Tonight was a wake up call that I have been feverishly avoiding for the past few years; one of those harsh and cruel realities that come up and bite you in the ass when you least want to be facing it. I consider myself so lucky that I have had the blessing, privilege, and honor of growing up with 3 of my 4 grandparents. It is something that not many children get to experience, and for my sister and me, our grandparents are as close to us as our parents are. With only one first cousin (who lives hundreds of miles away), Elana and I have never had to share our grandparents, and for most of our lives they have been our safe havens, our comfort zones, our balance, and our source of light in dark times. As little girls we idolized our grandparents, and to this day, whenever we have needed them, they have always been right there for us; no questions asked.
My grandparents drove up to Sacramento to visit my sister a few days ago, and while they were there the 3 of them got into a little car accident. Though the accident didn't hurt any of them, the stresses of the day, combined with the accident, combined with old age, failing health, lack of food, and lack of sleep, showed a frailty of body and mind in my grandparents (especially my Zayde) that I have scarcely allowed myself to acknowledge. When people are as important to you as my grandparents are to me, you never think that there will be a day when they are not around; a day when you can't just pop over to their house, or call to talk to them when you need to be comforted or are seeking advice.
After the events of today my mother told me the one truth that I have always crushed under the heels of denial. The truth that I know exists, but have refused to believe or acknowledge... The truth that when I leave for Israel I may never see one or more of my beloved grandparents again... When she said it I remained surprisingly composed despite feeling like I had just been punched in the stomach by the boxing champion of the world. It wasn't until I was alone in my room that I let it hit me... My grandparents are all over 80, my Zayde is in end stage renal failure, my muzzy is not in good health, and though my bubby will outlive us all, who knows what her state will be without my Zayde. There is a definite possibility that July 24, 2011 might be the last time I see some or all of them. How does one even comprehend this. How can you make sense of something that makes no sense. These are my idols, my best friends, my heroes. They will always be around; they just have to be...
I've never liked to think about death. To be honest, it scares the shit out of me. The ultimate finality is such a hard thing for me to comprehend. It wasn't until my step brother David passed away that I really started to think about, and understand, that life is so precious, and one day every one of us will have to leave this world. But even with that knowledge, it is still so hard to think of death as something that is so close to you. As both a loved one that has to watch as death takes away those closest to us, to a human being that will one day fall victim to death's claim, it is a reality that needs to be acknowledged, but one that is the most devastating to face.
For a quick moment I thought of not going. How can I leave these 3 wonderful people who might have very limited time left? And then the thought of my Zayde skinning me alive for the mere thought of giving up my life and dreams because he MIGHT pass away (or because any of them might pass away), snapped the thought out of my head. My Zayde is as stubborn as I am and I know he would tell me "I should have died 30 years ago. I have lived a good long life, and I am ready to go." And I know that they have all lived wonderful, long lives, and it would kill each of them if I didn't allow myself to live my own, so that when I'm a fiesty octogenarian I can yell at my grandkids and say "when I was your age I had a choice to live my dreams or skulk around waiting for my grandparents to die, so get your ass on that plane and go do amazing things..." but it still scares me. And so I will enjoy every second with them for this next month, teach them all how to use skype, and pray that they are waiting for me at the airport 15 months from now when I come back home to all of them. And for each of them, especially my Zayde, I will do everything I can to make sure this year is one of the best, most meaningful of my life.
Until next time