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Saturday, June 18

Divorce and dying

I'm feeling a bit sad today. I've felt that way on and off for the last few years. It started when my grandfather died, but in the last year, it's been about divorce and painful choices regarding families and my children. I was feeling sad about the whole divorce thing, but I ended up writing this about my grandfather instead...

I didn't get over to see my grandparents much during the last year before he died. I was pretty wrapped up in my own life, but there was more to it than that. Several years ago, he had a stroke that left it difficult for him to talk. It also seemed to affect his memory or maybe speech processing and his personality. It was hard to be around him at first because he seemed almost like a different person. It almost seemed to me as if the grandfather I knew was dead. I wondered if I'd ever see him again or if I'd feel like it was really him.

Eventually, he recovered some and regained more of his speaking skills, he seemed more like I remembered him again. I forgot about feeling like he was "gone". He seemed pretty down, though. It got harder and harder for him to get around.

The last time he was admitted to the hospital, I didn't feel sad. I felt sick. It was the same feeling I'd get when I was a kid and something bad would happen to a beloved pet. I wanted to avoid it - the whole business of dying and feeling sad. I managed it most of the time up until then, but I think it had some very bad effects. Mostly, I think it created a distance between me and other people. I wasn't fully aware of it. I knew that something didn't seem quite right about me. I didn't seem to feel the same way other people did about death and other sad things. I might get sad for a few minutes, but then I'd either feel sick ... or nothing.

I had mixed feelings about being at the hospital with him. I was afraid that if I spent a lot of time with him, it would be more painful to lose him, but I didn't want him and the rest of my family to think I didn't care. I also thought that maybe I should stop being such a coward and just get through it. Maybe I'd have real feelings about things and be a better person for it. I didn't know what to do exactly, but I visited as often as I could and tried to help.

I'm glad I did. I learned things about him that I'd never known - from friends and family that visited and remembered things together with him. It was also one of the rare times I saw him accepting help. I know he didn't like that he needed help, but he still showed appreciation for it. The hospital had a bunch of weird rules about what he could and couldn't drink or eat, but they looked the other way while we brought him ice cream and other goodies that were normally restricted for him because of his diabetes. He seemed to especially love seeing the children in the family. When I brought him a picture of my children, he looked at it for a long time and then kept it in his shirt pocket.

The last time I saw him, he was feeling pretty bad and disoriented. I wasn't sure he was really aware of much. I tried to soothe him, and it meant a lot to me when he squeezed my hand. When he was asleep and seemed comfortable, I went home. I was awoken a few hours later with a phone call that he had died. I took it pretty hard. I don't know if any of my family could tell. I thought I did pretty well keeping myself together in front of my family. I'm not sure why, but I hate crying around other people. I think I would have preferred to skip the whole funeral process, but it seemed important to my family, so I went. There were some nice parts to it, but I would rather have been alone. I can't hear the music that was played without getting teary eyed. I have a hard time thinking about him without getting that way. I have to be in the right mood to be cheerful, so I'm careful about how I bring it up.

My feelings about it came as a surprise to me, a little. I hadn't thought that I'd be much affected since I seemed to be away from him for long periods of time without missing him. He was pretty quiet and easy-going, really. He'd crack corny jokes (the same ones I've heard him say since I was a kid), ask about how I was doing, and generally be "proud" and encouraging. Sometimes we'd argue politics or some other controversial subject. It was always in fun although sometimes it seemed to bug my grandma.

I still miss him when I let myself. I thought I would feel it less as time went on, but it doesn't seem to be the case. I don't think of him as frequently, but when I do, it's still hard. Sometimes I'll see someone that looks a little like him and want to talk to them and tell them, but I can't do it. It's too emotional for me.

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