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Annotations Some Days in the Life - Daily
Requiems and Shells
February 29, 2000


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So much to describe. Too long since last I wrote here, but I had little choice in the matter. My medications were adjusted several times last week, trying to figure out why I was feeling so horrible. We tracked down the answer, finally. It wasn't the boosting of the Coreg. It was the switching of diuretics to the new one, Spriolactone. When I went back to the old (as per Doctor Fleet) I got much better, very fast.

Granpa Don didn't. He had a stroke yesterday, and the decision was made to stop dialysis. A death sentence, save that he was already under one, clearly. As are we all.

He initially didn't want to have the surgery, and now you wish he hadn't, so that his last weeks weren't so traumatic. But neither he nor we wanted to let him go. We love him so very much. And he came through the surgery just fine. His heart recovered well. It was the rest of his body that really couldn't make it.

And now it was time. I'm told he could respond to his daughter's voice, but that was about it.

I learned it last night, after my follow-up with Doctor Fleet. And I felt cold, thinking of him lying in his bed, waiting to die. I slept away last night, skipping wrestling and sitting on the computer and reading and drawing and all the rest. I just... went to bed.

This has always been my response to trauma, apparently. When I was a little boy, if I got hurt on the playground or the like, I wanted to go to bed. To curl up and heal. Today, it's how I cope with pain I can't cope with. I curl up and I sleep. It's rare, but it sometimes needs to happen.

When I learned Granpa Don was off dialysis, it was too late to go see him last night. My plan was to go today. To touch his hand, which he could no longer hold and squeeze, and murmer the same words of love I did the last time I saw him, not all that long ago. To hug his daughter and give respect to a man who lived his life quietly and decently.

When thinking of Granpa Don as he was, I think of shells. He and Grammie would spend winters down in Florida, and Granpa Don would walk the beaches, finding and collecting shells. He would then glue them and affix them together into animal shapes, into figures and the like. One group I clearly remember was a group of shell men sitting around a card table, playing cards. He'd inked little playing cards for them.

He would give these shell creatures to we grandchildren. And he would give us shells as well. Boxes of them. Pretty whirling ones and clam-style shells and long spires. The bounty of the deep. I remember my sister loved those shells. I liked the animals. I used to go look at his work area for a long time, looking at his assembled creatures. He'd use little plastic clear balls with a dark ball in them, so that they'd have eyes that rattled when you shook them.

I dreamed of shells last night. And of his shuffling walk among them, and his quick smile and firm handshake. I dreamed of Granpa Don and I, walking. He was so much taller than I, so I know I was a little boy again -- these days I'm taller than he. I was a little boy who saw wonder in all things, and he was an old man, who looked at a pile of cast off bits of sea life and saw wonder too.

Granpa Don was due for dialysis next on Wednesday, and the safe bet for his passing would be Wednesday as a result. But that's not how it was. He passed away last evening. Clearly, he would have even if they hadn't decided it was time. This way, though, we all got to say goodbye before he left. In our hearts, at least. Or in our dreams.

I see him now, on a long white beach. Not alone, but with children and loved ones, and his first wife. Seeing the wonders as they walk, and making them more wonderful with his strong but careful hands. And I cry, sitting and thinking of it and typing it. Cry because I loved him, and took him for granted in my life, and now he's moved on. Cry because he made us happy, and I will miss him so much.

I'm at the office, and I'm crying. I asked Mason to close my door because I didn't trust myself to make that walk right now. I don't want the students or others to hear or see me cry like this. Not now. This grief is private, and personal. My way of expressing it to the world is in these words, not in a fat man blubbering.

We all have our shells we hide inside. All of us.

But sometimes, a bright life comes and picks us up, and holds us carefully, and joins us with other people in their shells, and makes beauty and connection out of solitude.

I miss you, Granpa Don, and I love you.

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