A Moment of Weakness

March 29, 2011
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It's amazing how you know the smell of a hospital even before you have ever stepped inside of one. I walked past a cafe, down a hallway, up four flights on an elevator, down another hallway, through a door-and that's when I truly got a hit of reality about where I was. Everything was quiet besides the shuffling of doctors in and out of rooms. A television hung on the wall, the volume was a quiet whisper. Machines measuring heartbeats sang from each room. I slowed my pace.
My first mistake was looking into a room to find a man laying on a bed. It was the utter image of loneliness. I wondered if it was me lying there who would feel obligated to sit by my bedside.
My grandfather's room was four down from that man's. At first I didn't recognize him sitting in a chair in the typical hospital gown. He looked tired. I hesitated before walking in. I had been excited to get to see him. I hadn't been prepared for this image that would burn into my memory for weeks and months to come.
He held out his hand to me. I walked forward and took it. I leaned my head down so he could plant a kiss on my cheek-our usual way of greeting one another. But this time was different. This time he grasped my hand as if it was his final lifeline. I know he was happy to see me, but I was no longer happy to see him-not in that condition.
He asked me about college and softball. He asked me about my brother and just plain how I'd been. My answers were short. I felt out of place.
We watched television for an hour. Old episodes of game shows played while we sat either in silence or in light conversation. We avoided the obvious. I tried not to look at the machine hooked up to his chest, the one whose rythmis hiss drained fluids that were surrounding his heart and emptying into a container that sat near my feet. I tried to ignore the clock that was next to the tv. I had no intention of thinking about time.
After two hours of sitting with him, I wanted to run as fast as I could to the outdoors to breathe in fresh air. I needed desperately to feel revived of life. It's ironic how you feel a loss of oxygen in a place that's supposed to bring it back to you.
I began to notice his doctor passing by the room and peering in at us every few minutes. I sensed he was waiting for me to leave. I told my grandfather I had to go. He could barely keep his eyes open. I leaned down for one last kiss. I told him I would see him soon. This made him happy.
As I traced back through the hospital the way I came, I tried hard to fight the tears that threatened to fall from my eyes. I remembered back to my childhood. I pictured my grandfather bringing me m&ms on Easter or the joy on his face as he watched me open my polly pockets on Christmas morning. I pulled open the images of sunday dinners at his apartment where the aroma of his homemade Italian sauce filled the air around me. I remembered how excited he was to watch me play varsity sports and the bragging rights he earned at watching me accept my diploma.
By the time I reached my car the tears had won. I stared up into the stars as I tried to comprehend all that I just lived. Night had come and a breeze left goosebumps on my arms. I had never felt so cold.
There was one star that shined real bright. I closed my eyes and whispered, "The first star I see tonight. I wish I may I wish I might. Have the wish I wish tonight."
I wished my grandfather would live to see me grow older.

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