My father-in-law died this morning in a hospital in Wisconsin. Of pneumonia and the frailty of old age. He was 87 years old and everyone called him Bakka. He had Alzheimer’s, though he still knew who he was and mostly still remembered his family. He couldn’t remember how to take care of himself so he was living in an assisted care facility. With every day, the quality of his life was becoming more intolerable, to him and to everyone who cared about him. The decision not to resuscitate had been made long ago. The end came quickly.
I am no longer married to his son and I hadn’t seen Bakka in several years, but he still has a very special place in my heart. It is hard to realize that I have no place among the mourners. I am not able to share my grief with those who knew him and loved him. There is no one with whom to share memories or to celebrate the fullness of the man’s life. I am not even able to comfort my own children on the loss of their grandfather, as one is in another country and the other is out of town attending a friend’s wedding. It’s a lonely sort of grief.
Bakka and Nana came to stay with us many times over the years and he continued to visit after she died. He could be a difficult old curmudgeon, and often was, but I’ve been thinking today about the way he would laugh at something one of the kids said or at some playful antic of the kitty. He had a wonderful laugh. He’d get a look on his face that was almost surprise, as if he hadn’t expected to find something funny just then.
One of the last times he came to stay with us his doctor had just told him he had to give up chocolate. He was indignant. Told me that he’d already given up alcohol and red meat and coffee, even the decaf he loved so much, and he would be goddamned if he was giving up his Oreos. And then he grinned as he lifted the lid off the cookie jar. I always bought Oreos for him.
So I will quietly grieve in my own way. Just as I will always remember and love him in my own way. And it will have to be enough.
Rest in peace now, Bakka.