On this morning, 11 years ago…
Last year (March 12, 2015) I uploaded an entry on “this night ten years ago night“, sharing some of the thoughts that were going through my head, the last night that my Gpa Mike would be with us. The year 2015 marked a whole bunch of ten year anniversaries without Mike Brown — his would be 94th birthday, his would be 68th wedding anniversary, the 10th year anniversary of his passing, our 10th Remembrance Day without him.
This day marks the 11th anniversary of his passing. It is so hard to believe — in many ways it seems like yesterday. My memories are as fresh as those from yesterday, as are the tears that spring so randomly and quickly to my eyes today. The early morning of March 13, 2005 was, oddly, full of much laughter. My Uncle Jimmy and I spent a restless night in Bolsover with our Mom/Grandma, waiting to the phone to ring to give he somber news of dad’s/Gpa’s passing. The phone call came, but not with the news we were expecting: Gpa has made it through the night and the five children (my mom included) that spent the night were going out for breakfast.
While UJ freshened up, I went to grandma to share the news… Gpa, stubborn as ever, made it through one more night. The original plan for March 13, 2005 did not include going back to the hospital, but the plan was based on Gpa not making it through the night. So all plans were out the window and UJ and I decided that grandma Betty would set the new plan. She had the choice to stay at home and wait for more phone calls or go see Gpa Mike, likely for one last time. She chose the later, and UJ and I were all too happy to make it happen. UJ, grandma and I were like the three stooges, banging into each other, stumbling around, in a fog of happiness knowing we were going to get one more morning with our beloved husband/father/grandfather. I made breakfast for grandma while she dressed and hopped in the car en route to Ross Memorial in Lindsay to warn the rest of the family that grandma and UJ were just a short time behind me.
Driving to the hospital I started to panic. I realise that our plan to see Mike one more time is not bullet proof — what if he passes while we are in transit? Despite the ice and snow covered roads, not yet cleared from the overnight storm, I feel my foot pressing firmly down on the gas. In my poor thinking of the morning, I think to myself, hey, if I ditch the car, UJ is right behind me!
Remember that in 2005, cell phones were not what they are today — they are large items in the glove box, for emergency only. I don’t even think of calling the hospital room ahead of time — the family doesn’t know we are coming until I show up to the hospital. Despite the deviation from our plan, everyone seems almost relieved that grandma is en route. I take advantage of the quite time before grandma’s arrival to spend time in Gpa’s room, with my mom and Aunt Donna. Gpa is resting, he looks at peace, he looks like the man I remember in his younger years. His bloating seems to have subsided, he looks younger than his 84 years, he looks like the Superman that he was when I was a little girl. I’m overwhelmed with feelings and feel tears burn in my eyes — I run to the en suite bathroom, my mom follows. As she enters, I realise how silly I am being. Even though Gpa is pretty much unconscious, I still don’t want him to hear, sense or feel that I am crying. I don’t want him to think I am being weak. As I say this to my Mom, I laugh (out loud!) at myself and realise it is time to leave the room, I make the decision that I don’t want to see my Gpa take his last breath.
My Uncles George and Sam round up a wheel chair to meet grandma and upon her arrival at the hospital, whisk her straight to grandpa’s room. I hang at the end of the hall with my family. Some take turns having a quiet moment with grandma and Gpa together. I watch them going into the room with resolve and then quietly wiping tears as they leave. I watch my younger cousins and we share some stories. To break the sadness in the room, I share the story about me accidentally outing one of my brothers’ love for pot to my dad (oops!). It gives us a good laugh and we wait…. we embrace the silence and find comfort in each others looks and nods of understanding and empathy. It is family at its absolute best.
I see my mom come from the room and go to the nurses station, returning to Gpa’s room with a nurse. I know what this means… My Uncle Sam then comes down towards where many of us are waiting and struggles to find the words, “Dad is gone.” I remember the tender way that my aunts share the news with my cousins and comfort them. I remember some conversation about the obituary and saying not to worry, I have one drafted. I kind of blank out after this but remember being in Gpa’s room. My cousins Jess and Mike were just leaving — my mom, grandma, Aunt Donna and Uncle Gary are there. I remember hugging my grandma and standing quietly with my mom. I remember being stunned by the strength of my grandma when she stood up to say good-bye to her best friend, husband, her everything. I said then and stand by the comment today: watching my grandma say good-bye to my grandfather is (hands down) the most romantic thing I have ever witnessed. No contest.
Grandma leaves the room and move to my Gpa’s bed side. I take his hand and throw an arm across him. As I bury my head in the nook of his neck, I say my own good-byes. Does he hear me? Gpa still looks like he is in a deep, peaceful sleep. He is warm to the touch. I really believe he can hear me as I say my good-bye, which is really a promise to remember him. Always.
From when I say my good-bye to when we leave the hospital is more blur! I remember that by the time we drive through Woodville, the Canadian flag at the Legion is already flying at half mast! We drive to Liz Nicholls’ house. I wait in the car while my mom tells her oldest friend, who cared from my grandfather for decades in her capacity as a nurse, that Gpa has passed. We return to the house that is the place of so many happy childhood memories and equal from my teenage and adolescent years, all the way to my 30th year. My cousins and I find solace flipping through old family albums. As I slowly sip a signature Gpa Mike CC rye and Coke – they are VERY stiff! – I look over for the final time, his obituary.
I ask everyone how they want their name to appear, make some changes and then reluctantly give it to my Uncle George.
It is my first reality check that my beloved Gpa has left this world and passed to the spiritual one. No more nights of trying to perfect the obit, no more nights of sleeping with it on my bedside table.
Sunday, March 13, 2005: I would spend one more night sleeping at my grandparents’ home. I would return to Toronto the next day and to work on March 15th. I have said before that the day and evening of March 12th into the morning and afternoon of March 13th, 2005 is the most manic of my life. It seems like yesterday and yet I only have to look into the next room where my husband and son are reading together to be reminded how much has happened in the years since 2005.
I feel very sad and teary as I write this. And yet I know for sure that is NOT what my Grandfather would want.
So I will put my computer away and go join my husband and son in the other room, where they are goofing around and laughing. And I will pour another CC and Coke to help lighten my melancholy. Because THAT is what Gpa would want.