Friday, June 11, 2010


I found out last night that my grandfather is dying. The doctors say it's a matter of days. He has two different cancers, and he is in his eighties. I should've seen him when I was in Urban City a couple weeks ago for my sister's wedding, but I was barely functional the one day I could've seen him so I didn't.

Though I haven't seen him in a while, my grandfather is a very important person to my writing and my scholarly life. He really started me on the trajectory I'm now on -- in trying to understand the mystery of him, I developed a whole collection of scholarly interests that I am still fascinated by. He was always a very difficult man, sort of cold and distant emotionally. He worked all the time, talked about war and politics during the holidays. He couldn't really relate to people on other people's terms. He was only really interested in talking about a few subjects interesting to him. Luckily, he and I shared interests -- mostly stories about his rather remarkable life -- and I wrote about him over and over again.

Part of me wants to hop on a plane, but I really can't. We don't have the money, for one thing. I would have to take the Tot because we are not at all prepared for me to be gone -- no breastmilk saved up, days that the daycare is closed when Absurdist Lover has to work. I have responsibilities here. I could ask my father for the money to fly Tot and me to Urban City, but there is a whole drama there. I owe my father tons of money already which he is angry about and mentions that "we need to talk" but then doesn't call me when he says he will and doesn't pursue clearing the air with me. Yet, I know he's still mad at me because he didn't call to tell me that Grandpa was in the hospital or anything and because my brother made reference to it. I know Dad avoids confrontation, and I should just deal with it because of course he has every right to be angry, but we're doing our best with one car and can't pay him back yet. It's hard for me to believe that he needs that money to eat the way we do. And maybe I've just been avoiding the whole thing too, because it pisses me off to have to be the one to pursue it when I'm already ashamed of the whole mess and I also have a full and exhausting life without worrying whether my father is angry at me and won't deal with it a dozen states away.

I don't want to borrow pretty much near a thousand dollars right now. I want to honor my grandfather and what he means to me -- my brother says he's only sometimes lucid -- but I also don't want to further weigh down my little family's half-deflated liferaft of hope that we're going to eventually be able to climb up and out of the financial mess we're in. I just can't do that to AL when he's working so hard and not really loving this job -- really finding some of the corporate crap impossible and ridiculous. If my father gives us the tickets, that's something else. Though it would be nothing but headache, I suppose I would take Tot on a couple planes and tough out dealing with all the stupid issues (Tot in some sort of living space not meant for an active toddler, Tot with Dad's dog, etc.) if Dad would buy us the tickets. I'm not holding my breath, though maybe he would. Obviously, I don't really want to go to Urban City, don't really think it will do much for me and my needs when losing my grandfather to deal with all that. I'm really torn. I swear to God I was already really exhausted from trying to be a good little trooper finishing up a sort of depressing quarter, driving everyone around, and dealing with Tot's being sick, which means he wants to nurse through the night, i.e., bad sleep for Mom.

I can't really expect the family to understand and respect that I'm torn between my duties to them and my duties and responsibilities to my little Absurdist Family. (My needs in the face of this loss: how do those factor in to them?) I'm not sure that there is much I can do there in Urban City -- for my grandfather, my father, my siblings. I can see my grandfather, if he makes it that long. I can go to a funeral. I should probably call my father and ask him how he's doing, despite his idiocy. (How angry and disappointed at him I am to realize that his anger toward me outweighs his letting me know that his father is dying! Did he say anything about his anger toward me at my sister's wedding? No.) I know what's important is that I make the right decision for me and feel good about it -- but that's so much easier than it sounds. What is the right decision? (Is not going the right decision for me? Or am I just trying to justify it? I don't know.)

I feel terrible. I've been in my office for hours now. I should be reading some student papers already woefully overdue to be graded. Instead, I've been writing about my grandfather (which I'm sure will turn into a eulogy that I can ask someone to read), remembering things, and reading things I wrote about him. And crying.

So what do you think? Am I the terrible daughter and granddaughter I think I am for thinking that I really can't just up and go to Urban City? Do I wait for the funeral? Do I go to the funeral at all, if I have to pay for it? I figure I shouldn't go anywhere until next Tuesday anyway, when my classes are over. Not really because my job is important, but for my own peace of mind. Maybe I'm terrible, but I'm exhausted and I need to finish up my courses. I have a couple weeks between the end of this quarter and the start of summer. Maybe I can go to Urban City then and help with whatever Dad needs help with.


~profgrrrrl~ said...

You are not the least bit terrible for feeling conflicted about what to do or for not dropping everything and going. These situations are difficult. They are about individuals, and they are about relationships, and they are so laden with stress, love, sadness, confusion ... there really is no right or wrong beyond what is right for you. And only you can make that call. You should find a way to go if you feel that it will provide the closure that you need. If you can find that closure in other ways and going will simply compound the stress of the situation, why bother?

~profgrrrrl~ said...

Yikes -- I was having such a hard time with word ver and logging in that I copied and pasted and missed my first paragraph, which essentially said:

I'm really sorry to hear about your grandfather. It's no wonder you're having a hard time working. You should honor the feelings that you're having and do what you need to do in that regard.

rented life said...

Hugs. I am so sorry to hear about your grandpa.

Nik said...

I'm not a good person to ask because I think funerals are a drag. I never feel any catharsis or community there. I missed my great-grandmother's funeral and don't regret it. I did make it to my grandpa's but then my aunt made us sing some horrible "grandpa we love you song" which is funny in retrospect but not the kind of feeling one expects to take from a funeral.
If he's not so lucid now, and not a really open person anyway, seeing him probably wouldn't hearten him. I wonder if sending one of your stories about him for someone to read would make him both happy (to hear what he likes to hear) and proud.

Earnest English said...

Thanks for the words of wisdom and help, PG, RL, and Nik. As it turns out, no one necessarily expected me to drop everything and come visit, since I was teaching. My grandfather died today, and now I'm definitely expected to get on a plane. I'm pondering what to do, because I really really don't want to go. Especially because Tot has been sick and I'm coming down with something too. Tot would be a lot to handle in any case, but if I'm sick. . .well, I can't imagine it. I'm not sure what to do, but it's wonderful to read your comments and see that at least you three don't think I'm a terrible person for not wanting to get up and go. I know some would say it's my duty to go, but. . .exactly why? Does it help my grandfather if I go to the funeral? He's dead. It's my father, I think, who's the sticking point. I'm too tired just now to figure out what to do. Gah. I'm supposed to be making arrangements.

Anonymous said...

Oh EE, I'm so sorry to hear this. You are neither a horrible person nor a horrible granddaughter.

I don't really have any advice. I went through something similar in January with my friend's mom's funeral, and even though there was much financial angst involved, I felt better having gone, and I would still be agonizing over it now. But that's just me.

My condolences to your and your family sweetie. I love you. (((((((((EE))))))))))

Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry to hear this. You may not know that some airlines offer bereavement fares, grandparents count, so you may be able to get a better fare deal than you thought you could. If you already got tickets, try for a partial rebate. Going will give you a chance to remember him with the rest of your family. If you can't take A.T. brings lots of photos.

Bardiac said...

I'm sorry for your loss, EE. My thoughts are with you.

Whatever you decide is best for you, it will be okay, I hope.