Looking for Grandpa

A morning of fog enshroudment, in which I arise early to turn on this day with coffee at the keyboard. The last couple of days I’ve written a few thoughts about death. I’m not obsessed with the subject, especially since July is the month so full of life. The awkward comparison between that of the living and that of the dead becomes more apparent to me this time of year. In winter I gasp for sunlight, for enlightenment, for better expression of the simpler landscape around me. In July I feel safer writing about death because there is so much life all around me, as though I am padded or protected against it. What wishful thinking to trust the flimsy security of July!

My father died on June 30th, 2003, my mother July 21, 1999. Between those two calendar dates a solemnity, a summer fog, settles in over me. My thoughts do not run toward morbidity, but my intuitive feelers tend to curl out and become more attuned to listening for the lower, unseen elements of living. Because so much of my life, as with everybody else, is crowded with exterior noise, a sort of summer weekend traffic jam at the beach, I often feel the need to look or to make room for quietude. A trip to the Sierras for a few days, or just hiding out in my garden among the tomato vines as I listen to them grow–whatever it takes for me to connect with the sublime forces that keep me interested in being alive.

The day my dad died he lay in the hospital bed, overtaken with Parkinson’s disease. It had caused him to not be able to relate well with those around him. He still seemed to be alert, albeit drugged. He looked pensively through the window from his bed in the hospital all day long, and would occasionally call out “Bob”. We thought it was his brother Bob in Missouri, but never knew for sure, because another patient named Bob had somehow gotten through his Parkinsonian fog enough to communicate with him a day or two earlier, and this patient’s name was also Bob. The day was tough for all of us, as it had been for us when my mother died. We had, as with my mother, to concur with the doctor, to let him go, when we wanted him to stay, but understood how much he was suffering.

I walked around that hospital floor most of the day, just messed up in my mind, distraught. This was the same floor in the same hospital where I had experienced my ten seconds worth of personal visit time with God about twenty-five years before, the single event that changed my life more than any other. Now I was back, not as a nursing assistant, but as a grieving son about to lose his father. I feel as if I am always looking for my father. If it is not our father who art in heaven that I am looking for, then it is my own father. Even when he was alive and I was young, I felt like I was looking for him. He was there physically, and not particularly distant emotionally, but I always seemed to be looking for his essence, in the same way that I look for my own on these warm July days when I am looking for the quietness of life. What was it that I had inherited from him, exactly, that made me who I am? If I could somehow understand what had been given to me, from him, then I might understand myself better.

I suppose this problem I set before myself is not uncommon, but a prevalent theme in literature. For a few years now I have also been looking for my grandfathers and great grandfathers through genealogy and history research. In looking for grandpa, I feel as if I am looking for myself. Funny thing is through the wonder of the internet and through the diligence of other family members, I have actually uncovered quite a bit of information about many of my grandfathers. It seems that I now have even more research to do.

My father went unconscious late in the afternoon. The doctor began the drip of medication that would eventually haul him out of here. I recall being quite sleepy and quite sad and knew how the ending of the story would go, so I left him about 9PM. My wife and daughter kept vigilance at his bedside until about midnight, when they called me. I was spending the night at his house. They reported that his breathing had stopped and his skin was now beginning to turn a light blue. I told them to come home. They had no need to be there any longer. The final chapter in his life had come to full climax, there, maybe a hundred feet away from where I had lived through my most unusual religious experience. I’m convinced that only thin walls separate us from one another. A few other events would follow along a year or two later that would further my understanding and deepen my search.

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