kansas

Kansas

So I’ve been out in Kansas all week since my Grandpa has been sick.  I wanted to come out and see him, and my work was awesome enough to let me work from here for the week so I could come spend some time with him and the rest of my family out here.  All of my extended family live in Kansas, my parents and my aunt (mom’s sister) are the only ones who live out of the state.  The entire family on both sides goes back many generations of attending KU and being Jayhawks, and have a long line of being technical engineers of one form or another (my brother carries on this tradition at least).

 

Anyway, my grandfather, who I’m named after (Charles is my middle name and his first name)  has got prostate cancer that has moved into his bones, and he’s just not doing well at all right now.  It has spread throughout most of his body, even into his jaw making it hard for him to eat or drink anything because his jaw is completely numb.  At Christmas time, he was around 175 pounds, and just since then he has decreased to nearly 130 because he just isn’t able to eat enough to survive.  We helped him get a new electric bed and chair set up in the living room and bed room that raise and lower to help him stand up, and some days he’s been feeling well enough to sit around and talk with us for a while.  Other days it seems hard enough for him to just move from his bed to the living room.  It’s been extremely hard seeing him like this in such poor condition because he has always been such a badass.

 

My grandfather came from nothing, extremely poor roots, and worked his ass of his entire life to end up  being an extremely successful petroleum engineer and farmer.  One of the most knowledgeable and down to earth people I know.  He served his country in WWII (both of my grandfathers did), and I consider him a hero.  He was stationed in the Pacific, and fought the Japanese on many of those islands, ended up being a Staff Seargent before the war ended.  I have always looked up to this man just because he was one of the most honest, self made, grassroots badasses I have ever known.  I’m just so thankful to have had him and all of my grandparents in my life for nearly 30 years, and it breaks my heart to see him in such bad shape.

 

I’ll never forget for the rest of my life going in to his bedroom to help my grandma get him in bed so he could rest, and he had laid down in bed with his feet sticking off the end.  We needed to get him to slide up a bit so his feet would be comfortable, and the only way to do this was to put a sheet underneath him so we could grab that and slide him up.  But just the small pressure of moving him and sliding him up the bed hurt him so much he was yelling with pain.  It just completely broke my heart to see such a strong man so frail and in so much pain.  I just hope to god that he can at least not suffer any more.

 

One of the hardest things this week was getting him on hospice care.  My grandmother recently (last year) had a fall and broke her hip.  She is fine and fully healed, but ever since then she is not very stable and can’t support herself that well.  It just isn’t safe to have her trying to help him walk around and get in and out of bed, and in the shower.  So we really made the right decision bringing in additional care with a hospice company, but it was unbearably hard seeing my strong, proud, grandfather come to terms with the fact that he now needs this help.  They were interviewing him and asked him all sorts of questions about his current state, and when they asked him if he felt that his life was valuable and worthwhile, he replied that he didn’t really feel that way.  He has always been a strong, and independent man, and it’s so hard for him to realize that he can’t do much on his own anymore and he needs the help of others to do just the most basic tasks.  I think overall, it was the right decision and at least he will get the care and dedication that he needs in order to live a comfortable life from here on out, but it was a really hard decision to make for everyone.  It was very hard watching my mom interact with him and for her to see her father in such bad shape.

 

It wasn’t all bad, however, as Evan and I got to spend a lot of quality time with grandpa, and talked with him for hours.  He’s so interesting and knowledgeable about just about everything, that when we were asking him about some lamps that made out solid blocks of wood on a lathe, he really wanted to get up and take us into his office to show some of the pieces he had carved.  Even though it caused him so much pain just to get up and walk into the other room, he just wanted so badly to go in there and show us.  We talked with him about everything: farming, engineering, oil drilling, woodworking…it was great and definitely conversations that I will hold with me for the rest of my life.

 

Leaving was the hardest part knowing that I might not ever see him again.  But at least I left knowing that I got to spend some time with him and have awesome memories that will never leave me.

 

Me, Mom, Evan, Grandpa

Me, Mom, Evan, Grandpa

 

Me, Grandpa, Evan

Me, Grandpa, Evan

 

It has been really hard coming home to being alone and realizing I have no one here  for me to go through this.  I haven’t really lost anyone close to me like this before, and it’s as hard as when my mom was going through cancer.  I mean, I have my family and my brother close by, but ever since Jess up and left, it’s really hard at night sleeping alone and having all these horrible thoughts on your mind and no one to talk to about it at 3am when you can’t stop thinking about all of it.  Fuck.  I just feel extremely alone and unwanted that sometimes I’m not sure how in the world I managed to screw up getting engaged to the woman I thought would love me for the rest of my life.  It’s very sad and confusing to me.  Nothing to do but to move on I suppose.

