Monday, August 22, 2005

My Son's Dad's Dad

Last night my son's dad called to say his dad had been hospitalized with chest pains, but the doctor had said he would probably be fine and live another year. R. was pretty upset about it, but said he was okay. Today he called to say that his dad's heart stopped this morning and the hospital staff weren't able to revive him. He said his dad was alone, not surrounded by loved ones, as R. had sort of predicted would happen. He'd thought his dad would, in a way, choose a moment when no one was around. I said, "Not one for a big production," and R. laughed through his tears. He says the sadness comes in waves. Anyway, he's going to fly back to Miami. He hasn't talked to his mom yet. We briefly discussed how to tell the kiddo, and I said it was fine if he wanted to tell him on the phone today (I left it up to R.) and that I was comfortable answering any questions the kiddo might have.

R. told the kiddo on the phone that Grandpa had died, and the kiddo relayed that to me (he'd been aware that Grandpa had been hospitalized with "chest pains," although he didn't know what that meant), and then he told R., "He won't be able to play any more," and sort of giggled. I think he was a little bit uneasy and I don't think he totally gets it. He wasn't all that close to R.'s dad because of the distance and seeing him only once or twice a year, but after he hung up with R., I asked him if he had any feelings he wanted to talk about, and he told me he hates me. So something's going on in that little head and heart. He's been a little clingy since the phone call, and has been easily frustrated to tears with his GameBoy, which is unusual, although he says he doesn't have feelings about Grandpa. Obviously that's not true, so I'm navigating this in the dark and giving him lots of hugs.

I told R. he could come over to pick up the kiddo if he wants to spend some extra time with him today, and R. said he would think about it; I know he has lots of phone calls to make and flights to arrange, in addition to seeing his regular clients and pulling himself together to be present for them. He's never had anyone close to him die before and, knowing him as I do, I imagine this sort of initiation must be especially hard for him. I was thinking that maybe R. needs a hug and since he and I aren't on hugging terms (so complicated), maybe he could have a little contact with the kiddo and that would be a good thing for them both. I don't know. The kiddo heard me talking and is hoping Daddy will come over, so maybe he has feelings about that, too. I might pick up a couple of flowers and bring them over to R.'s house and just leave them on the step later. I don't want everything to get too weird for anyone, but I do want to do something.

I didn't know R.'s dad all that well, but I was fond of him and R. tended to think of us together because we're both Virgos; that was meaningful (positively and negatively) to R. A few years ago, on D.'s birthday (his name really was D. -- he went by his first initial because he didn't like his first name), I wrote him a card, saying that my birthday wish for him was that he really know how much he is loved. I think the extra time he got (from his lung cancer diagnosis in 2000, to the present) helped him with that.

I'm only sorry I didn't get to know him better. He was pretty weak during much of the time I saw him, and not given to a lot of casual conversation. Still, I knew him through R.'s stories about him, about how he taught R. to play baseball ("Rock and fire!") and hunt, and about the parenting mistakes he made along the way, too. He had a tendency to be a softie about emotional things, and I remember once at R.'s folks' 60th anniversary party, D. got all misty during a lovely videotaped photo montage and had to leave the room to collect himself. This is why it didn't surprise R. that D. died during a time when the rest of the family was away from the hospital.

I think he knew he was loved, and I thank him for being part of my son's life and heritage, and through that, part of my life and my story, too.

I will miss him.