"I have some bad news for you."
Janette caught me emerging from the kitchen, barely awake. It was Saturday morning. I had stayed up until 2am that morning, keeping an eye on Hannah and her feeding equipment, letting Janette sleep undisturbed for the first time in several days, and processing the news from the night before.
The news, delivered during dinner with Mom and Dad, had been that Nini, my grandmother (Mom's side), had started in-home hospice Friday. Nini had used in-home nursing services for years, but her memory, awareness, and appetite had been declining over the last year. And she had been in pain for the last day or two. Hospice was being brought in to help access her condition and ease pain where they could.
Although I had seen her ill over the last few years, this was not the Nini I knew. I knew her best as the Matriarch of the Family. If you were getting married, you sought her blessing, at least. If there were births in the family, you called her and let her know. If you were a kid, you helped her unpack (because she bribed you with the homemade chocolate crinkle cookies hidden purposefully in her luggage). If you were her son, you cringed if she made demands of you, then complied quickly. You invited Nini to all family gathering and moved heaven and earth to get her there. You listened to her stories, late at night, recounting the old days of Denver, the lineages of the neighborhood, the latest births and deaths. You watched her morning newspaper ritual, tsk-tsking over the Obituraries page as she traced the deaths of friends and friend's children.
This was the Nini I knew. She was strong: an anchor for the entire family. Now she was headed from in-home nursing to in-home hospice.
"I have some bad news for you. Nini died last night."
Janette finished delivering the news. Friday morning, hospice was brought in. Friday night or Saturday morning, Nini died. I had been awake when she died. Weeks before, she had told Mom, "I'm done." Now she had followed through on that promise.
"Your Dad called, and he wants to know if you'll be going?" Janette was sitting on the living room couch. I plopped down next to her. Hannah played on the floor nearby; Gabriel, on the game cabinet in the next room as I assembled my answer. Should go. New job, though. Could help. Good for Gabriel to see everyone and understand what was going on. Hannah, who hasn't flown yet or lived at a mile-high altitude, would stay home....
I called work and let them know, then rang Dad back and told him Gabriel and I would go to Denver. Dad and I tapped each other back and forth with the details, and we were over at Mom and Dad's house, waiting for the airport van to show up by 3:30pm that afternoon.
Hannah was sad. "Up! Up!" she commanded me. I obeyed, and she laid her head on my shoulder. She knew something was going on, and she wasn't included. Lying there, she babbled at me for a good minute. Then paused.
"Is there anything else you wanted to say?" I asked.
She had a few more things to say, then stopped.
"Okay." I explained to her, again, that Gabriel and I were going. She was staying with Mom. We weren't confident yet (despite tons of progress at home) about flying her to Denver: the place where my childhood asthma had been its absolute worst. She was not happy, and she remained quiet.
A few minutes later, the kids sat with Janette on the front lawn as we loaded the airport van with luggage. We said our goodbyes again, I gave Hannah another big hug, and then Gabriel and I, my brother, nephew, Mom, Dad, and sister all loaded into the van and headed off to the airport in our hastily arranged flight to Denver.
Updated from Denver - Janette loaded the original for me, but something got lost in the file transfer. Being a "completest", I've added the missing part back.