Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Grandpa Ed

It's Thanksgiving week. Everything is so busy. The table has been extended, the supplies laid in, last minute grocery runs planned. That should be everything. But not this year. That doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what is going on around here.

Thanksgiving will be bittersweet for us this year.  Steve's dad, Ed McDonald, passed away quietly late Sunday night. He has been in failing health for quite a while now. He was living here - in Maggie's room - for the past four months since he went into hospice. He needed round the clock care which he lovingly received from two caregivers. He was comfortable and pain free while he was here and I am glad for that.

When he entered hospice he was assigned a nurse. They told me the nurse was also a Catholic nun and I thought that was perfect because Ed has always been a devout Catholic. The woman was great, no nonsense, down to earth. I could not believe it when she told me her name was Sister MAGGIE. In all my years in Catholic school for me and my boys, I never met a nun named Maggie. There were Sister Margarets, but no one ever used the nickname. That was such a strange coincidence, but one I decided was a good sign. So there was Ed in Maggie's room, which is perfectly set up to care for someone, being supervised by Sister Maggie.  Everything felt right.

We knew he was declining but still the end was something of a surprise. I suppose that is always true. No matter how expected, there is a moment when life ends, and it is so unbelievable when that moment actually happens. Steve's siblings were both here earlier on Sunday, which was great. In fact, that may be what he was waiting for - to see all three of them together. I know he gave them a weak smile when he realized they were all there.

Let's face it, I pretty much hit the jackpot in the father in law department. He and I had a great relationship always, but especially in the past three years since he came to live in San Francisco. I became his main lifeline when he was in assisted living and then in skilled nursing and finally here at our house. We spent a lot of time together and I loved every minute of it. He was so accepting of his circumstances. He had Parkinson's and could no longer live on his own. He didn't want to go into assisted living, he didn't want to leave his home or his town or his church, but he accepted that was how it had to be and he never complained. He had so much grace.

 I first met Ed 33 years ago when I started dating Steve. I can honestly say in all that time I never once heard him raise his voice or have a cross word for anyone. This is not to say that Ed was quiet and reserved, because that's not true either. In his day, he was warm and generous host, he ran local campaigns, he ran everything at their church, he loved to hunt and fish and was a scratch golfer. And he loved his family more than anything. Ed retired from the phone company when he was 51 and enjoyed his life even more after that. That was back when I first knew him and for a couple of years after his retirement his watch would still alarm at 4:30PM which was the time his workday at the phone company ended. It was a daily reminder of how happy he was.  He would smile and turn it off saying "Poor Bastards are still working." It was hilarious.

The two Eds
I remember when Eddie was born - the first grandchild on that side. We had a different name picked out and had shared that with others. Exercising my prerogative as a pregnant woman, I changed my mind about a week before Eddie arrived. Steve and I decided on Eddie but never had the chance to tell anyone because he unexpectedly arrived early. I didn't get to see his face, but my mother in law later told me that Ed drew in a breath and his mouth went into a perfect circle when he heard his first grandson would have his na me. It was a good choice.

So in addition to the Thanksgiving prep, we are planning a funeral for next Monday. I am glad he is at peace and I am glad he and his bride, Branca, are back together again.

 He was a wonderful man, a wonderful father and father in law and a fantastic grandfather. In this week of Thanksgiving, I am thankful I was part of his family.  I will really miss him.


  1. Beautiful post and fitting for him it sounds like. I bet he is happy back with his bride and his adoring granddaughter. I can bet Maggie has him wrapped around her finger there too!


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