You gave up your old farm house to move into your in-laws farmhouse so that Gram could take care of her father. That is the farm house of my childhood - where we hayed in the summer and gathered for Thanksgiving, too many of us to fit around the table. Somewhere in there you bought some land on a lake and a small camp from somewhere else. The story goes that you waited for the ice to freeze so you could drive across the ice and drag the camp to the land where it still sits today. It was there that you and Gram had a good group friends in similar circumstances, and in the summer after work you had "cocktail hour" while the kids ran wild. Your great grand children still swim and fish at the camp.
You weren't easy. You were hard and didn't show affection. You drank and when you lost your sixth son, Uncle Jimmy, in a car accident you became an alcoholic. We thought the alcohol might have done you in when you crashed your car in the early 90s, instead you quit drinking. The doctors wanted you to stop smoking also, but you said if you quit that too, you'd be so pure no one would know you. It was when the great-grandchildren came along that you finally let yourself express the joy of your large family.
Grandpa B and KK
Grandpa B and Hew
When Gram died seventeen months ago, you knew you were in trouble. Dementia had already begun its theft of your memory and Gram was who had kept you straight for so many years. The memory of you saying good bye to Gram still makes me sob. We too couldn't image you without Gram. Since then, dementia has continued to rob you - you forgot that Gram had died and had to be retold. You didn't recognize your grand-children and eventually your children. By the end, you didn't even know who you were. Your family cared for you until the last month. By then, you'd become combative - wanting to fight you grandchild one night in confusion. We softly laughed at the irony that the week your youngest great-grandchild was written up at pre-school for biting, you too were written up for hitting another patient at the nursing home. You always were a fighter.
So when you died last week, we all couldn't help being a bit relieved. You would have never wanted to live the way you had the last few months - scared, unknowing, and alone, even when you were surrounded by the large family you'd created. I hope that you finally have the peace that you worked so hard for.