Monday, May 11, 2009

Third Floor, East Wing, Room 50

The day before my wedding, my father's father, my zaidy, had a stroke. I wasn't told until the following Monday because my family didn't want me to worry during my wedding.

I got updates via my father. Zaidy's status changed from day to day. He was doing a little better. He was heard to speak a few words. He arm-wrestled the physiotherapist when she tried to do stretching exercises with him. But then he was sleeping a lot, he was weak, the prognosis was uncertain.

The first week after my wedding I was ill myself, so I didn't go to visit him. The week after that it seemed that he was stable, and I was very busy at work... I managed to excuse myself from the difficult prospect of going to see him, day by day.

I saw my father on Saturday. He encouraged me to visit Zaidy, saying that he might be slipping away, that there might not be much time left. He's 96, after all. My father said that the last time he was at the hospital Zaidy seemed peaceful and comfortable. Zaidy dozed while my father sat with him and held his hand. My father said he felt good about being there, and that I wouldn't regret going, but I might regret not going.

True enough. I couldn't put it off any longer. So yesterday Ken drove me to the hospital.

I wasn't prepared for how I found him. Since I'd gotten the last update from my father, Zaidy had gone downhill. I never did have a chance to speak to a medical professional at the hospital - it was sparsely staffed after 6pm on a Sunday - but he appeared to have developed a serious lung and/or bronchial infection.

You may want to skip the next paragraph if you're squeamish or reading this while eating your lunch.

Upon seeing me, he tried to sit up, then started coughing. What he was coughing up was not a pretty sight. Suffice it to say that our hour-long visit was spent wearing disposable gowns over our clothes, and latex gloves. I sat closest to Zaidy, holding his hand. In my other hand I kept at the ready bundles of paper towels four layers thick to catch the horrifying blobs of gunk that he kept spitting out.

And yet, I'm so glad that I went.

He knew me, of that I'm sure. His piercing blue eyes found mine and locked in for as long as he could manage, before he was overtaken once again by a coughing fit, or had to lie back against his pillows, exhausted. He squeezed my hand to show his love, and to affirm anything I said that he approved of. I sang him a song that we used to sing together when I was a child, and got a big squeeze. I told him I loved him, and he squeezed until the bones in my hand bent. I said that his wife, my Buby, was (as he used to say constantly) a Honey Bunny and Lovey Dovey, and feared that I might suffer a fracture.

As long as I live, I will always remember the fierceness with which his blue eyes burned into mine, as he clung to my hand with the urgency of life and death.

I told Zaidy how much I love him; how I will never forget him; what I will remember about him. I told him that if he gets better and I get to see him again on this earth, that'd be OK, but if he's tired of fighting and wants to let go and rest, that's OK too. I said I didn't think he believed in an afterlife, but that I do and I trust that I'll see him there. I didn't get any squeezes that time. I wish I could give him my faith.

Leaving was the hardest part. He was so alone in that room, propped up awkwardly, sideways on the bed, unable to lie back and rest comfortably for all the coughing. There were no distractions in the room. I don't know how much he's able to drowse, but I thought of the last time I was sick and how much time seemed to drag and stall.

We stopped at the nursing station and let them know how he was doing. We walked past his room one last time on the way to the elevators. I waved at him. Then we left. My heart was full to bursting.

Ken was a champion through all this. He may not know the finer points of etiquette for high tea and whatnot, but when life gets into the pits he's right there to deal with it. He doesn't turn away or try to avoid it. I don't know what I would have done without him.

And so. We wait to see what comes next.


wigsf said...

It's great that you have a bond and a relationship with your grandfather.

unsigned said...

I'm glad you went.

Claire said...

What a sweet, sad, and wonderful post. I'm so glad you got that time with him.


LL Cool Joe said...

Your post reminds me of my Nan.

I'm so pleased you went and that he knew it was you too.

I will pray that he comes to know the Lord. :)

Thinking of you at this time.

Jameil said...

ehug. i never met one of my grandfathers and the other was a distant somewhat odd figure. glad you have some wonderful memories with him and that you finally went to see him. i know he was glad you came.

Kate said...

Darlin', it is how it is supposed to be. Embrace it, no matter the sadness. Had I known the Dead Guy was going ,I would have loved him all the more.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Glad you visited, it's a hard thing to do. I will send good thoughts out for your grandfather to get better or if it is his time that he be able to move on peacefully. When all is said and done embrace the fact that you both know how much you love one another and that is what is important.

NicoleB said...

You will def. not regret going.
I wish I could turn back time for my father, but heck, one can't.
I am also glad he recognized you and could communicate with you!
Best wishes for all of you!!

SoMi's Nilsa said...

I'm so glad you had this time with your Zaidy. No matter how uncomfortable it might have been. You'll never regret making that decision. With my grandmother, I never had the option to make that decision. A seemingly standard procedure went very very wrong. And before I could pick up the phone to make a plane reservation, she was gone. So, for what I never had, thank you for making sure to see your grandfather.

San said...

It's really tough to see those we love suffer. I'm glad your zaidy feels at peace with his life, and I'm glad you're blessed with having a Ken around, who's there in the hard times.