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Visiting Grandpa Harry

July 10, 2010 by Victoria Strong

I'm in Mississippi. Yes, M.I.S.S.I.S.S.I.P.P.I. -- the land of quadruple i's and s's and home to Grandpa Harry. My grandpa...my 105 year old grandpa! 1.0.5!!! This was a last minute trip, spur of the moment, as in I booked it and got on a plane in a matter of days. Harry is okay -- I just missed him and, well, finally got up the nerve to do this.

It's been a year since we drove across country so Gwendolyn and Harry could meet. ?A year since we borrowed an RV, plastered it with signs and created Sponsor-A-Mile. A year since we did things we never thought we'd get to do with our daughter and saw family we never thought would get to meet our daughter. Remember this? And this? And, of course, the highlight -->

It feels like just months ago, but, it has been a year -- a year since I got to hug my special Harry. I am so, so glad to be here. Harry is as A-mazing as ever! But, this is the first time I've ever been away from Gwendolyn. Sure a couple of hours while she's in Bill's care. And Bill and I felt very brave going on those two dates last year. But, I've never left Gwendolyn for a night -- let alone several. Bill and I have been talking about this trip for months and Bill has been encouraging me to go. I miss Harry like crazy. And he has had a lot of changes this last year -- hospital stays and he's now living in an apartment in a retirement community -- and at 105, well, I knew someday I would regret not visiting him while I had the chance.

I just wish I could bring Gwendolyn. It's bittersweet. I want to be here. I need to be here. I feel so supported and encouraged by Bill who is working from home, with help from Gramma, so I could do this. And I'm beyond thrilled to see and hold and hear the rich wonderful voice of my grandfather in person. I adore him. But, it also makes me wish my daughter, Harry's 13th and youngest great-grandchild, could be by my side and in Harry's lap. I wish I could simply hop on a plane with my toddler -- as challenging as I know that is. I wish she could kick the seat in front of her, throw a screaming tantrum, frazzle me beyond all get out. I wish that for me -- I wish that for Harry -- and I wish that for Gwendolyn.

While I feel this constant sadness in my heart -- I also recognize that something in me has changed. I'm proud of myself for letting go just a little to take this trip -- it was not an easy decision. Two years ago I could never have done this trip. A year ago I would not either. I promised myself in the beginning -- and perhaps foolhardily -- that Gwendolyn would leave this world connected to me -- the same way she entered it. I know I don't have control of that -- I know this in my mind. But in my heart I feel an enormous responsibility to protect her and be the one to let her go. I suppose it is more about what I need, but I also know Gwendolyn always looks to me, checks in with me, and I know she is going to need to know it is okay to let go. I'm not saying this is the right way -- in fact, it is probably not very healthy -- but the thought of losing Gwendolyn and not being there for her, not carrying her through her last breaths, well, it makes it almost impossible to leave her side.

So, this trip is huge for me. It's me stepping outside of my comfort zone. It's me recognizing and releasing a false sense of control. And it feels time. (Although I still feel a bit on edge.) And Harry has once again guided me just by being who he is. And I know that this trip, just like our journey last year, will have an impact on my life with Gwendolyn.

