07/25/04: Grampy + Steve (Warning: bummer post, yo. But Steve We makes it all better at the bottom!)

Izzle's having a rough go of it as of late; his grandfather is putting the final touches on his long, fantastic life.  The izzle doesn't deal with death so well (who does, really), so tonight was a gotta-talk kind of night. We opted for the soothing properties of pie at Stanley's.

I asked him what images come to his mind when someone says "Grampy." He told me stories about summers at their cozy house in the Hamptons, his grandfather sitting in his underwear drinking coffee in the morning; how he loved baseball and the ocean, how he'd make up funny words, and how he'd try to get his huge family to quiet down by offering to sing.   I asked the Izzle what things about his grandfather's illness (he has Alzheimer's) were bothering him the most, and he said that even though Grampy doesn't recogize people and can't do anything for himself anymore, he still understands that he is going to die. Just this morning, Grampy, in a rare lucid moment said, "Well, I guess this is the end of the road then." He then asked to be driven to the ocean in his truck, but there wasn't anyone who could carry him outside. The good news is he'll be taken in his truck to the ocean as soon as other burly family members arrive, which will be very soon.

I asked Izzle how his grandmother was holding up, and he said that she's a stubborn old lady and that she's doing OK.  He said that he figures the hardest part for her will be sleeping alone once he goes.

And that's when we started to get really misty.  This woman has slept next to her husband for over a half-century, even through these deteriorating years (she's been his sole caregiver; he's been at home).  It must be a very strange feeling curling up next to someone who no longer remembers who you are. How do you say goodbye to your best friend for more than 50 years?   And once the memorial services are done, what do you do after the relatives have gone back home? Because that's the night you have an empty bed and a quiet house full of the things that defined your lives together. What do you do with these nouns, these exoskeletons? Do you sort it out? Do you leave it where it lay and let someone else worry about it eventually? Because I'm sure my great-aunt didn't need a closet full of men's dress pants after my great-uncle passed, but I can't imagine her being too eager to get them out of her house, either.

On my way home, I got thinking about the concept of being with someone for 50+ years: what a beautiful thing that must be.   An old boyfriend once said to me, "I am so comfortable with you; I feel like we're an 80-year old married couple."  Only later did I learn that he thought that was "a bad thing."   What's bad about it? Would it be better if things were uncomfortable? (Shit, if he wanted me to shoot him perplexing looks just to keep him on his toes, I would have obliged... haha.) Seriously though, why wouldn't you want that level of comfort, of knowing someone is rock steady and a given, with your relationship evolving past the negative connotations of being taken for granted?  

I mean dude, isn't that what it's all about?

And this then got me thinking about a question I was asked in May... what are my marriage dealbreakers?  What properties would make me run screaming from someone (or possibly worse, just make me grow indifferent)?  What ingredients are necessary, in my mind, for something to work for the 50-year long haul?  Does that ideal exist, or, does settling down mean settling for?  And what do you do when you think you've found it?  Do you keep your mouth shut so you don't run the risk of being told that "it's a bad thing"?

Anyway. Way too much thinking for a Sunday night. It's coming up on 4am again... I've gotta cut this out.

So hey! Now that you're good and depressed, this'll turn that frown upside down: the latest installment of Steve Weatherman: Iowa Boy.


July 25th, 2004

Dear All,

Greetings to you lucky dogs on the East Coast following my trek through hell.  As all good things must come to an end, my time in Minneapolis/St. Paul is over.  I am on my way down to serve out my sentence at my parents' place.  In an attempt to postpone the inevitable return to my parent's place, I stumbled off the beaten path in search of a laundro-mat as every piece of clothing I have with me is now soiled.  I found myself in a dusty little town that had a Pepsi machine as its sole point of interest.  I took a couple photos with the Pepsi machine, but it's difficult capture the emotion of the moment when one is both in and taking the photo.

The Laundro-mat was a study in depression.  Even on such a lovely day, its interior was hot and humid, reeking of generic detergent which had been sprinkled liberally over every flat surface.  This may have been a misguided and low-budget attempt at lightening the undercurrent of industrial bleach which snatched the breath from one's lungs. (Detergent: The poor-man's potpourri.) I tried to keep eye contact with my fellow washers to a minimum, as I suspected they had recently been released from prison or had a blood relative in the Big House.  One particularly hairy lady chain-smoked as she walked from machine to machine, her flip-flops sadly slapping the bottom of her feet.  After loading the clothes, quarters and detergent in the aged machine, I sat in one of two chairs gracing the establishment.  I was shocked to find, in this hole of dispair, a stack of what turned out to be an entire year's worth of Martha Stewart "LIVING" magazine.  I couldn't help but laugh. My laugh attracted attention from the natives, so I quickly regained an attitude of listlessness required of all who found themselves here.  Against all rules of common sense, these periodicals spoke to the good things in life (vanilla bean scented sugar, homemade paper-cut holiday decorations, creating hand-made valentines with antique glass beads and ribbon...)in a place that had no notion of what "good" was, where to get "good" or any chance of being able to afford "good." The only relationship I could see between the glossy periodicals and the laundro-mat was the possibility that an incarcerated Martha could soon be the prison bitch of the hairy lady's aunt in Marble Rock State Prison.  I had a Pepsi and drank to Martha's good health.  It's a good thing.  

Pray for me.

-Steve We.
Your Iowa Boy