What death and mental illness can do (I honestly don’t know if I’m going to post this or not, I will probably edit it a dozen times before I do)

It was never my intention to start this blog to sound like a Debbie Downer. I’ve spent four days trying to write the words to say, but it hasn’t quite come out right. Everything has been harsh, and I don’t want to seem crass or bitter, or overshare and embarrass some. The more I go through the motions it certainly appears that my life has a lot more downs this time of year than ups. Lately things have not gone right and circumstances are beyond my control.

My grandfather died on halloween. There are untruths surrounding his death that keep being told and it is unsettling, and the reasons that come out for them are unimpressive. My grandpa was the only grandfather I full heartedly remember. My great grandfather I met a handful of times and died when I was 10. My dad’s father died of cancer when I was 3. So my grandpa had been the only other male figure in my life who did things with me besides my dad growing up. All of my memories of him are positive, and this last year has been the hardest for us all. Hearing what he has had to endure since my grandma died, I’m surely we all might feel the same to some extent losing someone we’ve been in love with for over 50 years.

My grandpa gave me my first driving lessons on a golf cart, he sent me letters encoded in Morse code, we’d go out for coffee and Malt shake dates, he taught me about HAM radio. He used to play the accordion and harmonica, sit around eating peanuts and cracking jokes, watching wrestling. He always had naughty calendars with topless ladies from the COOP on his office wall right above our height. He always wore pearl snap button down plaid shirts and had embroidered linen hankies. He’d sneak outside to smoke by saying he was going to “look at the moon”. He was a character, and always made me laugh. I will miss him dearly.

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Thursday he was laid to rest and Friday I baked cupcakes with my sister in preparation for a baby shower for our step sister. I haven’t been able to knit. I haven’t been able to function much beyond the motions. I wish I had more to say, but my grandfather’s death has been a quite painstaking blow as the usual familial skeletons come out of the closet and his estate is unraveled. His memory is being picked apart like a Thanksgiving turkey carcass. Emotionally I’m quite overwhelmed with the animosity that some grown adults can have trying to justify their apathetic behavior towards one’s own kin. There are so many lies and secrets coming out and being told right now, my head is spinning. I find it hard to sleep, knowing that someone I’ve known all my life, has spent the last year of his life in agonizing loneliness and abandonment. He was abandoned by those that were closest to him. When he needed help, they sent authorities because they were too emotionally distant and immature to handle him because of childhood events that ended over 35 years ago.

Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of. Being bipolar is not something to diagnose behind someones back and pretend to care about. It’s not something you abandon them for and expect them to be able to take care of themselves on their own. Why would you tell someone “Hey, we had you tested, you’re bipolar” and expect them to take that well? Not when you’ve done that behind their back, and intend on going from one extreme of having them committed or doing nothing to help them at all. If they don’t agree to your terms, you won’t help them, if the authorities won’t do anything, you won’t keep trying? Some family. This is what happened. He didn’t accept the diagnosis thrown at him through an egregious conversation and they refused to try anything beyond authoritative intervention. He kicked them out of his life and lived his last days on his terms, juvenile as it was.

My grandfather needed someone to keep him on track with medications, with money, to keep him from being lonely and falling apart after my grandma died. He needed a loving family member in his life to be his caretaker, even when he was not feeling his most lovable, laughable, responsible self. I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t know he was on any medications. We are still waiting on the autopsy-but the money is on his heart, he stopped taking his meds months ago. He stopped paying his bills, pretending that he used ‘the wrong checkbook’. He’d laugh it off. His electricity got shut off, he couldn’t charge his phone. It got to the point where he was hanging out with the town trash, people who were a quarter his age, and taking full advantage of his manic bipolar ups and downs. His high highs made him generous. He started giving money he didn’t have away to them to help with their kids. When the money ran out, he’d co sign bad loans to people whose last names he didn’t even know. He sold most of the items out of the house. He’d had people bring items down from the attic, antiques to sell in thrift shops, and for them to take whatever gains they made from it.

The house by the end of his life needed a dumpster brought in and things just tossed. The kitchen sinks were filled with dirty water, and the plates had been in there as long as 3 months-the length of time that the water had been shut off. There was no gas or electricity. He hadn’t been sleeping there. The only clothing item in his closet was the suit that he wore to my grandmother’s funeral last winter. He had been apparently staying with someone else on the nights when it had gotten below freezing, but nobody had came forward with his belongings. It’s just bizarre. His manic bipolar disorder had been noted by those who had went to school with him at his funeral.

It’s hard to think of how erratic a behavior caused by pain can turn into, but for him it was living on the edge financially, driving erratically, pretending that everything was fine until you mentioned his beloved’s name. He fell apart like a child over her. Is that normal rational behavior-part of the grieving process, or part of the disorder? You start to question which parts are masking the pain, and which are masking the mentality after a while. It was so very difficult to have been hundreds of miles away, and to have no forms of communication other than snail mail and local authorities to get through to someone like him.

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4 thoughts on “What death and mental illness can do (I honestly don’t know if I’m going to post this or not, I will probably edit it a dozen times before I do)

  1. Thank you for sharing your loss and the story, reminding us to care and take care of each other. And mental illness is a harsh fellow in many lives and families. All the best, Hege

  2. So sorry to hear how hard it has been for oyu and him. And glad you have your good memories of him. Families are rough things. What a person is to one person may not be close to what he was to someone else. Remember that. Also remember that a relationship with a grandparent is very different from that of a parent. So, if his children have troubles from experiences that you don’t share, that is OK. theirs are likely real, so are yours. try to forgive them and keep on loving him.

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