(Note: Wrote this in October but for some reason I haven't been able to bring myself to post it. Maybe it's gotten easier with passing time. I still cry when I see him.)
Last weekend Mr. PW and I, being in Illinois for another event, went to go visit my Papou in his new nursing home. It was unavoidable that he go; he'd had a serious fall in July that left him in the hospital for a while and continuing health issues necessitate supervision. He'd managed to make it to his mid-eighties living alone, quite an accomplishment.
He was happy and talkative, really settled in to his new home. He told us stories about how nice the place was, how good the food was and all the stuff there was to do and how nicely the staff cared for him.
My Papou's lived an incredible life. A native Cuban that left in the mid-fifties to avoid getting sucked into the revolution (the Castros were family friends and to be educated and known by name was suddenly very, very dangerous). A doctor that reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force. A second husband to a strong, intelligent (and more than occasionally batshit) Greek woman with a gaggle of daughters who have doted on him and cared for him to this day. The only grandfather I've ever known. The smell of expensive cigars and $10 slipped into my hand every time I saw him. Watching us splash in the waves in Sand Key. Red snapper and fried plantains. A solid, quiet guy that in all my memory has never raised his voice to me.
Someone who's supposed to be there forever.
I've certainly encountered death before. My Yiayia and both fathers-in-law, all gone within five years of each other. I know it comes for all of us. And Papou certainly isn't dying yet.
But suddenly knowing that he is in his last home and that his family is now all Visitors - that's been a shock. I haven't been able to go see him without crying in the car on the way home.
And then we go back to Wisconsin and go back to work and do laundry and shop for groceries, and the fact that we're not bringing him with us hurts, despite the knowledge that we're utterly unprepared and unable to care for him.
I don't know. How do you write about the grief process when you're in the middle of it? And make no mistake, it's grieving. It's grief for the slow loss of vitality, for the loss of a long future taken for granted. It's grief for the knowledge that I will go through this, again and again, with everyone I care for, everyone that means anything to me. The knowledge that I will go through it myself, and if I'm lucky, someone will be there to cry over me.