 

The trip was great though, and gave me a lot to think about.  I managed to be able to go visit my grandpa’s farm, which holds so many memories from me growing up.  Every trip to Kansas from my childhood featured a trip to his 100+ acre farm, and I just remember running all around there, driving tractors, swimming, fishing, exploring, running through cornfields, and having so much fun.  Evan and I got to go out there with our cousin Billie and mowed all the lawn around the farmhouse for grandpa so that it would be easier to walk around there.  He was able to make a trip out to the farm too with a friend of his, and was actually able to get out and walk around the property to check on things, which I know made him so happy because that farm has been his passion for the past 40 years.

 

The Farm House

The Farm House

 

The Shed

The Shed

 

Evan and I also managed to get his old farm truck running.  ”Old Blackie” was an awesome truck, a 1970 dodge pickup with a ’68 hood and an inline slant 6.  We all remember driving around sitting in the bed of this truck when we were little kids.  It has been sitting out at the farm for a number of years, so evan and i wrenched on it a bit and got it fired up and drove her around for a bit.  All it needs is a new battery to get back on the road.  Such a cool truck, I would love to restore it someday!

 

Old Blackie

Old Blackie

 

We even towed up my Uncle Kim’s MAX 6×6 amphibious buggy.  This thing is awesome, with a Briggs & Stratton 14hp engine, and 6 wheels, it will go just about anywhere.  We bombed the shit out of this thing all around the farmlands.  Check out this video:

 



 

On the way out, we stopped by the artesian spring at the edge of the property that I always remember stopping at to get a drink of the freshest water I’ve ever tasted, straight out of the ground.  Then, we passed through the tiny town of Cedar Point, which has this awesome old mill from the 1800′s that the city is trying to save.  We went over and explored around inside it for a bit before taking off.  Got some great pictures of it too:

 

 

Finally, before leaving, we stopped by my Uncle’s (My dads brother) house and checked out his neighbor’s cars and bikes.  My uncle is restoring a pretty sweet 1963 Pontiac Tempest, and his neighbor is also a big Pontiac guy with 2 GTO’s and some awesome bikes.  He had a 1974 Triumph, and a 1970 and 1968 GTO.  The triumph he had bought when he was 20, with 1,800 miles on it, and still had it in perfect condition:

1970 Triumph

1970 Triumph

 

 

1970 GTO

1970 GTO

 

 

So overall, it was a good trip, it was a bad trip…but it was great to see my family and help me remember my roots.  I don’t get to see my family often, and it really helped to at least get to spend an awesome week with my grandfather, as I dont’ know if I’ll ever have that opportunity again.

 

I have a feeling that our family is in for a rough upcoming year.  But I wouldn’t change the time I had with him for the world.

 

This post is dedicated to Charles Forrester.

  • Knowles2113

    This brought tears to my eyes. Watching a family member go through serious/terminal illness is difficult. I took care of my grandma in her last few months. Being in nursing school made this process even more difficult because I know exactly what was going on within her. Know that if you ever need anything, I am here.

  • Scottbiccum

    wow… tough times.    Heartwarming, touching and sad.    I am SO glad that you guy were blessed with the opportunity to go back and spend some time with your Grandfather.   Most of us aren’t fortunate enough to have this chance.   I’m confident that you will look back on this time spent as some of the most precious in your lives

