I keep wanting to begin this entry, “Well, crap!” But it seems out of place, and maybe a little disrespectful.
Rudder is the only person I know to have reached the age of 40 with four grandparents still alive. He did not make it a quarter of the way through his forty-first year able to make the same boast. His grandparents were all doing well until the last decade or so, but in that period his grandmothers especially have been going through some health issues. His mom’s mother has had something that’s not Alzheimer’s but has the same progressive loss of memory. At first it was just the short-term memory; even as recently as the summer before last she was still able to reminisce about some of their old family trips. But in the past year she got to where she didn’t recognize anyone, then didn’t respond and had trouble swallowing. It’s all been very hard on her husband, who was the primary caretaker for all but the last year or so, though Rudder’s parents visited frequently and did as much as they could. And of course it’s been hard on her three children, seeing their mother slip away.
We knew that it would be soon, and we’ve been in that state where when you come home, the first thing you do is to check the answering machine,a nd you’re glad if there are no messages. She did slip away, for good, just as Monday began. Where the “crap!” part comes in is that, through no one’s fault, we didn’t find out until yesterday evening. Rudder’s parents were down there, to be with his grandfather, and it’s several hours from where they live. They e-mailed us on Monday – they wouldn’t have wanted to make a trans-Atlantic call on his phone – but they e-mailed, of course, from his computer. Apparently he still had our old e-mail address in his directory. When we left Arizona and our old ISP, we decided to keep the web access to that e-mail account for a few months, and we haven’t gotten around to shutting that down. I check it once in a while and very fortunately I checked it late yesterday afternoon.
We spent yesterday evening deciding whether to go home for the memorial service tomorrow morning. It will be a small one, and it sounds as if the other grandchildren won’t be there either (for some of them it would be even more difficult to get there than for us) so no one is expecting us there, but of course it would be good to be there. But we’d have had to make arrangements last night, find a flight with available seats, book it, somehow find a catsitter, and leave early this morning to get halfway around the world, arriving late Thursday night for a Friday morning service. Maybe if coincidence had worked differently and we’d found out a day earlier the logistics might have been more feasible, but as things are we decided to stay here and visit Rudder’s grandfather maybe this summer. Rudder seems to be doing OK, but I’m keeping an eye on him. This wasn’t unexpected and really his grandmother left a long time ago, but nothing is as final as death. This is the first time he’s lost a relative he was close to, I think. He had spoken to his dad earlier, but called again to talk to his grandfather; he said [what sounded to me like] all the right things and I was both proud and impressed. I married into a good family. I wish it had been a little more possible for us to be there tomorrow morning. I wish I could think of something better to say than, “Well, crap.”