Sunday, February 10, 2013

death and other friends

If you haven't figured out already that I love words, I'm going to tell you that I blew the reading scores on the SAT, the PRAXIS 1 and the PRAXIS Fundamental Subjects: Content Knowledge out of the water. But I have no words.

My grandfather is dying; it was rather unexpected. He will tell you this in the baldest of terms. And then, when you ask him if you can have a picture with him, and sit beside him in his bed, will put bunny ears behind his head, because he does not have the strength to reach yours. And you genuinely laugh, smile for the camera, and put bunny ears behind your head as well. 

He, my mother and father, usually pull no punches about anything, but because I'm student teaching right now and there is a lot of work to be done, and because I'm being treated for debilitating migraines, they have been trying to spare me the brunt of this storm so that I may finish well. If I were to pin point the beginning of the decline in my memory, it would be before Thanksgiving, when my friends invited myself and my family to have dinner with them. My grandfather, while pleased with the invitation, was feeling under the weather, and declined the four hour round trip drive. Four days after the holiday, he broke his hip. He flew through the surgery without any complications and managed rehab tasks with alacrity. But he still wasn't feeling better;at Christmas, his symptoms were chalked up to him being an elderly man. Two weeks ago he collapsed in his apartment, and he was finally diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Radiation therapy would kill him. The tumor cannot be removed because it has invaded his bladder, and the 10 hour surgery to remove everything would also kill him. Of course, had he had regular screenings for the last ten years, this would have been caught sooner [go get a colonoscopy!!!]

He has asked for no heroic measures. He's 86, he says. What are they going to do?

We moved him into a long-term care facility, where he will receive hospice care. We're making him comfortable. We're turning the room he has now into home. We're cleaning out his old apartment.

I have no words. It was different when his wife died. They were in Florida. We couldn't be there. I know nothing about where grandma died, what their house looked like, no sights, no smells, nothing tangible to grab onto. I feel a strange disconnect when I think about it. I feel a strange sense of surrealism when I packed the bags of groceries I'd just pulled out of his cupboards into my car, along with the towels that had just been in his linen closet, and the nesting tables that had, just this Christmas, held mugs of tea and some really unusual candy whose origins were questionable. He'd given me groceries at that visit before - his way of saying "I love you". But it was different this time, clearing everything out and saying not to him, but my mother "Yeah, I'll eat that. But not that." [I draw the line at the tinned octopus]. Listening to my mother say, "I just put the liner paper in here, maybe three weeks ago. Maybe grandpa will want his mug?"

And I have to look at the mug, the one that's bone china that I bought for him when I went to England, that says  "His Lordship" and has pastel drawing of an English manor on it, and say, "Well, if he doesn't, I'd like my brother to have it." Because I'd meant to get him one while I was there, too, but I only saw the one.

When I go home next, I'll be sleeping on the mattress that was on his bed, since mine is old and well past it's prime. This perhaps, is the the strangest, but perhaps the most ... I have no word. I will have part of his bed because we're selling the frame. His bed, and his dresser, they will be mine. It is the furniture that imparts the feeling of permanence.

But he's still alive. And we're breaking up his home. My brother and I are hauling his tv to his room in the care facility and then running back to the apartment and spending two hours wrestling the stand into a Nissan Sentra, before we finally wedge it into the trunk and bungee it down to the bumper and the trunk door. And Grandpa decides he doesn't want the mug, even though it's become his favorite, because the china is thin, making the mug lighter than the others he has, making it easier for him to hold and use. "It's just one more thing," Grandpa says. Our light traveler. When we left from visiting and moving the t.v. that day, I handed the mug to my brother.

1 comment:

smkyqtzxtl said...

Almost done emptying the apartment of the things that make a life.Just an artificial rubber tree and some empty laundry baskets left and his lingering scent. if your father wasn't helping it would be unbearable.