November 07, 2005

Another day gone

A day at the hospital was . . . what. I’m kind of at a loss to describe it. I suppose it was fulfilling.

I spent the whole day, from about 9 in the morning to 7 at night. My grandfather alternated between sleep and alert and awake and communicative. One cousin drove up from D.C. and another flew in from San Diego. Both came to say goodbye. I’m glad they were able to attend and spend a little time with him.

The medical treatment has been halted. No more antibiotics and no feeding tube. The anti-seizure medication is still going in and he is receiving enough fluids through his iv line to keep the line open. But nothing more. No nourishment. This is at his express direction. He told his sons yesterday that he is ready to die, that he wants to die, that he doesn’t want and will not live like this anymore.

And yet, somehow, now that he has made this decision, he seems very calm about it. Except for the pain, of course. That he is not calm about but he is refusing medication. He seems determined to wring every little bit out of the remaining time he has left. He is, when he is with us, totally with us. Total attention. Questions, memories, love, flirting with the nurses, and a sharp and fierce light burning behind his eyes, still. His speech is impaired but that’s not slowing him down.

I told him lots of things, yesterday. One thing I said to him was: “You’ve taught me so many things in my life and now you’re teaching me how to die; with strength and with dignity”. It is a useful lesson to learn.

I managed to tell him that I love him without breaking down. He knew that already but I was determined to repeat it to him. How many more times do I get to tell him that? He told me that he loves me, too.

Now I need a moment, here, to get myself together.

I also told him that he was the most important influence in my life. He nodded and then fell asleep holding my hand.

And I broke down a bit and sobbed quietly as he slept.

Before that, though, I reminded him that the Girl Child and the Boy Child had been there all day the day before. And it was the only time I saw him smile. He absolutely grinned with pure pleasure. And I told him that the Boy Child insisted on kissing him while he slept and then insisted on being picked up to do it again because he wasn’t satisfied with the first kiss he gave my grandfather. My grandfather grinned again.

We reminisced yesterday about the trips we took – houseboating on Lake George and down the Sacramento River, touring Israel in 1983 and hiking together up Mount Masada. Trips to Washington D.C. and trips to watch the Harvard-Yale game.

I reminded him about how he cheated me on every single hand when I told him that I learned how to play poker and he suggested that I play with him. After we played, he told me that he cheated on every hand, that I didn’t notice, and that I should never play again. And I never have.

After we talked about that, he grimaced in pain and I asked him if I could get him anything. He said, “a new deck” and I told him that if I did, he’d probably just cheat me again and he said, “probably”.

I’ll end this note with an exchange he had with my father, his son in law. My father came in and apologized for forgetting to bring the wine and my grandfather said to him: “a fatal error”.

I cried, off and on, the whole drive home. I don’t recommend driving on I-95, in heavy traffic, while crying.

Posted by Random Penseur at November 7, 2005 09:25 AM