31 December 2011

Winter's dying days

Two of my friends have parents dying - one of cancer, one of AIDs. One friend survived a suicide attempt and is coping with alcoholism. Two other friends are mourning a friend who died in a motorcycle crash. I am sure there is more.

We went to the San Bernadino Mountains for Christmas this year; my whole extended family was present. At least twenty people of varying relation at any given time. My grandparents, who are now great great grandparents, are in their late eighties. My grandfather has had a bypass this last year and my grandmother had open heart surgery leading to a coma and stroke. He used to build houses - built the majestic and spacious house we occupied over the holiday, build churches. She was a talent at anything she touched: knitting, quilting, painting, gardening, stained glass…

They are in good health all in all but we can see the end in clear sight - them and I and whomever else would care to. My grandmother, already deaf, is experiencing a progressive dementia. She has replaced a busy creative hand with a wandering compulsive tidiness. You can see it is hard on her. She is sharp even still. You can see its hard on my grandfather - no longer the faultless patriarch, for good and for bad. You can see the loss of self sufficiency challenging him, but the responsibility somehow remain. Somehow he still takes care of my grandmother.

They are like two refugees huddling together out on a cold and damp overhang - only each others’ complaining bodies for comfort, but somehow warm though not warm

My grandmother lays full on my grandfather in his easy chair - something i have never seen, and neither have I seen such contentment in him than at these times.

The life is in them - they are not haggard and pathetic. My grandfather cracks jokes and dons my grandmother’s bra when she has misplaced it. She proudly gives tours of the house to anyone fortunate enough o take the time. She used to show me what she was working on, now she shows what she had done.

Its hard on everyone, this life. They have a lot of faith and I envy them that.

This was the hill over my grandparents’ house. It was recently devastated by wood beetles

Old toad survives the snows