I recently became aware that my grandfather was terminally ill with stage 4 cancer. Initially, of course, I was saddened by the update from my father’s telephone call from California. I knew he was up in age so, in a way, this wasn’t too much of a surprise to me. What struck me was how the cancer was discovered. It seems as if my grandfather (we’ll call him Jerry) injured his back and hip while attempting to move some household furniture. At some point during the process of the determination, by Jerry’s doctor, that he needed a hip replacement surgery, cancer was discovered to be present at the terminal level of stage 4! It took me a while to absorb the fact this vibrant, alert man who at 88 years literally managed the daily business activities of 2 other men his age while maintaining a courting relationship that had been steady for over 5 years had been slowly dying for quite some time. During my early 20s, in the year 2000, I left California for college. I wasn’t as close to Jerry, at the time of my departure from home, as we really should’ve been as our relationship was always pleasant, very loving and cordial. I attribute this largely to the valiant efforts of my father. He was always good about making sure we knew who our grandparents were.
It’s been a couple of months since I got that call from my dad. Since that time I actually got to talk to Jerry a couple times. I let him know that I loved him and wanted him to get better and how I look forward to getting back to California, sometime this year, so he can see both of his great grandchildren for the first time. My father also continues to call and provide updates and other information that I don’t get from Jerry. There is something about this whole chain of events that continues to stick with me more on daily basis as of late and has managed to reconstruct my priorities and views on how to spend my time in this life. As a former U.S. Tuskegee Airman and retired civil servant, Jerry has wanted for nothing during his years of retirement and even now with all his medical expenses Jerry remains in good financial standing. And after 30 years, he still sends me money on my birthday. My father will soon be a retired probation officer of over 20 years due to extensive medical leave caused by an on the job injury. He makes a 50 minute drive twice a week now to see his father and help him out. When his retirement is official he will, with little restriction or limitation, have the ability to give more of himself and his time to Jerry’s benefit. It’s a beautiful picture from the outside looking in; seeing 2 courageous, consistent and committed men who learned how to plan ahead and a result are now able to experience a level of stability and support from each other during one of life’s inevitable challenges. In our conversations on this matter, my father verbalized his curiosity on what might transpire when he is of age and in need of my help. Up to this point, I can honestly say that I had thought about it and delighted in the idea of taking care of my parents. But it was nothing more than just a nice thought for me. Something in the distance that would be ideal. I see this a little differently now. Stability must be achieved after it’s worked for. I strongly believe that aside from the obvious medical improvements that need to take place, Jerry’s life is as good as it can possibly get. His house and car are paid for. He’s got more money than he can spend. He’s not a burden, in any shape or fashion, on his 3 children who are now beginning to incorporate Jerry in their lives and top priorities at this time. And from what I heard, he still has his girlfriend. Despite the usual mixed emotions and fear of what may be impending death, Jerry is worry free. He can allow his mind to cycle through all the natural human responses to his present condition, without distractions and other added stressors, and discover the acceptance within himself that will bring him peace of mind. When dad first told me the news, he depicted a very bitter and irritable Jerry as he went through all the motions of lengthy hospital stays, surgery and rehabilitation. Jerry told my dad that he would be so glad when all of this is over. But that was then. Now Jerry is at home. He’s back in that safe place where his family once dwelled. He’s free again to do what ever comes to his mind with just his body as a limitation. And from what Jerry told me himself, he’s beginning to get around town again all by himself. That put a smile to my face. I once heard someone, while speaking of his job; assert that insanity is simply performing the same thing over and over; day after day, year after year. For some this may be true; but for others like Jerry and my father it’s a very practical means to a very sane end.