I found out that my FIL passed away very early last Friday morning when I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and realized Sparring Partner wasn’t in bed. I checked my phone and saw a missed call. I knew then.
SP made it home about an hour later and napped fitfully until the alarm went off at 6:00. Despite the awkward conversations between Grandpa and Doodicus, Dood adored his grandpa. I think it was one of those things where Grandpa took full advantage of his larger than life persona. SP and I decided that it would be best to tell our son right away about his grandpa’s passing.
When his dad told him that grandpa had passed away, Doodicus burst into tears. I made sure to give SP a heads-up that Dood may end up additionally upset because he was suppose to go to a friend’s house that night for a birthday party and eleven-year-olds aren’t exactly known for their unselfishness. And while he did ask through his tears if grandpa’s death meant he couldn’t see his friend, he also was upset that he hadn’t been able to see grandpa the night before like he normally does as he hadn’t been able to finish his homework in time to go visit.
We gave Doodicus the option to stay home from school or to go ahead and go and let that and his friend’s party be a distraction. I was a bit surprised when he opted to go to his classes, but happily so. We asked him not to say anything to Aitch since we had decided to tell her at the end of the day. I called my employer to let them know I would be on leave until Wednesday.
Friday ended up in a whirlwind of planning and appointments for my husband. Even though my FIL had terminal cancer and hospice care offered, he and the family had made no plans whatsoever. No plot, no casket, no obituary, no memorial, … Nothing. That coupled with the fact that many relatives would be traveling across country, the funeral was tentatively scheduled for Tuesday. The day after SP’s birthday.
My husband and his two sisters powered through the day, getting one appointment after another and making almost impossibly difficult decisions. With the kids in school, I went to the mall and tried to find appropriate attire for myself and both kids, something I literally had been thinking about doing a week earlier, knowing that the time would come soon. Dare I mention how difficult it is to find what I would deem as appropriate funeral attire for a four-year-old girl a week after Easter? Plus, there’s no place in town to buy children’s shoes except a small Payless store in the mall so I ordered several through Zappos knowing that I would have them by Monday.
By the end of the day on Friday, we were drained. We eventually told Aitch who at first seemed fine. However, as she thought it through, she asked, “Does that mean I won’t ever see Grandpa again?” and that of course brought new tears from all of us.
Over the weekend, my job was to simply keep the kids distracted and out of Sparring Partner’s hair. He spent it helping clean out the room at the nursing home and shopping for a suit. Again, small town living was detrimental. The only place in town was at a department store in the mall, which was akin to JCP. The only jacket they had in his size was a Long and it didn’t match the pants. When he tried it on for me, he looked at himself in the mirror, saw the jacket sleeves nearly covering his hands, and admitted that it simply was not going to do. Sunday, he drove to Sioux City to a menswear store and found himself a quality suit that fit. However, the tailor wouldn’t be able to alter the pants until Monday morning so SP had to make another trip, which thankfully he made to and back in record time with enough to spare for him to get ready for visitation Monday afternoon.
Neither of the kids brought up Grandpa over the weekend, and Monday they headed off to school like normal. It was an incredibly beautiful day, almost reaching 80F. It was SP’s birthday. I managed the the kids for school, made last minute preparations for the funeral the next day, and cleaned the house for visitors. I had intended to let Doodicus babysit Aitch while I went to the church for about an hour, but instead SP asked that I just come in with the kids and join him. Fortunately, I had already showered and dressed for the occasion; unfortunately, I had not prepared the children. Aitch ran around the church wearing a dirty sundress and no shoes. She looked like a hillbilly, complete with two ratty hair braids framing her face.
The most difficult part of the visitation was when Aitch spotted daddy in the front of the church surrounded by friends and family and she ran to him. He scooped her up and was holding her when she noticed the casket. “Who’s that man?” “That’s Grandpa.” “Why is he sleeping?” “Honey, he died.” Cue new tears.
Tuesday morning greeted us bleakly with cold and sleet. We were grateful that a friend was taking the little children and babysitting them together. Doodicus looked so grown up in a dress shirt and tie. Sparring Partner looked more handsome in his black suit than he did the day we got married. We arrived to be with family about 45 minutes early, but it seemed like hours. When I saw them prepare to close the casket, I asked Dood if he wanted to see Grandpa one last time, and as they closed the lid, he lost it and pretty much was weepy through the entire mass.
The ride to and from the cemetery was difficult. There were a couple stretch limos waiting for the family as well as one standard four-door Lincoln, which I chose as it allowed room only for just the three of us and the driver. Doodicus didn’t have to worry about being embarrassed as he cried on the short drive.
My FIL was given military rights, and the sight of the police officers and the Honor Guard at different intersections standing at full attention in that freezing rain was incredibly moving. They played Taps and a petty officer from the Navy presented the flag to my MIL.
Sparring Partner is holding up as well as can be expected, as is his mother. Out-of-state relatives trekked back to the airport early, no thanks to Winter Storm Waldo who delivered not just rain and sleet, but hail, thunder, lightning and snow (enough to leave us without electricity Wednesday morning). The support we’ve received from relatives and the community has made it a bit more bearable. The kids have a firm grasp of what has happened, but I think Aitch’s out-of-the-blue remarks like, “Grandpa’s in heaven and we won’t see him again,” over breakfast makes us all stop short for a moment. I’ve made sure to tell Doodicus that Grandpa was always very proud of him even though he had a hard time showing it. Each day will be a little easier as the unimportant and petty thoughts will drop away leaving behind the memories of how grand and formidable Grandpa was sitting at the head of the supper table.
DAY IS DONE (TAPS)
Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest
God is nigh.
Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing near
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky
As we go, this we know
God is nigh.
P.S. I decided to journal this for Doodicus and Aitch for Some Day.