Sunday night before bed I get an email from my dad:
“Rosie, we need to talk NOW. If you don’t get this, we will call you.”
Before I finish reading the message, my cellphone rings. Dad’s voice: “Rosie, can you hear me? Can you hear me?”
I can hear him fine, and tell him so, but he continues:
“Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Rosie?”
After a few more frustrating hour-long seconds, the connection settles and we can both hear each other, in real-time.
“Rosie – Pop passed away last night in his sleep.”
My throat goes lumpy and my eyes well. I’ve been half-anticipating my grandfather’s death for the last 5 years. He was 95 this year; anything can happen at that age.
But half of me thought he’d never die. Two years ago doctors diagnosed a tumor in his lungs as fatal and gave him a few months to live; six months later, he was still alive. The doctors scratched their heads and took it back. And so many times I have said goodbye to him thinking it might be the last – before I left for months in Ecuador, then Switzerland, then Ghana and New Zealand. But he was always there when I returned.
This time though he really is gone. At first I was pretty shaken up. On Monday, I jotted these notes in my journal:
“…It’s been strange to feel this here. In Kathmandu. Light-years away from family and home and Pop’s little apartment in New Hampshire. Far from his cupboard full of oatmeal and prunes, the dandruff on his blue armchair and the stacks of Wall St. Journals that clutter his coffee table.
I want to talk to someone about him. But with someone who knew him. Explaining Pop to friends here would be like explaining “green” to a blind person: hopeless and exhausting...”
That was four days ago. I’m feeling much better now. Talking to friends here has been surprisingly helpful and I’ve been able to talk to my parents a bunch, too.
This morning I looked at a picture of him and instead of crying, I smiled, laughed, remembering the moment: I was sitting next to him on his hard couch (close enough to feel his bony elbows in my side), showing him my new computer and its built-in camera. He was fascinated and the picture reflects that – he looks confused, curious, his nose right up to the lens. (Internet's too slow now to upload it. Darn.)
And now I can focus on the comforting, rational thoughts that didn’t get through the emotions a few days ago: He lived a long life (he was 95); he was happy, extremely loved and remained sharp as a pin until the day he died. He died peacefully, in his sleep.
In other news, this week has also been tough because of the grant proposal I've been working on. It’s big, and has been hard to do with a distracted mind that’s halfway in New Hampshire.
But even that is looking up. Last night I sent the Second Draft (duh duh duh) to IRC’s Technical Units –senior staff in UK, Thailand and New York who are “experts” in programming related to governance and rights. I feel relatively good about what I've done and now I have a little breathing room until they send comments back. Next week I'll finish the final draft...and wipe my hands clean.
Tonight I’m going to a yoga class that I’ve heard wonders about from a friend of a friend. Afterwards, my roommates and I are going to a restaurant that specializes in milkshakes. Supposedly they have the best ones Kathmandu. (Perhaps the only ones? Unclear.)
Things are looking up.