  • Lillian Kunz

    Ian, 
    Thank you for telling us about your trip ;back home’..So glad you and your family could be together with your grandparents to talk and make them happy about all the fun times you had as kids!  So sorry that your grandfather isn’t doing well, and glad to hear that your grandmother is doing better…The farm reminds me of the place my aunt and uncle’s friend had out in Illinois.  It is great to remember all the good things we did there,  and it is the same for you and your family..Sorry to hear you feel so alone with no one there with you..but better days are coming for you..I have my puppy dog who will be ten in July, to keep me company..she’s a Border/Collie/Lab about 50# and she is a rescue dog..  tomorrow I get to go to PetSmart to see all the dogs and cats that are up for adoption through a group I belong to called HOPE  Helping Out Pets Everyday!!  They go out to the shelters and get dogs and cats that they can’t keep around too long,  and save their lives from being put down..Just yesterday they got two more dogs and three kittens and the mother..I really enjoy being there to hold them and love them as they usually have to go back to a kennel for the week or we have people who foster care them.. I’ve had Gina since she was about 15 months..I love the truck your gramp has and also the way you drove that 6 wheeler around, but you were filming and driving at the same time…thought you would crack up!  We had my father-in-law living with us back in Chicago.  He taught me how to use all kinds of tools, hand and electric.  we would construct all kinds of things..He once made a swing for our two boys out of old cabinet doors with springs and hung it from the rafters..Too bad we didn’t patent it as some one saw it and basically made almost the same thing years later..and sold a lot of them,,He lived  to be almost  100 years young!  He was such a joy to have living with us as my mother-in-law only made it to 82, she lived with us too..she was three years younger so I had him for a long time.. Our boys really loved doing things with gramps…..Well I’ve gone on for a long time but you really wrote such a beautiful letter you made me think back about good times..I lost Bob almost three years ago so now I do a lot of timeshare traveling…with friends..Take care we miss you and your brother Evan back here at church so I enjoy watching you on Facebook…Hope you don’t mind me reading all about you..Lovingly Lillian and Gina    

  • Billie

    Love the post cuz!  You are NEVER alone through this!  I’m always here if you wanna chat….at least you know I understand the full extent of how you feel!  I’m really glad you guys were able to spend some quality time with Gramps.  I know it means the world to him!! 

  • DaxxRuckus

    Thanks Billie.  I’m so glad we got to spend time with you and Mello too!  Evan and I love that little guy, I wish we were still closer to you.  I will definitely keep in touch with you, and grandpa!  Love you!

  • DaxxRuckus

    Thank you Lillian!  I find that so many people already know what this all feels like to go through and experience, but its still new for me, and I’m finding it pretty hard to deal with.  I love hearing about your memories at the farm too, it sounds like you had just as much fun as we did!  That is some interesting stuff…it sounds like your father in law was pretty handy with tools…thats something I always appreciated about my family too.

    I appreciate you reading this and leaving me such a nice comment.  I’ll look into that HOPE group, it sounds really great.  We had a dog here for a while and he was a great distraction.  I miss you guys and being around the church as well!

    take care,

    Ian

  • DaxxRuckus

    Thanks Scott.  It was really good for Evan and I to get out there and see everyone.  Really reminds me where we are from and how different things are back there.  But the time spent with Grandpa was the best and something that I know we’ll both never forget.  He gave Evan and I each one of his  old slide rules from when he was an engineer…that will probably end up on evans desk. haha

  • DaxxRuckus

    Thanks Kristen.  I figure most people have been through this already, I guess we are very lucky to have had all of our grandparents alive this long.  I appreciate you reading this and leaving me a message. Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511436332 Nick Frederick

    It is a great post. Reading about the mid west and having been there myself makes me often think about moving there. The quality of life, surroundings and people seem to be better than what we pay for out here.

     I am glad you guys were able to go out there and get a piece of your childhood back. And most of all to see your grandparents. Something that did not have experience in my life. I knew my Dad’s mom until the day we graduated from 6th grade. That was the day she passed and the first time I had seen my Dad cry. I never knew either of my grandfathers. James Frederick a Lt. with the Army Air Force, was one of the first to fly P-38. Frank Keneally who worked with the USO. Now my grandmother Addie is slowing down, has the slight beginning of dementia, and is a risk to leave alone. I think that is the hardest for the elderly; realizing that you need help with the smallest of daily rituals and those freedoms you once knew are now gone. And privacy is really non existent.  

    Mortality is something that I constantly think about and try to grasp the concept of. Sometimes I think about it and it makes me numb and feels like a panic attack of sorts. We are getting to the point in our lives when life stops giving and starts taking away.  Anyways. I am glad you were able to get out there. It is a different world there but not a bad different. Over 100 acres here is something that conglomerates own, not regular people. Something that many would like is more land. More land for their children and family to live on, live off of and set the foundation for a good life for all. 

    I am jealous of the family that you have that is still around, and people who helped create who you are, for better or worse. I believe for better. And yes, someone who you wanted to take the leap with bailed out and pulled the parachute. We all have so much to offer and there are people who fit in the puzzle of life and people who don’t even belong in the puzzle box. Jess was someone who doesn’t fit your life puzzle. She belongs in the crazy puzzle box, along with a few other ex’s that we all know. And good riddance. 

