I thought about cancelling my last minute trip about a thousand times.
When I last spoke to my grandma, my grandpa was having a good day. I knew he would never recover, but he had eaten and seemed to have more energy. I should mention that it was my grandma's 75th birthday celebration. I know that the human body can do miraculous things...and sometimes it can rally for those important moments.
Almost immediately after her birthday, my grandpa's health rapidly declined.
I need to stop for a moment here and explain how I've been coping with this process.
Thankfully, I was able to help out midway through this difficult experience. I happened to be in Alberta, so for a few mornings, I would come over and help my grandma help my grandpa prepare for the day. More often than not it was just me standing there, stupidly, waiting to be told what to do, and then helping him out of bed, with the help from my grandma. Between the two of us we were able to get him into his comfortable chair where he would spend most of his day.
This...ripped my heart out. My grandpa...a strong man, proud, tough, happy, independent, ready to tinker with anything and always there for me to call to help me move or whatever arduous task I needed help with. Now I was helping him out of bed. Helping him eat. His weakened body turning against him.
I was there when the decision was made for him to enter into an extended care facility. I visited...regularly but hesitantly. I could not....reconcile the image of this man...confined to a wheel chair, requiring round the clock care. But then I moved away. And as much as I missed my grandpa and my family, and as selfish as I feel for admitting this, I felt relief that I didn't have the option to see my gramps in a state that was so far from his true self. So far.
This man built me my first dollhouse (except it was too short for my barbies :)). This man showed me what unconditional love meant. This man went on a cave-tubing excursion with me in Hawaii and rode around in a dune buggy with me not even four years ago. This man has a stream of comic one-liners. This man watched, "Of Mice & Men" with me and maybe cried more than I did. This man would dance with my grandma and all the ladies at the jamborees that they'd regularly attend. I can go on and on and on.
The man that I know is somewhere inside the man that exists now...barely clinging on to life. And yes, I'm still taking a vacation. For as much as I want to be with my family during their time of need....I can't. I need my memories of this man in tact, not tainted with memories of his last few days. For as much as I love my grandpa and family, I am not strong enough to witness this.
When he passes, I will be happy his illness is over. I will rejoice knowing he is at peace. I will fight through my devastation to remember ALL of the many, many, many THOUSANDS of memories that I have with him.