Last week I got an email from my mom with the subject line "Grandpa." In the past when a name has been in the subject line it has meant that person/animal/friend has passed away. So understandably, clicking the email to read more involves the quickening of my heart and tears already starting to flood my eyes.
But my Grandpa hasn't died. And from her email, it was hard to tell how serious the situation was. I mean he was in the ICU so things weren't great, and when you're 91 any trip to the hospital isn't going to be easy to recover from. But still, it wasn't until we skyped over the weekend that my parents told me how close it really was. He's moved out of the ICU now, into a rehab facility, but he is very weak.
That night I sobbed.
One of the hardest parts of being an expat is accepting that living this life means I'm going to miss out on the one a world a way. I can't help my parents deal with troublesome grandparents and I can't receive news in a way that helps me to grieve the way that I'd prefer to grieve. In fact, the amount of family news I receive is carefully filtered by what and when my parents tell me.
My preferred grieving method is to grieve before the event happens at all.
My eldest brother is 11 years older than me. He left for college when I was only 6. For six months before he left I cried myself to sleep every night. I was devastated by the fact that he was leaving. I grieved for the loss of him in our house long before the loss was real. By the time he actually left, I was still sad - inexplicably so - but I held myself together for the most part.
I like to think it's because I love to be organised, so I try to organise my emotions for events that are about to happen in the near future. However silly that may be.
I realise that I can't always pre-grieve. I can't grieve for unexpected events and living in a constant state of sadness over events that could happen in 20 years (my parents will die some day...I get that.) is no way to live at all.
So, here I am.
I wrote the above paragraphs last week. My grandpa is still alive, albeit barely.