Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Exciting Conclusion

It came on gradually.  No flash of lightning.  No rolling thunder.  Just a slow realization.  Because of how slowly the thought unfolded, it was easy to push away. 

I needed to see my grandpa again.

When the need to do something is for real, thoughts are reordered to achieve what must be done.  Far off Someday becomes a nagging persistent worry.  What if Someday is too late?  Someday better come faster than someday soon. 

To ease our minds, Someday smiled from the other side of Disneyland.  No more saying, “We’ll think about it tomorrow . . .”  Someday had a concrete deadline.  A moment in time to be dealt with. 

Disneyland came and went.  Someday was here.  A date was chosen but that was all.  Fortunately we threw the date on the table in a conversation with my sister.  Then later we told my mom the date we were thinking of.  The busyness of life moved on and I had this conversation with my sister.

“When are you coming to visit?”
“I don’t know.  I thought I was going next week but I still don’t have a plane ticket.  It’s free so it doesn’t matter when Heath calls.  I’ll let you know for sure.”

Not only was Someday here but it was going to slip away if something wasn’t done.  The sense of urgency to get that free ticket in my name was a little alarming.  Why did it matter so much when I went?  Maybe it didn’t matter when.  Maybe it just had to be done and Now was as good a time as any.

“I need to go.  I want to go next week like we planned.”
“I’ll call the airline and get you a ticket.”

The phone call was made, ticket secured, itinerary emailed.  Someday was in nine days. 

More phone calls and emails equaled plans which equaled a level of excitement that almost overshadowed the inevitable agoraphobic panic attack.  Almost.  Having only a week to prepare for a trip definitely helped the hysteria rising in me like a bad case of heartburn. 

The next thing I knew I was on a plane flying home. 

For the next four days my laptop became my constant companion because the conflict in the story had changed from getting there to recording my grandpa’s stories.  My grandpa is a storyteller.  He has great stories and Heath and I thought it would be nice to preserve those stories if I could. 

My only worry was that I didn’t want to put my grandpa on the spot.  I didn’t want to hold the microphone in his face and expect him to speak naturally.  I wanted it all unscripted and unannounced.  Like when I was a kid and on a water skiing/ camping trip he would just start talking.  We would laugh until our sides were splitting and five minutes later the Spirit of the Lord was felt so strongly by everyone there because of another one of his stories. 

That’s what I wanted to record.  But how was that going to happen?

Friday was not the day.  Although I got another wish granted on Friday.  My grandpa shared his thoughts on his mortality.  It was short and I was not surprised by what he said.  I know my grandpa well enough.  But it was comforting to know his take on things.  I don’t think I will ever forget him saying that when he was first diagnosed with cancer he was given a death sentence – an amount of time to live before the cancer would win.  He outlived that prediction by well over a decade.

“I’ve had my miracle,” he said.

That statement and the tone in which he said it will always stay in my memory.  What an incredible blessing we have all been given.  Jay – husband, father, grandfather, neighbor, friend, servant of the Lord – was allowed to live.  He has lived such an amazing life too.  How blessed we have all been these last fourteen years.

My mom changed dinner plans and told me that she had only invited my grandparents over for dinner on Saturday.  My heart sank.  I honestly thought that was my last chance.  The barbecue was fun.  My whole family was there, well, minus my husband and children.  We had a great time.  But it never seemed appropriate to pull out the good ol’ laptop. 

My mom said my grandparents never stay long after dinner.  In fact, she brought out dessert as soon as dinner was over.  My stomach ached from all the food!  At one point, I believe it was after we were done eating, I went into the guest room and called Heath.  I was near tears as I said, “I’m not going to be able to record my grandpa.  I’m sorry.”  Heath is such a great husband.  He was very understanding as he told me that it was more important that I just visit with Grandpa and spend the time with him than force a recording session.

So back outside I went to visit.  My heart was heavy but I was going to make the most of it.  Then I got the video of his partial short story.  I actually don’t even know what he was talking about!  I think it was a water skiing story.  I was not paying attention because there was so much going on with everyone else and I was trying to just capture the story on video without him knowing.  Like I said before, that video became my treasure.  I didn’t even watch it until I got home! 

The twist in the story came when my grandpa asked when I was going home.  I told him I was flying out Monday morning.  He said, “Oh good.  You can come to family home evening tomorrow night.”  Yes, I was going to see him one more time.  Then the question that changed everything.

“Will you teach the lesson?”

He went on to say that it was Ed’s turn but since it was a rare thing for me to be there he wanted me to teach for Ed.  I reluctantly agreed.  My mind was a total blank.  I have not been to family home evening at my grandparents’ house since Heath and I got married.  What in the world would I teach?  All I could think of was the simple lessons we teach our kids or The Living Scriptures movies we watch and then make the kids take the quiz afterwards.  Yeah, I’ll teach.  But what?

My grandparents stuck around for a while longer.  I kept thinking I should grab my laptop and hit record just to see what I could get.  But when I went inside, the party sort of disintegrated and everyone started cleaning up.  My grandparents left soon after.  It was ok.  The door of opportunity had been reopened when I thought it had shut for good.  I was going to family home evening.  