Talk About It

Oh Victoria....I am so proud of you! You constantly show your determination and pride and you are such a go getter! ENJOY your time with your grandpa Harry, as I know how much he can support you. Be glad to know that Bill and gramma are taking absolutely wonderful care of Miss G while you take some time for yourself, something I know you don't get to do often. Blessings on your trip...hope to chat with you soon! big hugs, Be well, Lisa smile
Posted by Lisa Prokopetz on 2010-07-10 15:26:12
I'm so glad you got to take this trip, Victoria! I just watched the video of Gwendolyn with Harry and it is SO precious. Although I've been following this blog for over a year and a half, somehow I missed that video. I hope you have a wonderful time with Harry!
Posted by Rachel E. on 2010-07-10 15:46:56
Big hugs to you, Victoria. And big hugs to Harry too! Please tell him I love him!
Posted by Margaret on 2010-07-10 16:38:41
Oh Victoria, I SO know how you feel on so many levels. I love reading your journal - I sometimes feel as if I'm reading my own. You so eloquently say so many things I feel or have felt in my "journey" with my own daughter. You are such a giving and strong woman - you are such a wonderful mother and friend to so many - just like me, even though we've never met. Be proud of who you are and the beautiful little girl you've brought into this world. She's just as wonderful as you are..... Much love to you... Kathy
Posted by Kathy on 2010-07-10 17:54:43
This is awesome Victoria! I am so happy for you that you have been able to do this! I too, felt that I needed to be with Georgia when she took her last breaths but a very wise person told me that even if I wasn't there Georgia and I would ALWAYS be connected. Gwendolyn and Bill will be so excited to see you when you get back!! Enjoy every moment!
Posted by Kristen on 2010-07-10 18:25:40
I can't imagine how hard this was for you, but I know you will always remember this trip. And like other commenters said - just think about how excited Gwendolyn is going to be to see you when you get home! Enjoy your trip!
Posted by Legally Fabulous on 2010-07-10 20:41:40
So happy for you that you took this step.... Enjoy your visit.... Hugs
Posted by Tina on 2010-07-10 22:52:22
What a wonderful reason to take a trip by yourself. Enjoy every minute. I love Mississippi. Okay, maybe not in July, but I'm in love with the state despite July weather.
Posted by Cass on 2010-07-10 23:23:34
I love this post! So glad you were able to visit your Grandfather, I loved watching the video from when he got to visit with Gwendolyn. You can tell he is as taken with her as she is him. The picture of his hands and hers was so precious, made me cry.... so touching... Have a wonderful restful trip!
Posted by Penny on 2010-07-10 23:26:47
1=You are a beautiful person, both inside and out. 2= I always say" I miss the greenry of Mississippi but not the humidity". You will know what I means. 3= Absence does make the heart grow fonder. You know that feeling now also. 4=Think positive. This is good for you , Bill and Baby G.
Posted by Carolyn on 2010-07-11 04:42:44
Victoria, I followed your blog religiously when a friend of a friend shared your story immediately following Gwendolyn's diagnosis. And now I follow your daily e-mail feeds. I guess I wanted you to know I support you, Bill and Gwendolyn in the little ways that I can here in Maryland. I post to facebook when I can, I vote when I can, I donate when I can and I pray. I can't know your joys or aches or pains; I can just imagine which I'm sure doesn't come close. This post today is so beautiful; it has left me speechless. What a journey you are on - I'm proud of you and in awe of you and can only send thoughts of strength your way. Enjoy your visit then hurry home as I'm sure you want to do.
Posted by Michele on 2010-07-11 07:40:22
Oh so lovely! It's so nice seeing Gwendolyn moving her hands to say hi to her great grand father. Weew!
Posted by Jhari on 2010-07-11 10:08:22
Victoria, I can only imagine the decision process you went into just to make this trip. Good for you for going. It is so hard to step outside our comfort zone. I only wish I read your words last week. I hope Bill will get a picture of Gwendolyn's face when she sees you walk through the front door. While you know she has missed you a lot, she's appears to be having fun with Gramma and Daddy. Enjoy your time with Harry. Blessings, Mari
Posted by Mari aka "Thorney" on 2010-07-11 16:06:04
Well, I have been following your blog for over a year now when I first heard of Gwendolyn, and knew right away you were a family I wanted to keep up with, your fight you have for your daughter is incredible. This however is my first time commenting!!! That is how big this post is...HUGE!!! My youngest of 4 kids has health challenges as well with an Aquired Heart Disease (AHD of Congestive Heart Failure due to a virus she got when she was a week old), and I have had an extremely hard time leaving her as well. I do her meds, I do her monitors, I bring her everywhere with me, or bring everything to me!! I always feel like, I am her mom, I need to protect her. However a few months ago, while my husbands and my 10 year anniversary was comming up, I did it...I booked a 1 week vacation for us. Just us...as in me and my husband. Somthing we had not done since I was pregnant with our little one almost 3 years before). I did it. Suprized my husband, and we left. (With 3 nurses taking shifts 24/7, plus a grandma, and a grandpa, plus a friend who is an EMT...ok I went a tiny bit over board, but there is 4 kids, and even though I dont normally have nurse help, I figured it was a must for while I was gone) either way, I did it, and I am so glad I did. It was the time WE needed to rejuvinate our relationship, and catch up on some much needed sleep!! the first 3 days of the vacation we NEVER left our room...and it was not for the same reason we didn't leave the room for the first 3 days of our honeymoon...Like I said, MUCH needed sleep!! smile All of this is to basically say, I am so proud of you...Extremely proud! when I left my youngest, I said "God knows me, and he knows my heart, He knows what I can handle, and what I can't." He knows that for you too, so I trust that how you want her last breaths to be, He will give that to you...He loves you that much! smile Blessings!
Posted by Kathie on 2010-07-11 23:21:59
Good for you!! I know this took an incredible amount of courage, and I am so proud of you for giving yourself, your Grandpa and even Gwendolyn this gift! You deserve it! I know Harry must be so excited to see you again and like you said, this will make an impact on your life with Gwendolyn and her Mommy will come home rejuvenated-that is a gift in itself!! I hope you have an incredible time and although I know you will worry about your sweet baby girl, I hope you feel lots of peace and know she is in good, no incredible, hands. Hugs, Em
Posted by Emma on 2010-07-12 15:26:54
I'm proud of you for going. I too know she is in amazing hands, though I know exactly how you feel leaving her. Hugs, sweetie.
Posted by Devon on 2010-07-14 19:06:47
I've followed your blog (old and new) for so long now but haven't commented. Just wanted to say how brave I think you have been to do this trip. I can't imagine how hard it must have been to leave Gwendolyn - even knowing that she is in Bill's more than capable hands. Sending you a virtual high five!! Have a wonderful trip and look forward to the big smiles you will get from your gorgeous girl when you get home.. x
Posted by Nicole on 2010-07-15 05:05:14

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