Thursday, April 29, 2010

Love Thursday: Rest in Peace, Grandpa

"You've left me alone," my grandmother mournfully cried to my grandfather, while stroking his arm. He had passed away only moments before while we laid in bed, waiting for the nurse to give us any news. "You're not alone, grandma," I cried, "you still have all of us here for you." Saying that seemed to make her feel better. It was 2 to 3 years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and only six months, after being diagnosed with colon cancer. The doctor he had originally seen had stated that his colonoscopy was clear, but it was not until a second doctor viewed the reports that a large massive tumor was discovered. His death was a shock to the whole family; inspite of his condition, he was doing fairly well. My mother and I had just left only two days prior, having been helping to take care of him for four days. My aunt, who is an RN, had been taking care of him all week, and was sleep deprived. Every two hours he woke to call us to help him out of bed. He was no longer able to walk, only being able to take a few steps until he needed his wheelchair.

During those four days we spent with him, he was conscious, responding well, and even debating with my father about streets in the Bronx. In fact, he remember much better than my father did, which was exceptional considering his age, 85. On Sunday evening (4/18), we left their apartment in Connecticut with my aunt, and went home, content that all was going well... So we thought. It was only a month that he had started complaining of pain, and the pain had finally been managed with pain medication. Monday, he had eaten all of his meals, which was a little strange to me. While we were there, he always had a big breakfast and either a small lunch and a small dinner, or no dinner at all. He sat in his chair, watching TV with my grandmother, aunt, and uncle, and began discussing old TV programs, and could recall all the characters, and even the actual names of the actors. However, that night, everything changed. He became agitated, and nervous at night, but this time it was different.

As my grandmother was saying good night to him, holding his hand as always, he told her, "I'm trying." Her reply was, "if you have to go, it's ok to go." No one wanted to see him suffer. It would not have been fair if he did. We all called him 'the saint'. He never raised his voice, or was ever unkind, and was a faithful husband to my grandmother for the sixty years they had been married.

That night, he slipped into a coma, and had difficulty breathing. His breathing was comparable to a percolating coffee pot. In the morning on Tuesday, my mother received an urgent from my aunt telling her he had "made a turn for the worst". My mother rushed home, and we all hopped into the car. Aunts, uncles, and cousins arrived at his side in my grandparents' Connecticut home. He had been under Hospice care for the past two months, a decision which had been made once it was learned that the cancer would be inoperable. A priest, who has slowly become more of a friend to the family, gave my grandfather his last rights, and at one time, asked my grandfather for penance of any sins he may have made. Until that time, my grandfather had not spoken since the night before, but managed to utter 'yes'. They say that hearing is the last thing to be lost when upon death's doorstep, and he had heard our prayers for him.

Later, everyone went home, all except for my mother and myself. We stayed with my grandmother and the nurse. On Wednesday, April 21, at 4:30am., my grandfather gave up his struggle. He had fought hard throughout the day, due to his "strong heart", my grandmother explained. Although most are no longer used to death at home, I feel it was the best way to go - surrounded by loved ones, in your own home, instead of connected to tubes and IVs in a hospital or in a nursing home.

Francis was born in the Bronx to a lively house of five boys, himself being the youngest. Family myths state there was also a sister, but she had did of pneumonia when she was only 3 to 4 months old. At an early age, he started his small arsenal, having faked his mom into buying a Beebe gun that he supposedly needed for a school play. As life would have it, there was a war to which Francis was called to fight, in Iwo Jima, to which he answered. My grandfather was never the king of a worldly country, but the king of my mother's family. He had pursued her, according to my grandmother's version of the story, at the New York Telephone Company when she was just a mere 18. Within no time, Francis had won her over and they were soon married. They moved to Georgia for him to serve state-side during the Korean War. After serving his time he and my grandmother moved back to New York to begin their little kingdom of four children. And so the kingdom continued for 60 years with all the trials and tribulations of a king and his kingdom. Francis was always well-tempered, quiet, and simple in his needs because he always had my grandmother to liven things up, as well as the 'cherubs'/ There were the trips to Emily's bakery in Westbrook, Connecticut or Flemington, New Jersey on the New Jersey Turnpike, which he truly loved! (My grandfather never liked New Jersey.) As my aunts and uncles grew older, and pursued their own kingdoms, there were always the meetings at Silvio's Restaurant on Friday nights in Parkchester for good food and good laughs.

The kingdom was then moved to Lord's Valley, Pennsylvania. There were fun times, and sleigh rides, hot chocolate at the Steer Barn, Halloween parades, the beach, the boat, the fireworks, the "Bambi's", and the bears. (Every deer to my brother, when he was little, was called a Bambi.) Marie (my grandmother) and Frank enjoyed 25 years of country kingdom bliss with good neighbors.

Unfortunately the king was called away from his kingdom and now we all saw plainly the "goodness the observations about the middle station of life, how easy, how comfortably, he had lived all his days."

Grandpa, we all love you dearly, and miss you so much already. 
We pray that your pain has been eased, and there is no longer any struggle. We hope you have finally been reunited with your parents, brothers, and sister after having waited all these years to join them.

Rest in peace.

(The last portion written about his life was taken from the eulogy my mother wrote, with a quote from Robinson Crusoe.)