Death and dying is a subject I have broached more than I care to admit on this blog.Â My father’s passing, dealing with LatteGirlÂ and her understandingÂ (or lack of) on the matter, my mother’s tenous health,Â anÂ uncle that had to be placed into an “induced coma” because of the pain (but somehow managed to turn it around and survive it).
Death for me has come, for lack of a better word, “easy” to some degree.Â From the time I was 9 through about 13 I spent more time in funeral homes than I think most people should have to for their entire lives.Â It seemed at the time that I was back at the one place that both sides of the family used as their “regular” funeral home.Â By the time the “older generation” was done dropping like flies, I knew the place intimately.Â The smoking lounge (hey this was the late 70’s early 80’s and yes you could actually still smoke indoors), where they stored extra boxes of tissues, where the office was, the water cooler, which rooms were the bigger ones, how many displays it actually took to make a flower car look full, and so on.
However, none of that prepared me for what I was to face on the first day of our vacation, in which we had to make a detour to my in-laws for a family reunion, hastily put together when it was discovered that my step-father-in-law has lung and kidney cancer (just found out about the kidney part).
This may have been the single most uncomfortable event I have ever attended.Â The tension was amazingly palpable as everybody was keenly aware, but very few were willing to mention that big pink elephant in the middle of the room. The only way I can describe it, would be attending a funeral repast, and the deceased sitting there dining with you.Â Oh, my step-father-in-law was acting cheerful enough, and generally smiled most of the time.Â But you knew he didn’t look quite “right,”Â not sick per se, but certainly frail for a man that has never looked that way before.
Conversations were guarded, and many abruptly ended when talks of things like “future plans” accidentally came up, presumably people feeling (and probably rightfully so) that it was rude to talk about what you plan to do “next year” when you are at a party for a man that may not see the end of this one.
We did not (at their request), inform LatteGirl of “Pops” condition.Â Which was probably a smart move with her being as over-sensitive as she is.Â However this was also cause for some confusion for her later.Â Since we still needed to get to the Poconos and check in, we were the first ones to leave. Â It was at this point that some of the masks started to drop.Â Tears were shed as who knew when or if we would ever have an opportunity to see him again. Â Of course LatteGirl, without knowledge as to why people were crying, was quite confounded by it all.Â She couldn’t understand why people were sad that we were going on vacation.
TheWife has never been particularly close with her step father (she and her sisters all wore black when their mother married him), but he is a jovial and likable fellow (particularly now when he is sober), and a lot of bitterness is now of course being overlooked, and I guess, it is tough to hate somebody who you are watching slowly die.Â (Well, I can think of a few cases where I could hold my anger but that is for a different day and post).
I don’t know that there was any way to make this any less uncomfortable, or ifÂ I had to do it all over again that I would (or could) do anything different.Â I don’t know what if anything we should do now.Â All I know for sure, is no matter how confident I feel that I have “seen it all”… something will come along to prove me wrong.