May 30, 2005

Il Buono #4, La fine

I'm exhausted. I started the day with a 4 mile run with D, a snack on left-over
cowboy caviar from the last barbeque and the news from my sister that my grandfather is not doing well. His answer to "How are you?" is a feeble, "I'm still alive."

He's led a rich, full life. But now, in his eighties, his body is breaking down, he has a walker, his heart can't pump enough blood to keep his body as useful as it once was, but his head is intact enough that he must witness and feel the pain of every day of his inevitable decline. He and my grandmother have outlived the majority of their friends, which on its own has been a very painful experience. Over the last few years, family members have been constantly warning us about my granfather's slowly declining health. But each time I visited, he seemed only slightly worse than the time before -- blissfully healthy and stubborn. I had faith in his ability to hang on.

Today, my sister arrived at home to cry on my shoulder about papa's attitude of acceptance of what she perceives him to see as his soon-to-be death. You just don't talk bluntly about these things in my family, it's all subtle hints and actions I can't adequately describe, hence why it's her perception of his perception. What was worse for me, however, was her description of his health, and that his opinion of the end of his time might be reasonable. Regardless of whether it's true, I think that will to live (and be healthy) is a huge factor that is not well-enough understood in the health community to be given its true weight. In other words, if she feels that he's acting like he's done, I'm scared.

So, for the second time this running season, I'll probably be missing a race I'd planned on running. I'd already decided to opt out of the the napa to sonoma half marathon (I swear I'll get a flat one in one of these days) because it was the same weekend as a law firm activity that seemed like it was important to attend. Instead, I decided to replace napa-to-sonoma with the Forest of Nicene Marks Half Marathon, right down the street from E2's house (after all, what's a 1,000 feet gain in the first 7 miles -- the rest is downhill, right?). But, now, it looks like my brother's family (including my niece, for whom I'm a sucker), my sister, my father, E and I will all be making a surprise trip to visit papa next weekend. Obviously, if the family comes together like that, I'm out of the race.

This morning, I called to check in with my grandmother and she wasn't her usual upbeat self. When I asked if E and I could visit next weekend, she said, "we make plans on a day-by-day basis these days, so no, we don't have any plans for the weekend. I'd rather just wait and see." It broke my heart. The approaching death of one you love who's lead a full rich life is such a real drama, full of pain and love and acceptance and guilty anger. I know how lucky I am to have grandparents with whom I've been close since childhood and grown able to relate to as adults. I know how lucky they are to have lived to see their great-granddaughter. And yet, I don't want to let go.

So, I'll take any prayers, waves, good thoughts and whatever other pull you've got to send his way so he can have a good weekend with his family next weekend. Yes, it's not the zen attitude, but I'd love it if some force could sustain him 'til the wedding. I also know that if he's tired and sick and ready to be done I wouldn't want to keep him here any longer than he wants.

The rest of the day was a bright beautiful contrast to my feelings about my grandfather's sickness. First, I joined D for a gossip-filled manicure -- Damn my nails look good. Then, E and E's parents picked me up and we all walked across the golden gate bridge (embarrasingly, the first time E & I have done that despite over a combined 16 years in the bay area). As far as memorial days go, we couldn't have asked for anything better: it was warm and clear and windy, the bay was full of sailboats and a few insane windsurfers, a few small planes were flying about, and in general, I was awed and thankful to live in such a beautiful place. From there, we went to north beach, got cappuccinos (in the afternoon, the horror!), and sipped them on benches in Washington Square while we people-watched and recovered from the golden gate winds.

Dinner was a blissfully low-key sushi date at Sanraku with E's parents' friends. No rehearsal dinner evaluation. Just some of the best sushi in the bay area (mmmm... hamachi toro and bon maguro), sake in boxes, and mochi. Seriously. I like to think I know my way around sushi, but I'd forgotten just how superior this place was to our local cheap joint where they know our name. It'll be hard to go back next week (but we'll power through).

Now, I'm home, and full to the brim, both physically and metaphorically. Ordinarily, a holiday weekend at home is a chance to relax and unwind. But this one managed to be simultaneously relaxing, emotionally draining, and ridiculously productive: I fit in 17.5 miles of running, another 4 or so of walking, 4 multi-course gourmet meals at bay area restaurants (3 of which are on the short list for the rehearsal dinner), two trips to the wedding venue, a visit and semi-final sign off on the hotel where we'll be tossing the guests for the weekend, a meet-the-fockers' type dinner between my parents and E's parents, three days of sightseeing with E's parents driving and me generally not involved in the organization (this lack of control is particularly taxing on me, but good for me, no doubt), winetasting at 3 santa cruz mountaian wineries, a sad but realistic conversation with my sister about my grandfather (followed by calls to my father and brother), a short visit with D, who no longer lives in town, and probably one or two short-tempered snaps at E, who no doubt did not deserve them.

It was a good weekend. But I am glad that it is over.

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