October 14, 2012
By Dianeb SILVER, PARIS, Other
Dianeb SILVER, PARIS, Other
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
Words never mean what we want them to mean

He sat there in his black wheelchair. No one paid attention to him. He sat there in the corner of the room. Even though his daughter moved him into the hallway of the hospital, composed of other old people waiting, sitting or laying on white and clean beds, no one paid attention to him. He was a shadow, slowly becoming one with the blue pastel wall. A shadow with an immovable smile. He always smiled. Nothing seemed to prevent him from smiling. Smiles betray most people but not him. Only his eyes were speaking. His daughter was with the doctor, repeating again and again the surgeries he recently had, or the medicine he took. She did not mention that he stared at the wall for two hours the other day and did not listen to her or that they have to struggle every night so that he drinks his protein drinks. She did not mention the living aspect of him, only the physical, medical aspect. But there was a reason for her concealment. If she confessed everything, he might be confiscated from her. He might have to stay at the hospital because she would be judged not apt enough to take care of him. He was not lithe anymore. He was too frail, too fragile. Every bone, every toe, every nail, every white hair were too breakable. He always smiled because there was nothing else to do. He accepted his condition a while ago. He accepted the fact that he could not bath, eat, or sometimes drink, by himself. His organs and muscles were deteriorating one by one inside his body, weakening at every moment and nothing could stop this process. Sometimes he struggled because he forgot. His Alzheimer's made him forget his condition. During some periodic moments, he time-traveled through the neurons of his brain and lived in his youth again. When he stayed there too often, in the cabaret he used to own, a place for the Parisian scene where only festivity was allowed, he did not understand why his granddaughter refused to let him light his spanish cigars or drink three cups of wine while eating. His granddaughter understood for him. His eyes betrayed the ineffable happiness he had. She would gently touch his shoulder and sing La Vie en Rose. Only the way she sang it,the way he taught her, the way she adjusted it with her faint and acute voice, would bring him back. She was here with him in this hollow hallway. She stayed with him. She accompanied her mother before but not lately. She could not listen her mother say over and over the reasons why her grandfather was partially there. She knew there was a distinction between the grandfather who would make her laugh until her stomach hurt, who had created a special haven for them, and the person sitting before her eyes. When friends reluctantly asked how he was, she could only speak of his cancers, hallucinations, bursts of anger or absence. She despised herself for that because there was so much more. He had become defined by his diseases and she despised herself because she participated into this definition. She looked at his eyes and observed that he was worried. Certain noises escaped the room sometimes, informing us of his fate. "cancer...come back" "few months left". She hid her head in her grey sweater, not willing to show him she was worried too. As she furtively erased the tears at the coin of her eyes with her left hand, she grabbed both of his hands with the other. It was not an attempt to reassure him, but rather to enhance the notion that somehow, everything will collide for the best. He smiled and did nothing else. He did not look at his granddaughter back. He felt exhausted all of the sudden. This turmoil of emotions, confusion, cries, emptiness and sadness made him feel exhausted. Just like his granddaughter did, he heard that his cancer came back. He heard that this was one of the last moments he could have upon this world. He did not have to pretend. He did not have to sustain himself for his granddaughter. He perceived that he was not himself sometimes but he had always attempted to remain and contain himself during present moments. But she heard it too and it changed his perspective. His smile did not move an inch though. His eyes closed. His mouth opened up to free a white and yellow liquid. His granddaughter rushed to the nurses' lounge to warn them. While he was laid on the cold floor, she was taken into the lounge occupied by pink chairs and red velvet cupcakes. She could only hear the bip of the electrocardiogram, drawing her grandfather's own cardiac rhythm. He was pronounced dead few hours later.

Few months later, his granddaughter went back to the hospital, walked on the floor where he died, the unrepresented contours of his body existent for those who were there, but this time as a volunteer. She chose to volunteer because she did not know how to cope with her loss. Elderly people lost tons of lives; she might learn something from them, some last wisdom. She could only see multiple representations of her grandfather: people with wrinkles, slowly effacing themselves, marking their last steps. Other daughters, or wives, repeated their cases. Other granddaughters stayed with them. They did everything they could to permit them to live a little longer, despite the pain, physical or emotional, brought along. She often visited a 94-year-ol woman. Her diseases completely weakened, not to say destroyed, her. She sat constantly in her wheelchair. Even though she did not do any effort, she was out of breath all the time. Multiple microbes had grown on her skin. While reading to her, she wondered whether it was necessary to let her live. She realized her grandfather died the easiest way: no enduring pain, no struggle, no tears, only a simple stroke. She resented herself for wanting him to live longer. Although treatments could have provided him few more months, were those months necessary? They could not bring him back. He would have only become a more perceptive shadow of the person he used to be. Right, right? Right.

The author's comments:
Inspired by my reflections on an internship I'm currently doing with a cardiologist. Seeing people over seventy years old and with multiple diseases gets someone thinking about some time. Also inspired by true events in my life.

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