Friday, January 05, 2007

At Least His Legacy Won't Ever Die

It was only the second day we were in Canada when it happened. We were in bed already, although I can't remember if I'd already fallen asleep or not.

The phone rang. It's never good news when the phone rings after everyone's gone to bed. I silently hoped that it was my sister's sister-in-law who was visiting France and kept getting the time difference wrong and calling my sister at crazy hours. Then my sister appeared in the staircase towards our room. "It's for Sweetie Pie," she said. "It's his dad."

And I knew right then, that the only thing it could be is that his grandfather had passed away.

I woke Sweetie Pie up and handed him the phone.

As I could only hear his side of the conversation, all I heard was "no he didn't. No he didn't. Did he really?"

After he hung up the phone, Sweetie Pie just laid there silently in the dark, the only sound my breaking heart beating in my throat.

"What happened," I asked, the wait too interminable for Instant Gratification Girl.

"My grandfather shot himself to death tonight."

I remember freezing in shock for a second, the weight of the words too much for my brain to consume in one second. Surely this couldn't be true. Surely a man who'd lived 80-years of his life as the patriarch of a family, who knew everyone and his dog in town, who had the greatest, heartiest laugh, who drove me nuts trying to get me to feed my newborn sun Carnation Milk and Kero syrup didn't die because he got up from bed and decided to end it all.

I've never known anyone who's commited suicide. To me, it's something you'd hear about on ABC After School movies. It's something I briefly considered when my teenage angst and misery seemed to much to bear or my grades weren't up to par and I thought my mother couldn't yell at me if I was dead (I'm now convinced she'd find a way even if I was beyond the grave), but could have never done, because at least I know what to expect on this side. But to find out someone who made that oh-so-final decision to end it all, well, I just can't explain how it feels.

There was sadness, of course. And then anger for him doing it while we were on vacation, after all, couldn't he just wait another six days? And then there was the horrible thought that his new wife was woken by the gun shot and walked into wherever he chose to do it and had to look at something no one should ever have to see. And then there was the realization that Little Man would never get to know the man who he was named after. We'll only be able to show him pictures of himself sitting on an old man's lap two days before he died. I probably won't tell him tat he shot himself. I might just say he died of a broken heart, since he'd never been the same as when his true love, his wife of 55 years, died almost two years before. But Little Man won't have any memories of the man. And when I realized this in my car yesterday, I actually cried for the first time.

Sweetie Pie tried desperately to get back to Dallas for the funeral, but unfortunately, it was set for two days after the death and being that it happened during the holidays, he was only able to book himself on a flight the night before the funeral. The day of his departure, he took a Greyhound bus for two-and-a-half hours, he the man who despises public transportation even more than broccoli. And one he arrived at the airport, 20 minutes before his flight was scheduled to depart, it was suddenly cancelled. As this was the last flight from Montreal to Dallas that night, the earliest he could land in Dallas the next day due to most flights being oversold was an hour after the funeral was scheduled to begin.

Defeated, Sweetie Pie rented a car and drove back to Ottawa to try to salvage what was left of our vacation.

My most vivid memory of the entire event will be that during Little Man's entire life, his great-grandfather had try to forcefeed him mashed potatoes. I'd said no when he was three months old and four months old and then when he tried at six months old even though I told him not to, Little Man simply spit it out.

From that point on, no matter how much the old man would try, Little Man wanted nothing to do with mashed potatoes, disgusted by their mushy texture.

But the day that Sweetie Pie was trying to get back home, my father made mashed potatoes for dinner. "Little Man must love mashed potatoes," he inquired. I shook my head and sadly told him about Sweetie Pie's grandfather trying oh so many times to feed Little Man his specialty.

My father placed a small mound of mashed potatoes on Little Man's tray, who looked at it for a second and then proceeded to gobble it up and asked for more.

I was stunned. But my father said "you know that this is a sign from the grandfather to tell you that everything is fine."

Everything isn't quite fine. But I'm glad to be able to feel that the old man is finally at peace.




susan said...

Another friend's grandpa shot himself also. He had a stroke a few years earlier and couldn't communicate well (was also suicidal as a younger man). He did it in the closet, where his wife found him. It's so awful when people become so distraught they don't think about what they are doing to others. I hope Sweetie Pie is ok. *big hugs* to the catwoman clan.

Emma in Canada said...

Oh, that was so sad. I hope everyone is okay. A girl I went to highschool with killed herself. Frightening.

jempress said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jempress said...

oops! please erase my previous message :) - here it is again:
i'm so sorry to hear about your grandfather-in-law. the holidays are notoriously difficult to get through when you're dealing with loss - which sounds like what he was going through. Prayers of peace for you and. especially, Sweetie Pie. When Sweetie Pie's ready - maybe the two of you could make a great-grandfather scrapbook for Little Man to remember him.

Catwoman said...

No problem Jempress! It's so hard for me to remember to use everyone's online names too when I post on their blogs! :)

Beccy said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. A friend of mine committed suicide last year and at first I was cross with her for leaving her two teenage daughters. Then I realised that she must have been in such a dark place and can only have thought that her daughters would be better off without her. One thing I do know is that she adored her daughters.

I hope you come to terms with this tradegy. Jempress idea of a scrapbook sounds good.

Catwoman said...

Beccy, I feel so bad for your friend's kids. An 80-year old man doing this is one thing. But a mother of two? I'm sure the shock and the grief would have been even more profound.