Looking back on all of this is amazing.  The way it all fell into place could not have been planned better. 

I called Heath to see what I needed to do to record.  He said to open the program on the desktop and hit the record button.  He told me it may ask me to give the file a name first but it was as simple as clicking on the red record button.  I armed myself with the microphone and with plugs so I wouldn’t lose power.  As soon as we arrived I sat by the wall and hooked everything up. 

Everyone sat down while my grandma brought over the orange juice and air popped popcorn.  The tradition of family home evening on Sunday evening with popcorn and orange juice had begun when my mom, brother, sister and I lived with Grandma and Grandpa when my mom divorced.  The fact that that tradition had lived on every Sunday since I was 15 years old was comforting.  Going “home” to visit took on more meaning for me.

While everyone was sitting down I hit that beautiful round red record button.  The next two hours were immortalized via digital recording.  Oh I got it all!  I got Ed bearing his testimony of patriarchal blessings, prayer, and missionary work.  I got an interesting patriarchal blessing discussion.  For those of you who don’t know, my grandpa is the Stake Patriarch.  I got my crazy lesson.  I am not proud of it.  I never meant for it to dwell so long on death.  Given the circumstances of the weekend, both expected and unexpected, I may always resent the way I presented a lesson meant to get people talking. 

The best part of this recording was the fact that my grandparents had no idea what I was doing.  They thought my lesson was on the laptop.  They met my laptop on Friday and were not afraid of it.  They thought nothing of the fact that it was sitting on the table.  I didn’t hide the microphone.  I think it was out of their line of vision because the popcorn bowl was in front of it.  My dream of getting a natural discussion was blossoming before my eyes. 

Then my miracle.  As if we haven’t had enough already!  My grandpa, completely unprompted, starting talking about his best friend Kendall.  He grew up with Kendall and has shared countless stories about him.  After a couple stories there was a lull.  Every conversation has lulls and some people believe it happens every seven minutes.  They are called seven minute lulls.  My mom and sister didn’t allow the seven minute lull to last more than a few seconds before they started asking Grandpa questions. 

The evening was like a roller coaster.  We had click clicked our way up that first steep part.  As if the whole event was really a roller coaster ride we looked around at each other in eager anticipation of what may come next.  Those first two questions got the train over the hump and the rest of the exciting ride followed.  Just like when I was a kid, we laughed until our sides were splitting, the Spirit was so strong, we were sad when we heard about Grandpa’s dogs passing away, then back to laughing. 

I enjoyed every second all while checking the program to see the white words ‘recording’ flashing.  If the computer went to screen saver my finger quickly rubbed across the mouse pad to wake it up.  I was taking no chances!

Most of the stories I captured I had never heard before.  My favorite story was hearing how my grandparents met which led to me asking about the proposal.  Not even my mom knew that story.  My grandma proposed to my grandpa!!! 

“Such is life without a wife and me without a husband.”  Grandpa figured out what she was getting at and the rest is history.  They’ve been married for 59 years! 

I have always heard of people visiting family members for the last time before they passed away.  I never thought it would happen to me.  The idea seemed so strange.  I am so grateful I did.  The trip was fantastic without the recording.  That was the icing on the cake.  With a cherry on top.  I still get chills thinking about how amazing my visit was. 

I hope I always do.

4 thoughts:

Ed said...

That was an amazing night. I'm so excited that you got the recording!!!! I had a good time with your visit. The girls coming home after finding out what they "never knew they always wanted" and getting to hear the stories and see the treasures that came back. The fun night of food at Granny's followed by watching hilarious Internet videos while parked in a randome parking lot. The BBQ, and crowning event of family home with stories by Grandpa. Thanks for coming out!

Jenni said...

What a neat experience for you! I'm so glad you were able to do that...and get your whole conversation recorded! What a wonderful thing to have and pass to your family! I must say...you're grandma is awesome! I can't imagine doing the proposing! Sounds like someone I would love getting to know...and so does your grandpa. Grandparents are so wonderful; what a neat opportunity!!!

Dee said...

I am signed in as Dee but this is Kelsea. I really appreciated you sharing your thoughts about visiting Grandpa. We were able to go up for a quick visit over conference weekend. I wish I had more personal one on one time with Grandpa listening to his stories. It felt so good to go to grandpa's house again. It had been so long since I had last visited. Is there a way that I could get a copy of your recording of grandpa?
I have a recording of Grandpa that was made a couple years ago where I asked him questions about being a patriarch. I used it again for a yw's lesson on Sunday. They are sitting at the kitchen table drinking orange juice and eating popcorn. My husband makes fun of me for always drinking orange juice and eating popcorn. It's a silly tradition that has stuck with me.

Tristan said...

Hi Kelsea,

I would love to share a copy with you and anyone else in the family. I'll make copies and get them to your mom.

That's so funny that you drink orange juice while eating popcorn! It's a great combination.

Tristan