
  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Meet The Blogger

    Annie Swingen

    Chicago-based hyperbole enthusiast. Mom to a kid and sometimes my mom. Overboard (1987) obsessed weirdo. I like the funnies in life.

  • Recent posts

  • Monthly Archives

  • Tags

  • Latest on ChicagoNow

  • Advertisement: