A Depressing Intercession: Read at Your Own Risk
I’m sorry to break into the management posts, but I find myself having a hard time finishing the next one. Please be aware that this post comes at a very odd moment and may reveal far more about me than anyone should know. Still, it’s what’s happening.
I found out yesterday that my grandfather passed away. I wrote about him briefly last Veteran’s Day.
The thing is, I’ve never been particularly close with any of my family, and his passing was foretold for the past several months as coming “any day now.” He suffered from a bad case of Parkinson’s Disease, and towards the end had lost all mobility – including the ability to speak. During his lucid times, though, when the medication was working and he wasn’t too tired, he was still the old card shark he always was, indicating that he still had a quick and clever mind. To be trapped in that way – a working mind inside a paralyzed body – seems nightmarish, so his death is probably a great relief to both him and my grandmother.
I’m not in a place financially to buy two plane tickets to Florida on short notice, nor do I really feel that missing more school would be good for my students, so when I was speaking to my mother receiving the news, I was simultaneously feeling grief while also wondering how to – or even if I should – broach the question of whether I was expected at the funeral. Luckily, my mother, who knows me well, broached the topic herself, telling me that my uncle, who lives further away, couldn’t find a single plane ticket to Florida right now because it’s so many schools’ Spring Break. She followed that up by letting me know that the funeral would be held on Monday, and that it wouldn’t be practical for me to come, since I’d have to make the two-day drive and miss so much school.
I don’t know how I feel about being so – honestly – selfish. Or realistic. I’m not sure. That’s the problem I suppose with living so much in my head; everything’s getting a lot of analysis whether it should or not.
That bit of horror was followed by my mother’s suggestion that I call my grandmother, which I knew I should. She suggested I call today, so I did. It was the most uncomfortable conversation I’ve ever had. My grandmother didn’t recognize who I was at first, but as she’s not suffering any senility, I suspect it’s just fatigue and grief. It took about four minutes to get her to figure out who I was, and after that, I didn’t really know what to say. I generated what I could – my condolences, we’ll miss him, he’s in a better place, he was an inspiration – all of them true, but cliché and superficial-feeling, and she agreed with each, but the conversation itself was so filled with silences and grief on her end that I simply didn’t know what to say or do.
I know my strengths and weaknesses. Consoling a grieving widow of any age is so far out of my experience that, basically, I froze. I wish I could do more – feel more – and thus be prompted with the right things to say, but my overt formality about so many things to anyone who’s not in my closest sphere of friends – the teacher/professor armor that I put on to do my job on a daily basis – has greatly atrophied that part of my personality, it seems. I deal with problems by thinking my way out of them, not feeling, so coming up against something like this leaves me at a loss.
I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just over-thinking it. I respected my grandfather, but realistically he wasn’t much of a presence in my life; I saw him maybe once a year, and less since I became an adult. I suppose that’s the nature of things, but everywhere I’ve lived it’s seemed to others that family was super-important, and that’s just not something I’ve grown up feeling. My wife is my family; if I lost her, I know I’d feel devastated. My students, too, are part of a surrogate family, though less-so since I started teaching adults. That’s always been enough. When I learned that one of my former students who I’d taught for two years had died when his brain tumor – which he’d “successfully” beaten – suddenly returned, I felt far more grief. He was one of mine. Somehow, this feels different.
Regardless, I apologize for such a depressing post, but I write what I know and what I’m thinking about, and this is it. I hope this has cleared my head enough to get back to my regular schedule for tomorrow. We’ll see.