While on the road during my 700 Mile Circle Tour of Texas, I had called home like I normally do. There's a lot of open road and it makes it a good time to catch up in the otherwise dead time. I found out my grandpa had a bad fall in the middle of the night and was in the hospital. He was suffering a bad brain injury and was not doing well overall. Now my grandpa is tough. He has survived 5 heart attacks, a triple bypass, and countless stents. Basically, he is a marvel of modern medicine. We have had these scares in the past and he has always bounced back.
I knew he had been declining in health for a while and things were starting to get bad overall, especially with the dementia that was kicking in. I did not, however, originally think that this might be it. I figured he'd bounce back like he normally did. This time I was wrong.
The weekend came and I called back home often to find out what was going on. The plan was to put him in a nursing home for rehabilitation. This was something completely new, as each time he was released, he was sent back home. In a lot of ways, this showed how tough my grandma was, as she would take care of him each time. Besides him being a marvel of modern medicine, without her, I'm not sure how long he would have lasted.
As the weekend went on, the prognosis was getting worse. By Sunday, I realized I needed to get up as soon as possible. I quickly got my things together and packed in the car. I threw in my suit, as I figured I would need it for a funeral. I made a list of things that needed to be done such as paying my rent early so I could take care of those in case I was up in Wisconsin for longer than expected. I was also on call so the earliest I could leave was Monday morning. This is what started the impulsive road trip nobody wants to take.
I made it to work and handed off the on call phone. I explained what was going on to my boss and he told me to get up there right away. At this point, I was hoping I'd at least be able to make it up in time to say a last goodbye. After running a few errands to get things in place, I hit the road about 10am. Overall I made good time.
I found out things were stabilizing a bit, so it put a little less urgency to get up there as soon as possible. This meant I could rest a little easier when I pulled into the rest stop slightly north of Des Moines, Iowa. I actually slept about 6.5 hours until a storm rolled through and a bunch of stuff around me started getting struck by lightning. The loud thunder acted as an alarm clock. I hit the road and then drove through the storm.
I made it to Marshfield at about 11am. I then unloaded my car at my parents and took a quick shower. I came into town and went to the nursing home. My grandma, as well as my uncle from Louisiana was both there. My grandpa was sleeping. You could definitely tell he was in rough shape. I stayed there the rest of the night and every here and there another family member would pop in to visit or grandpa would actually wake up a bit.
It was then a torturous week. Every day, there was a noticeable decline. There were several nights of thinking this was it. Somehow, he would make it through the night. Everyone still had to work and sitting up there all day, especially while he was sleeping, was a bit much so Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I logged in remotely and worked during the day. I would come and visit each night, while everyone else was there and there was a greater chance we was awake.
Now this side of the family is a big family. My dad had 6 brothers, for a total of 7 of them. The room would fill up fast since everyone but my uncle, his family, and me, lives in Marshfield. The nursing home actually moved him to one of the biggest rooms they had and it was still packed with people.
By Friday night, the decline was really bad. The dying process was starting and we knew there was only a limited amount of time left. We stayed by his side until about 11PM. Everyone then went home. We found out he made it through the night, but by then he was declining hourly. Everyone spent most of the day up there and was by his side when he passed away at around 9:15PM Saturday.
The wake wasn't supposed to be until Wednesday night and the funeral Thursday morning. Being the emotional rollercoaster everything was, I decided to take the whole week off. It was supposed to be a short week anyway with Thursday being a Texas state holiday for LBJ's birthday. I'll get into more of the things I did in another blog post.
The wake was set for 4-8PM on Wednesday. One thing about my grandpa is he knew everyone. For the full 4 hours, the line was out the door. It even wrapped around outside and was basically a blockbuster. I wish I would have grabbed a picture of how long the line was, because it was truly amazing how many people turned out to pay their respects to my grandpa and support our family during this time.
The next morning was the funeral. I was a pallbearer so I made sure to get there early. It was raining most of the time or looked like rain so I hadn't brought the Cougar out. That morning, it was actually nice. I threw the battery back in it and got the dryer sheets that deter the mice into a pile. I brought it down to the church. My uncle also brought his Challenger and we parked next to each other.
The funeral director asked us to bring our cars behind the Hearse since that's where the family would park.
My grandpa had worked for the city for 40 years. They cleaned up a tractor and parked it outside the church on the street.
My cousin, who is a cop in Marshfield, grabbed a squad car to lead the procession afterward. We did the and then made our way to the cemetery. As you can see my uncle's Challenger, then my Cougar, and then a close family friend's Torino were all next to the squad car that led the procession.
After the ceremony at the grave site, we went back to the church for the meal. This all concluded a definitely hard week and a half on an impulsive road trip that nobody would ever want to take.