    You feel like you are falling alone, but you aren’t. Look at the family and everyone else who are right by your side falling with you. We all at times feel alone because we see things only from one angle when we are consumed by so much. And sometimes we feel like we have so little just because of the angle we are viewing the situation. When in truth if you adjust the lens it opens the view up to show everything and everyone who you have. 

    Life is hard, life is unjust. But I think it is our duty to fight against that and make this life as awesome and memorable as possible. To fight that darkness that consumes and kill it with light, laughter and companionship. 

    Here is to Grandpa Forrester, all of our grandparents, and all of those who we have loved and lost. Here is to life, liberty and the endless pursuit of happiness. 

  • Lillian Kunz

    Hi again Ian, 

     Just to give you a little more info about HOPE..A lady here in Upland started this group about 10 or so years ago..if you want you could go to the Facebook site “HELPING OUT PETS EVERYDAY” they have a lot of the dogs and cats with pictures and a little blurb about them..  Her name is Margaret Coffman  and her phone number is 1-909-981-8038 or 1-800-811-285 , or macc219@aol.com
    .. 
    She and I are pretty good friends since I got Gina back in 2003, the day of the big fires here and around Upland!  They bring the dogs and cats over from the kennel  or from foster homes, to PetSmart  at 19th and Campus at Colonies Crossroads on Saturdays from 10 AM to 2 PM.  They would ask that you fill out an application form for adoption to check you out.They charge  $150 for dogs and $75 for cats.  They are all spayed or neutered with shots and a micro chip, before they are adopted out!  They just rescued a great little dog last week that was so thin and matted from Devore Shelter or as we call it Devore Kill as they kill so many!  One of the men in our group saw him and said he wanted to “foster” him..so he picked him up from the Dr. after his surgery for neutering and took him home..’well the little guy name of DESI like the Lucy show, couldn’t go up stairs from the stitches so Harold put a sleeping bag on the floor downstairs to sleep near him..what a cutie he is now..

    Good to hear from you,  Lillian   1-909-982-4961  –  uplandkunz@att.net

  • Alicia

    Love you bro. You & your family are in my thoughts and prayers. 

  • DaxxRuckus

    Thanks Sis!  Love you too!

  • PJAM3

    Good to hear you had a great time in the midwest.  It’s always rough going through illnesses, old age, tragedies. Many people take a lot of things for granted until a tragedy or sickness.  The concept of stop and smell the roses alludes most people.

      People are busy with work, lives, families, relationships, kids, hobbies, and so on. And suddenly you wonder where did all the time go.  You just have to remember all the good times, try to make more great memories, and don’t dwell on the bad moments.   

      The cycle of life is a bit scary sometimes.  Years ago my grandmother had her leg cut off (diabetes) and was beyond the final stages of alzheimer’s.  It was really sad seeing her not know any of her own children. She didn’t know who my dad was at that point.  
     It was sad because most of my memories of her were her in a room never remembering anything or anyone.   And she became like the house guest nobody wanted until they finally put her in one of those homes.  Out of  her 8 children(my uncles & aunts & my dad) , nobody really seemed to have the space, time, patience I guess.  Sad really. 
      Wel fast forward to today and I went back to NJ for the first time in over 3 years.  The cycle of life was front and center.  I took my son to see all his family that he’s never met, and My oldest Aunt, now in her 70′s,  was in the same chair, looked exactly the same as my grandmother did all those years ago.  It was shocking really.  Sad.   I really felt like I walked into the past but it wasn’t the past.   She did not age well, gained a lot of weight, and can’t do anything on her own anymore. Supposedly once she was forced to retire, she gave up and never left the house.   It was just weird for me walking into the same room where my grandmother once slept and stayed and seeing my aunt in the same condition.     It is good you got the chance to see your grandfather and be around him more.  You have to appreciate the time you have and enjoy every moment.  Remember all the great times.   I never had any grandfathers( my dad’s dad dies in the 60′s, and my mom’s dad died when I was like 4 years old), so it’s good you got to grow up listening to his stories and being with him.    Enjoy whatever time you have left and try to get back out again if you can.   

      Keep your head up Ian….

  • DaxxRuckus

    Thanks Pete. I really appreciate the comment. And I will keep those memories of him with me for the reset of my life.