Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Viewing

My paternal Grandfather passed away on Thursday evening.

That afternoon I talked to my Aunt and she told me that Grandpa's breathing was more shallow and infrequent than the day before so we knew it wouldn't be long. How many times has our family been in this position? Having a loved one on deaths door and us just sitting by the phone, watching the clock and waiting for that call. It's more than a person should witness in their young life, I'm afraid.

A co-worker gave me tickets to the Charleston Riverdogs ball game for Thursday night that she won through a drawing at work. When I got home I was emotionally exhausted and Robin and I decided at the last minute to go to the game to keep our mind off things. It had really been a rough week dealing with the Grandpa situation and coming to terms with losing him and on top of all of that, the geocaching bullshit that I was going through (which still has not ended!)

We drove downtown, parked and walked into the ball field to the drink stand. While Robin got us a Coke I happened to look down at my phone and saw a missed call from Uncle Chuck and Peggy. My heart just sank. I called them back and Peggy told me that he was gone. It was 7pm. Just like that. There I was with a bunch of people around me, standing next to a hot dog vendor and I just lost it. It took me a bit to maintain my composure. Robin asked if I wanted to leave and I said "for what? so we could just be sad at home while doing nothing?" I grabbed a bunch of napkins and we went to look for our seats.

While waiting for the game to start my mind was everywhere and it took everything I had to hold it together. Every now and then I would just become overwhelmed at the thought of Grandpa being gone and start crying. Thank God for sunglasses to hide my red, blotchy face!! We managed to stay and watch the whole game and to be honest, I can't even tell you who was playing or what the score was. My mind was a million miles away and I just knew that I didn't want to be at home.

The next day my Aunt sent me a message and told me that the wake was going to be on Sunday and the burial was going to be on Monday. Robin and I made quick travel plans and got on the road Saturday morning. We just made that trip in July to see Grandpa and it's a long and hard drive. I think it takes us about 16 hours one-way. My car needs so much work on it that we took the Miata again. By the time the we arrive our bodies are so cramped. Poor Robin takes the brunt of it since I have no clue how to drive a stick shift! As soon as we arrived in Illinois we went directly to bed!

The following day we spent shopping for clothes for Robin to wear. I honestly dislike shopping. If I never had to do it again I would be perfectly fine. I don't enjoy the wandering from store to store and I despise going to the mall. At one point we were at Burlington and I told Robin that stores should have an "adults only" shop time like they have an "adults only" swim time at the local pool. What's up with all these kids running amuck, screaming and crying? My parent's would have killed me if I acted like that! After a stop at Wal-Mart I was toast. I couldn't shop any more!

I told my Uncle and Aunt that I would call them after our errands so after checking in we decided to stop at their house. We ended up hanging out there a couple of hours talking about life and family. They told us about my Grandfather's passing, since they were there, and we talked about the funeral and viewing arrangements.

My Aunt said that they were going to make some photo boards of my Grandpa and the family and put them up at the viewing. I thought that was a cool idea. She said that my cousin was supposed to send her some photos but she had a hard time opening the files. I offered to help her, but she said she already sent them to my other cousin to open. I asked her if she wanted me to print some photos out because I had all of these really great photos from when my Grandfather was young and she told me no and that not to bother with it. I said okay...

Today when I was getting ready I started thinking about the photo boards that they were putting together. As far as I was aware I am the only one with any old photos because Grandpa gave them to me a long time ago. There are some other photos in my cousin's basement (that she has no idea where about they are!) but I knew that no one else really had any. I think I'm the only one that has an interest in family history so I am the one that highly values stuff like that (or that vocalizes it, anyway!) Also, I was curious about what photos they had of my family to put on the photo board. I don't really remember anyone taking any photos of us at any family gatherings while growing up.

After getting dressed we headed out to Herr Funeral Home in Collinsville. When we entered the room where the viewing was all three of us just froze. I felt sick and had no desire to go up to confront it all. After hesitating a couple of minutes we finally walked up to the viewing area. Now that I think about it, I have no idea what was running through my mind while standing in front of my Grandfather. I was numb and just felt defeated. All I knew was that I didn't want to be there anymore. We said a quick hello to Mil (Grandpa's wife) and started walking to the back of the chapel where we stayed for the remainder of the evening.

On the way back we passed the photo boards so we stopped to look at them. There were three big boards with about 30 photos on each one (if that). The first one I looked at was a lot of Mil's family. People I didn't even know. As my eyes moved to the right and onto the next board I saw familiar faces... my Aunt's, Uncle's, cousins and their children. There was a couple of my Dad with Grandpa and his brothers and only one of me and my sisters... it wasn't even noticeable. It was Easter - probably 1977 or so. We were at Grandma's and Grandpa's and me, Janine and Traci were sitting on the couch with Grandma and Grandpa... Denise and David were also in the picture. Other than that photo my family was non-existent on the photo boards. Really? I know we lived out of town, but we did come visit... I have always made an incredible effort to come to every family function if I was able to. W
ow. I must say that this completely devastated me and although it was possibly an "oversight" - it just spoke volumes. If the picture board was going to be done shouldn't the whole family be on it? I readily have HUNDREDS of family photos of ALL the families on my laptop that I could have easily printed...

For the rest of the evening I just wanted to be alone. I felt so lonely and isolated from this family that I had always felt so close to. Is this really what they thought of my family? Later on, before we left I double checked just to make sure I wasn't missing a photo somewhere. I looked at Robin and asked if I was being petty. Earlier in the evening I was talking to a cousin about it and they said they didn't think it was a big deal and I responded "just think if the roles were reversed... you walked in and saw all of these photos on this poster board, a lot of people that you don't even recognize (Mil's family) and then a bunch of photos of your cousins and their families and NOT ONE PHOTO of your own family... as if you were non-existent! My Father was Grandpa's middle son... I am his first-born grandchild"

I felt so sick that I just wanted to leave. When the viewing was drawing to a close I paid my respects to Grandpa one last time and hugged Mil, Uncle Chuck and Peggy and started to leave. Uncle Chuck knew that I was upset about something and asked what was wrong. I said "nothing". I really, really, really tried to just keep it in but when I hugged Peggy I had to say something about it and I immediately felt bad because they already have enough crap to deal with other than my hurt feelings.

It is what it is and it can't be taken back... not Grandpa's death, not the cancer devouring our family, not the omission of my family... nothing. What I once knew is no longer and it's time to change the direction of my path... whatever that may be, and wherever it may lead me.

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