My grandmother was in a full-care facility. As long as I can remember, she had troubles with circulation in her legs, and in the middle of the night she’d go pound pound pounding around the house, waking up a couple of times a night it seemed, to get the blood flowing to her legs. Eventually both of her legs were amputated. She was in poor and failing health, and no, neither of my grandparents indulged in any obviously bad vices. My grandfather had smoked at one point, I think. They were both partial to the occasional beer or wine, so far as I can recall. They were just getting old is all.
So there’s my grandmother, fretting away in the euphemistically-named retirement center, and my grandfather is on his way out to see her. He’d do this a couple of times a day, driving his giant, gleaming, white boat of a car with matching white (leather?) interior. How the man kept that car in such good condition in the state of Colorado is beyond me. It probably got about 5 miles to the gallon on the highway and its frame was probably real plate steel, before they started compromising materials in the interest of profit. The thing was a well-built, well-maintained tank. And my grandfather was a good, conscientious driver. As I remember the story, he goes out to the garage for the car so as to visit my grandmother. Maybe he even drives around the block, but he certainly remembers something he’s forgotten, and he goes back to the house.
And dies on the front walk. Heart attack.
My grandmother grieved honestly, which is to say selfishly. “I thought I’d go first.” We all thought she’d go first, really.
Lisa and I have expressed the selfish hope to one another that I (she) go first. Because neither one of us wants to imagine what being without the other is going to be like. (Is it in bad form to joke about a suicide pact?)
There are no guarantees. There are never any guarantees, but when we connect with each other, we don’t think, we just assume that we’ll be together for a long, long time. Is this different with military families? Police? We don’t work in dangerous professions, so yeah, barring an accident, we’re going to be with each other.
That’s what we assume, until we get old. My mom still gets cranky with my dad for not being around, and he’s been gone, well, it’ll be 30 years this autumn. I’m sure these assumptions change as we age, and our mortality comes into closer focus.
But what we never expect, what the math doesn’t generally support, is outliving your child.
She didn’t sound bitter, or angry. It came across as more puzzled and sad. As Anthony’s mother hugged me, she whispered, “It’s not fair.”