Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back and Healing

Well, after some drama, all 4 of us flew to Michigan last week to be there for Mr. Chick's grandmother and ultimately attend the memorial service for his grandfather. We were there for 5 nights (thank GOD for hotels with indoor swimming pools!). We all sort of hung around the house, wanting to DO something, but having nothing in particular to do. That's the way it is with death and grieving, I suppose. You want to help in some way, but really, just your presence is help enough. Although Mr. Chick and I did prepare a really great homemade dinner for everyone one night - roast beef with cheesy scalloped potatoes (from scratch, thankyouverymuch - 2 batches) and steamed carrots with a mustard/brown sugar glaze, and a big green tossed salad. Peeling and slicing and cooking all those potatoes helped me fill one afternoon, at least. And they were delicious, if I do say so myself.

Various relatives trickled in for the memorial, most of whom I've met before at family reunions. All very nice people. They came from all over: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, Oregon, Montana. The US was well-represented.
Some drove, some flew commecially (like we did), and some flew in their own private planes. But they all got there one way or another. And while it was great to see them, it was stressful on the widow because she wasn't sure what they might be expecting. Did they expect dinner? When would they be arriving? Would they go straight to the hotel, or come to the house? Calming these sorts of fears and anxieties seemed to take up a large chunk of time. We were always brewing fresh coffee, it seemed.

At the memorial service itself, the church was packed full. LOTS of people came from all over to pay their respects. It was very nice to see. That was one of the points that worried Mr. Chick's grandmother: would people come? Did we schedule it inconveniently? Those fears were put to rest: people most assuredly came. In spades.

Mr. Chick was asked to speak at the service. He spent some time drafting and refining a eulogoy for his grandfather. His words were beautiful and he did a wonderful job. He kept it short and sweet, but full of emotion. He shared a story about a plane he built one summer when he was out visiting his grandparents. He and his grandfather worked on it together for hours and hours. When it was finished, they took it out to the garage to start it up, but it wouldn't start. They couldn't get the thing running and flying. Then Mr. Chick had to return home and the plane never got off the ground, instead ended up in the basement (where it remains to this day - I saw it.) Mr. Chick went on to say that that plane represented his time with his grandfather, something he will always cherish. He said that he intends to build a plane with his son, someday, and think of his grandfather. I don't think there was a dry eye in the place. Certainly not mine. The kids attended the service (I wasn't sure about this, but we didn't have a sitter and Mr. Chick's grandmother specifically wanted them there) and they both behaved angelically. I was really surprised at how well they did during the whole trip. Excellent behavior from them both. I was really proud of them.

Those were the good parts of the trip. The connection to family members and the sharing of memories of a special man that touched us all. There were some lowlights to the trip as well. The evidence of alcholism in my mother-in-law was a big downer and had a negative impact on us all. Apparently she drank quite a bit - alone in the garage where she hid her stash - during the week we were there. In binges, mostly, from what we could tell. Her twisted thinking and views about me was another (she didn't want me to come to Michigan and feels I "mistreat" her. Which is weird because I've never been anything but nice/cordial towards her, and haven't talked with her in months and haven't seen her in over 18 mos. since she nearly ruined Mr. Chick's graduation. Mr. Chick knows the truth - that she's crazy - but it's still hard to deal with. Mr. Chick's grandmother called me specifically to say SHE wanted ALL of us to come.) MIL kind of kept her distance from everyone, as far as I could tell, and it was probably for the best. At least she wasn't a mean or sloppy drunk.

Another downer was that both kids had colds when we left, and Mr. Chick got it while we were there. That sucked. Also, my period started. That's never fun, either, especially while travelling. We returned home to find Nicholas' fish had died, probably because we turned the heat off in the house while we were gone. Our neighbor was coming by the feed the fish, but it died anyway. Nicholas was SO SAD and cried and cried. We flushed Buzz 2 and made promises to get another fish today. Not a happy homecoming.

So today feels a little surreal. We're right back into the swing of things with Nicholas going to school this morning, Mr. Chick going to work, and Lauren starting a new session of gymnastics. I'm doing laundry and cooking, which except for that one big dinner, I haven't done in DAYS. It's like we never left. Only we did. It's bizarre. It's like we travelled to another world, put our lives on pause, and now we're back. We have nothing to show for our travels except a slightly hollow feeling. We didn't DO anything while we were gone. We spent the majority of the time at the house or sleeping at the hotel. We talked, somberly. We looked at pictures and visited with people we rarely see. It's like we checked out and time went by without us, and now we're back. Very strange and hard to describe.

Time will tell how Mr. Chick's grandmother fares in the aftermath. MIL is the last to leave sometime this week, probably. Everyone else has already gone. I suspect everything will hit her then. The deafening silence of being alone for the first time. She has a tight network of friends, many of whom are widows themselves, who will look after her. We'll be touching base more frequently to make sure she's OK. It's going to be hard, but there is no avoiding it, sadly. Hopefully we can convince her to come see us, now that she can travel again.

If death is such a normal part of life, why must it be so hard and sad??

My only answer to your last question is that it is so final. You know there are loved ones left here who will desperately miss the one who's no longer here. No more chances for hugs, no more chances for a chat, not even a smile across the dinner table.

The beauty of it, I believe, is that our time here is short no matter how many years and we will have eternity together. Maybe it's a naive view, but it has been a comfort to me.
This is the part of "growing up" that I hate.

I'm glad you all made it back safe and sound.
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