14 April 2016

One Week

Written 8 April 2016, 11.48pm.

Strange week this week.

Last Friday at this time I was in Saskatchewan, visiting my college friends, excited beyond belief to be able to see so many of them, despite the fact that most of my college friends are performance majors wrapping up all their final performances (and rehearsals) for the year -- to say nothing of all the major papers they were still writing.

This visit came after I stayed up late for nearly four straight days in a desperate attempt to finish my final history paper of the semester for my distance course before the trip.

Then we ended up staying an extra day (Sunday) in Saskatchewan. At first this was okay with me, but then Sunday afternoon my parents texted me: 'Grandpa has pneumonia. All they can do is make him comfortable. You should see him Monday when you get back.' Even through the text I could sense this directive was not a mere suggestion.

We bumped our departure time up to 8.30 (from 9.30) Monday morning and planned to drive straight to his nursing home from the college. Sunday night I went to the final choir performance of the year and all I could really think was 'Grandpa will hear real angels sing like this soon.' But I hoped he could hold on.

I woke up Monday morning to see a text sent at 3.30am: 'Grandpa is gone.'

No point in hurrying now. So we moseyed home. It had happened so fast that it didn't seem real. My friend and I laughed and joked on the way home in much the same way we had on the way to the college. In retrospect I'm glad I was with him that day and not at home -- as awful as it was to have missed saying goodbye by one day, being with my friend, stuck in a vehicle together for the better part of eight hours, was what I needed. Of course it wasn't really his decision whether or not to spend those eight hours with me, but he made the most of it -- making me laugh but also letting me question and ponder. He let me feel a lot of emotions but didn't make me feel guilty for feeling any of them. In spite of what awaited me at home, I genuinely enjoyed myself and I think that time of enjoyment cushioned the blow. I would never have taken it half as well if I had been at home, surrounded by it.

Then came the texts from my mother at the funeral home with my grandma and my uncle: 'We're thinking of having the funeral on Friday,' and 'Grandpa had requested that you sing at his funeral. Your choice of song.'


I haven't properly sung in a full year -- and even when I was actively training, I wasn't particularly good at it. Oh sure, I sing in the van when I'm driving to dance class, but somehow I don't think that really counts. And of course, I was in the throes of a full-on chest infection and could hardly talk without drowning in phlegm. Plus I knew my grandpa had never actually heard me sing. Who in the world had given him the idea that I could sing?

We arrived home. Since my grandpa was already dead I simply went straight to dance class that night -- the first class back after a week off for spring break. To wake up at your former's roommate's house in small-town Saskatchewan and end up at dance class in big-city Alberta over the course of one day always gives me a bit of mental whiplash -- never mind the realisation that I would never see my grandpa again, though he had been fine when I left.

Tuesday I drove my sisters to dance class -- which I don't usually do, but my mother was busy and couldn't take them. Wednesday was my only semi-normal day. Thursday I spent two and a half hours at the dentist's getting two of my front teeth essentially rebuilt and am still getting used to the feel of two teeth without any nerves in them whatsoever. And of course, Friday -- today -- was the funeral.

Because of all the divorcing and petty arguments and crap that's been going on over the past year and a half, I hadn't seen half of this side of the family since before my second year of college. I didn't even recognise my cousin. And we live less than five minutes apart from each other.

I've been to funerals before, but I've never been 'the family.' Some of them have been relatives, yes, but more along the line of 'great-grandmother' or 'cousin.' But when it's your grandpa, you are the family, you are one of the people who sits in the 'Reserved' pews at the front and don't have to stand for the hymns. Funerals are very, very different when you're the immediate family. You are the last in the sanctuary -- parading past all those standing people -- and you are the first to leave it -- immediately into the waiting limo to head to the gravesite. You are given first dibs at standing room at the graveside service and you are one of the people given a rose. The people at the luncheon wait for you to go through the food line first and as they leave they come and speak to you. Half of these people I thought I didn't know but then recognised them with shock. When did everybody get so old?

And to think last Friday at this time, there were no funeral plans. I was watching Doctor Who with my roommate, planning to visit our friends later in the afternoon and evening. My grandpa was alive and although frail and weakened by recent strokes, he was fairly well.

How quickly time moves. How quickly life changes.

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