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They died within a month of each other. She went first; he allowed as how he'd done what he'd meant to do, then joined her. It was from their house that I was born, and I spent more time with them than many kids spend with their grandparents. Yet their deaths showed me that I'd not known them well at all, certainly not as well as I'd thought.

When your grandparents are in their 90s and you've watched them through a gradual decline, death is not unanticipated. You don't dwell on it, but you see it lurking in the background. It's always there, biding its time, for unlike us it has all the time in the world and can afford to be patient. It had certainly been patient with them, for I'd heard them remark numerous times that they didn't know why they were still alive.

Their children had helped them maintain their independence to the end; a son provided a place to live on their own and their daughter, my mother, watched out for them. My parents devoted years to their care, providing me with a model of family devotion. From 500 miles away I heard the saga and visited annually at least, but I knew that despite the solicitous care of loved ones, they were in a very real sense alone.



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