Gramps.

I found out today from my mother that – although nothing is ever definite about these things – it would appear that my Grandfather, John Henry Bylinowski, is teetering on the edge of life and death, and it’s starting to look like he’s running out of comebacks.

Well past eighty, he has been sick for so very long, really since the turn of the century.   Alzheimers, continual infections, as well as the natural tapering off of his abilities due to age, previous illness, and just plain years of hard work. I can’t help but (selfishly) think that in a way I’ll be, not glad to see him go, but glad that at least the majority of my memories of him were incredible ones, and not filled with decades of slow decline and final unknowingness.

Ah, what to say?  It’s hard to express the sort of childlike glee I used to have when going down into Grampa’s basement at his old house in Alabama.  It seems so near to me but so hard to really tell it. Going down the crickety brown staircase, you never knew what he would be getting into down there, but you always knew it would be neat to hear him tell of it, and even though I’ve never been the sort of handyman that he was, I think it was at partially attributable to his inquisitiveness and natural sense of wonder that I later found a love for networks and for figuring that that solving practical problems is really a big part of what keeps me feeling good.

& So now he may soon leave us all, and we are left unsatisfied, groping with the pale and misbegotten eulogy to which most of us are fated, that indeed John Bylinowski may have never made a zillion dollars or found the cure for cancer or singlehandedly saved a baby from a burning building, but you know what? The man never complained about a goddamned thing that befell him, he charted his own path in life, followed it as best he could, and for that (and for a lot more) I am so glad that he was mine and I was his for these past 32 years.

I will miss him if he goes.  I already have missed him for years now.  Alzheimer’s prepares you for these things in a way that nothing else can, but still, the thought of not having the solid presence of Grampa in the room with us will be hard to fathom and will in the end make me have to trudge through these old wounds again for awhile.  I don’t mind it though: if there was ever anyone worth missing this much, it is him.

The truly tender spot in my mind is contemplating the possibility of life without Grampa for my Grandmother, who has for as long as I can remember, been one of the halest, heartiest people I know.  Watching his decline while she gracefully ages with him worries me to no end, because once he is gone, her role as his caretaker will be forsaken, and sadly so.  She has tirelessly worked to make his life as comfortable as possible  – and this reaches way back in time to far before his health was ever bad – but since things became worse for him physically, she has and continues to do an outstanding job, though I fear she would disagree, as she has always been very hard on herself.

I have to make a conscious effort to keep my mind off the apocryphal aspect of this whole situation, because as we all know, stories abound like this in families all across the world: an aged grandfather dies, and the grandmother wastes away from grief shortly thereafter.  While it’s hard not to be moved by the sort of symbolic power that these stories can have, for the life of me I cannot embrace it for our family.  I know it will be hard for Grandmother and it will be a terrible time for her when Gramps moves on, but I just hope that she can see it through because the world just isn’t ready to see them both off yet.  How in the world will I know when to put a coat on in the evenings (in the summertime, no less) without my grandmother?  I just can’t MAKE those kinds of logical connections without her!  Somebody still needs to be around to make sure my nose is clean, dammit, and I think Grandmother still has a of of life left in her.  I hope she will agree, when and if the worst comes to pass.  Because to my mind at least, the worst has already come to pass: a brilliant person has been dulled by time and disease.  (And to be sure, Gramps would never EVER admit to having been brilliant, though I think beneath it all, he was smarter than he was modest.)

Good luck in the next few days, Gramps (and you too Grandmother), and Godspeed no matter what happens. I love you both very much.

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October 2008
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Currently Reading:

Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame - Charles Bukowski

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Mr. Bungle - California

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