Last Saturday, Geoffrey and I made a surprise trip to visit Nana and Pop Pop.
We haven’t seen them since Jo Jo’s birthday. Pop Pop is still going through chemo, so he’s very weak and his immune system is shot. Unfortunately, my kids are laden with germs—the last time my dad saw them, he came down with a cold and was house bound for a couple weeks.
But last weekend was special. Pop Pop’s birthday was on May 9th, and Sunday was Mother’s Day. I called Pop Pop’s oncologist in Boston, and he said it was fine to visit with Geoffrey as long as neither of us was under the weather.
We showed up at 10 am and surprised Nana, who was barely out of her curlers.
We had a great time. Geoffrey loved exploring a new place, especially one that’s not Geoffrey-baby-proofed and filled with such tempting items as sharp edged glass coffee tables. He bumped his head a couple times, but hey, just makes those skull bones stronger.
And my almost one-year old hit a major milestone while we were there.
Geoffrey and I were playing on the ground (inches away from the oh-so-enticing-but-oh-so-dangerous coffee table) while Pop Pop sat on the couch, listening. Geoffrey crawled over to me and pulled up to stand, grinning. Then he cautiously moved his right hand off of my shirt and stood, balancing himself by holding onto me with just one hand.
Then he looked at me and beamed his happy baby-toothed smile before removing his other hand. He stood there in shock, and glanced at me in glee.
Look, mom, I’m standing! I could hear him thinking.
“Daddy!” I said hurriedly. “Daddy, look!”
My father stared over in the direction of my voice, frowning, and I realized, with a huge stabbing pain in my stomach, that I had said the wrong thing. The completely, horribly, terribly wrong thing. He couldn’t look. He couldn’t see that his grandson was standing.
I tried to cover it up quickly. “Daddy, he’s standing!” I said brightly.
“Is that so,” my father said in his jovial Pop Pop voice. “Geoffie, you’re such a big boy!” And then the moment ended and Geoffrey toppled over on top of me—narrowly missing smashing his head open on the glass coffee table—and started bawling.
My dad was quiet for the rest of the afternoon. My mother said it was because he was tired, but also a little upset. It’s so hard for him, to know that Geoffrey is there but not to be able to see him. It’s so hard, for a man who for the last 40 years got up every morning at 6 am without even an alarm clock to rouse him to feel so exhausted and fatigued from chemo that he can barely move from the couch.
I know it’s temporary. In a couple months, the chemo will be done, and he will go into remission, and ideally he’ll stay in remission long enough for them to come out with some killer new drug that will forever wipe the myeloma from his system.
Yet I still grapple with all that’s happened to him. It seems so senseless, and so tragic, and some of it (the herpes encephalitis that ultimately led to his blindness) could have been avoided if certain doctors had caught it in time.
But I’m still glad I brought Geoffrey to see him, and that at least he got to squeeze my son’s little fat thighs and hear his giggle and smell his sweet baby scent (as well as the not so sweet scents when Geoffrey loaded his diaper).
And I can still hope (and pray, even though technically I’m agnostic) that next year in this time, on my father’s 70th birthday, we’ll all be in a different place.