Now it's Grandude's time (Meamaw's husband). Yes, Grandude is like Madonna in that he only needs one name. He must be the only Grandude ever.
The entire time I was engaged I prayed that Grandude would live long enough to be at my wedding. I got my wish, and he even mustered the energy to walk me down the aisle along with my Pampie, and I'm so very thankful for that.
Although, I have to admit that selfishly it doesn't make the present situation any better. He's suffering. A lot. He was a long time smoker who was diagnosed with emphysema years ago. To be quite honest, I don't think I'm alone in thinking years ago that Meamaw would outlive him. But he's survived for a long time, although the quality of life has not been the best. He had to be on oxygen at all times. He couldn't breathe if he was outside and it was windy. When he got a cold, he ended up in the hospital because his immune system was so fragile. A little over a week ago when he ended up in the hospital, I wasn't sure if it was serious, or just another "routine" (for him) hospital stay.
I told my husband that if my mom said, without being prompted, that I needed to come to Maryland (she had already come down), then I would. She wouldn't tell me I needed to be there without reason. She did. She told me I needed to be there if I wanted to see him again. I was at a conference in Nashville, TN, and caught an earlier flight home to Philly, then drove the 3 hours down. He was in better shape, outwardly, than I expected. When Meamaw was in the hospital, toward the end, I think she knew we were there, but only the occasional hand squeeze showed us that. Grandude was in and out of consciousness, but when he was up, he was his normal self, only exhausted. He was "with it". Asking about my trip to Nashville. Asking about my husband. Cracking the occasional joke. But we knew he was suffering. He told us numerous times how uncomfortable and miserable he was. I really don't know how anyone can be comfortable in a hospital bed.
The next day he was told he had pneumonia, and made the decision that he was not going to take the medication to treat it. All he wanted was oxygen, nebulizer (for when he had a really hard time breathing), and pain medication to make him comfortable. He was ready to go. We talked about it with the doctor and he agreed to let him come home. He even said he would make the same decision for himself if he was in Grandude's shoes.
We took shifts playing nurse - giving him his medications, helping him nebulize, and fielding questions of "how long is this going to take?" and "why is it taking so long?" from Grandude himself. "It" being death. He was more than ready to go, and dealing with it better than any of us. He said there were to be no tears. I never saw one fall from his eyes - it was how we knew he was at peace with his decision. I like to think he'd been away from Meamaw for long enough, and was ready to see her again. It was heartbreaking to see how lonely he was without her. Eventually the morphine started to build up and he was unconscious, for lack of a better term. He was breathing, and moving around, but he was asleep and not opening his eyes. I really don't have a term for the state he was in. But he was comfortable, and that was comforting. Not that that stopped me from sobbing so hard that my jaw and head hurt. I had to leave him and say my goodbye before he was actually gone. It feels like that was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I know this is stupid, but saying goodbye to him while still alive felt like I was abandoning him and leaving him to die. I know that's not the case, since he is clearly dying and nothing I do can change that, nor should I want to since it's what he wants, but it's still such a hard thing to do - knowing it's the last time you will see someone alive. As morbid as it may sound, I wish he had died while I was there. I should clarify that he isn't gone yet, but it's only a matter of time. The only thing he is doing at the moment is breathing. The hospice doctor came by yesterday and said it should happen today or tomorrow (meaning yesterday or today).
I know it was the right thing for him to refuse medicine and come home to die. He was suffering. Dying takes away that suffering. He led a long and full life. He would have been 84 in May. He was a great guy, a loving and caring grandfather, father, and husband, and he'll always be the one and only Grandude. AKA "The Dude" as he would typically sign Christmas and birthday cards. I will always have great memories of him. Some will make me cry, most will make me laugh (ok, tears will probably be involved with that as well). He was a sweet, funny man, and we'll always remember his household inventions and notorious "particular" eating habits. All made us love him even more.
Hard at work at fixing a picture frame with duct tape
I'll also always have the handkerchief I had made for him for my wedding day, which I found in his house in an envelope with his placecard and invitation (how sweet is that?). That won't make me cry every time I see it or anything.
We'll always love you, Grandude. You will be missed more than words on a blog can say.
Grandude in a paper crown, winking at me.
UPDATE: Grandude passed away around 1pm on Februay 10, 2011.