Yes. It is! Believe it or not, we had a white Christmas in Texas. It wasn’t quite one of those days where you can plod around in the powdery white stuff all day but, it was white none the less. My biological mother and my niece and nephew and half sister came over today to visit with her dad (my grandpa that raised me) and us. We had a good time but it really was weird not having everyone here.
This is the first Christmas without my grandma who raised me. She died on January 10th, 2012. That’s a day I’ll never forget.
I had taken an interview for a job making more money than a previous job and gotten a call back. On January 10th at about noon I went in for a long sit down and it turned out, an offer of a job. I did the tour of the facility and signed some contracts. I met some of the people there and just learned a bit about some training I would need to do. All the fun stuff you do when you get a new job. I was starting to get excited about it. It was in the same field I’m used to working in but slightly different and that means new stuff to learn. My phone kept vibrating annoyingly in my jacket pocket during the visit and I just ignored it. I left feeling pretty high on the idea of the new job, more money and a chance to expand my horizons in my field.
When I got to my car I whipped out my phone and saw that my half sister, Amanda, who still lives in my home town had called me about 7 times, texted me a bunch and I had a bunch of voice mails. I figured something crazy had happened on that side of the family or something like her older sister (another half sister of mine who’s always in trouble) had gotten herself killed, or put in jail or something ridiculous. I rarely talked to them on the phone or anything. I didn’t bother to listen to the voice mails or check the texts cause I was about to start driving so I called her.
As I pulled up to a stop light, Amanda answered the phone. She was crying hysterically and I could barely understand her. I could hear a lot of other people in the background. I told her to calm down and just tell me what was going on. She told me, “Wes, Mema just died.” I realized I was sitting at a green light. I felt the life just drain out of me. It felt surreal at that moment and I just didn’t want to drive. I sat there for a minute and finally said, “What?” Amanda repeated herself. I stayed quite calm on the outside and just asked her to explain what was happening.
She told me that my grandma had just brought my grandpa home from his last chemo treatment for this round. She had gotten him to his recliner and headed back to her bedroom. When she got back there she said, “Bill, I don’t feel good” and that was it. She fell onto the end of the bed, draped over it like a limp blanket and that was it. She was gone.
As far as we knew she had no medical conditions. She was lively and worked 40 hours a week as well as took care of my grandpa who has extreme cancer and heart issues.
I responded to Amanda, “I’m coming straight there. I’m not going to go home first or anything. I’m just coming straight to Athens.” I could hear my grandpa in the background crying and asking her if I was coming. He kept saying, “Wes will be here. He always loved his Mema. He’ll be here.” Amanda put him on the phone and he just sobbed and kept telling me how horrible it was when he walked in and she was just draped over the end of the bed. I told him I was on my way and I needed to call my wife.
I called my wife, Adria. She was at work and it took her a bit to respond. When she did, I told her I was already on my way and she could just bring me some clothes and stuff later. I was still dressed up from the interview but I didn’t know what else to do. It seemed appropriate to just start driving straight there instead of going home. It was about a 2 hour drive from where I was.
For about 3/4’s of the drive I didn’t cry. I just thought really hard. It didn’t seem real and I didn’t really know how to act. This was the first time anyone REALLY close to me had died. I almost didn’t believe it. I felt like I needed to see it for myself. This lady was my mother. She raised me as well as a human being can. Let me tell you, this lady was meant to lovingly raise kids. I believe in my heart that she was put here to raise me and I would have been dead or worse if it wasn’t for her. She was my connection to my family. She was the cornerstone of my belief system. She was the ideal person I would want to be.
About 20 minutes from Athens, the reality started to sink in. When I started seeing familiar locales and places we went when I was a kid. The East Texas life was all around me and I started to cry. I cried for about 10 minutes and then I didn’t cry again until I saw her in a coffin at a private viewing.
I’ll summarize the rest. I realized after being there for an hour or so that my grandpa could NOT take care of himself any longer. They had sort of hid that from us. We didn’t realize how bad off he was. My wife couldn’t come down right away because of her job so I didn’t get to see my wife for several days. That was really tough on both of us in that situation. I was asked by their kids, my aunt, uncle and biological mother, to sort and take care of his finances. My grandma did all of that stuff and he had no idea how any more and didn’t really have the ability. I stayed with him for 2.5 weeks straight through the funeral and made all the arrangements with some help from their kids. Everyone was gone except me and him and my wife had to go back for work as well. I had to call the new job and ask them for some time already. I was supposed to start in 1 week. They told me I could wait a month before starting which was very generous of them.
Long story short, my grandpa needed such excessive amounts of care we spent almost 30k dollars in the next 3 months taking care of him when I couldn’t be down there. He asked to move in with me and so I purchased a new house to accommodate him. My wife and I had just purchased a house already but it was a 2 story with all the bedrooms upstairs. I had to call and cancel the new job and then basically just be jobless. During this time he went into the hospital where they found a cancerous tumor on his colon and removed 20% of the colon. He ended up in the hospital for 17 days and came out with hospital psychosis (no sense of time. no sense of anything. waking hallucinations all the time.). He was basically an invalid for 3 months including when I moved him up here. I spent the first several months he was here just cleaning up and trying to get him back to feeding himself, walking and using the bathroom himself.
And here I am today. Things are going well considering. We have the Twitch.tv thing going as well as our webisodes which are doing well. I don’t think I’ve ever worked this much in my life though. The army was pretty close but this usually leaves me no time to do anything. My biggest problem is not working out. Since she died, I haven’t worked out even once. I don’t know what happened. I just lost the will. It’s coming back though and I will get it straightened out.
I guess the moral of the story is this, never take anything for granted. You have someone you cherish that you just don’t see often enough cause it’s a little to far to go? Prioritize saving the money and the time to do it as often as humanly possible. Tell them you love them every time you see them. Talk about the memories you share and the things that created that bond. Let them know how much you cherish them and never let them think otherwise even for a second. There is absolutely nothing more important in this entire world that taking the time to make your loved ones know they’re loved and taking time to receive the same.
At this holiday time, remember to make every second count.
Here are a couple of pictures from today.