Sunday, November 8, 2009

For My Grandparents...

Me and Mimi in 2007

Papa in 2007. He was sick at this time, but hadn't been moved to a home yet. He had difficulty making basic conversation, and he barely knew who we were.

My sweet Papa passed away tonight. I'm sad that he's gone...but really, it was a blessing. He had suffered from Alzheimer's for the past 4 (?) years. He wasn't really living...he was just existing. Almost like a vegetable. It was terribly sad to see him suffer like that for so many years, and so, I'm relieved that he's moved on.
The timing of his death is no surprise. It's common for couples to pass within a few weeks of each other (at least I think it's common. Maybe I only believe that because of The Notebook.) Mimi visited Papa every day in the nursing home. And since her death just 3 weeks ago, his health diminished incredibly quickly. I know that Mimi's presence, her love and her care is what kept him hanging on.
Some people say that Papa was a saint. No doubt, he was a good man. Saint? I don't know...I think they only say that because he put up with Mimi for the majority of his life. The man had patience, that's for sure. He was a quiet man. I regret that I didn't know him very well, but he wasn't the kind of person that really opened up. Maybe he would've opened up, but Mimi was always talking, so he never really had a chance. He was a thinker and a doer. She was a talker and a lay-arounder.
Papa loved to label things and make lists. (An obsession that I'm positive I inherited from him.) He was brilliant - an engineer, I think. His handwriting was small and perfect. He enjoyed taking pictures...almost too much! He had tons and tons and tons of photo albums (all labeled, of course). He would document every detail of Thanksgiving pictures, right down to a picture of the dinner rolls. He loved sweets, and coffee ice cream was one of his favorites. He treated my Mimi like the princess she believed she was. He cleaned, cooked and did all of the grocery shopping while he was still able.
I hope that he lived a happy life. I really don't wasn't an easy life by any means. The family drama had to have taken a toll on him. From what I could see, he tried to be the calm, steady voice of reason in the family...and he was there to pick up the pieces. I guess it's all he could do.
It was a hard decision for Mimi when she chose to place him in a nursing home, but we all encouraged her to do it. It really was the best place for him, even though it seemed to increase the symptoms of his disease. Their home life with Roger was getting too strenuous. Plus, Mimi had trouble meeting Papa's needs (he couldn't do anything for himself like eat, shave or get dressed), and she had zero patience for his illness. Papa bounced from home to home, and was moved in and out of different facilities. His disease caused him to lash out at people, throw things, bite, etc. The nursing homes couldn't tolerate him after he became a danger to other residence. And so, they would kick him out. A lot of his behaviors were upsetting, but some of them were the time he strolled buck naked through the halls! He was the most quiet, respectful, well-mannered man that ever lived. He spent most of his life being overshadowed by my Mimi. And so, even thought he didn't realize what he was doing as he streaked the nursing home, I was proud of him. "You go, Papa! Let it all hang out!" I thought.

My mom, my aunt Susan, and my Mimi visited with Papa regularly. They did the best they could to keep him comfortable and cared for. I admire their dedication. I have to say, I shied away from visiting him because it was so difficult to see him like that. But, they faced it head on. The 3 of them fought over him...fought about his well-being, where he should say, what kind of medicine he needed. They even fought against doctors' bad decisions, and fought with directors of nursing homes. It wasn't easy for any of them, but they were there with him until the end.
I hope that I'm so blessed to have a family fighting for me and staying by my side when it's my time to pass. I know you probably hear things like this all the time, but each and every day that we're living right now is a gift.

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