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Life and Death
“So Doc, what seems to be the problem?” asked Grandpa.
“Well that’s what we’re trying to figure out Frank, but we need to run some tests,” she replied with a weak smile on her face.
By Dr. Dale’s voice, it would seem that Grandpa was fine, but the look in her eyes said something else.
“Is something wrong? Will he be alright?” I ask worriedly.
“The tests will tell. Until then let’s not panic,” she said almost routinely.
“What do you think it is? Is it serious?” I reply nervously.
“Let’s not worry yet,” Dr. Dale said calmly.
She said “yet”! That means that whatever it is, it’s bad. I hate hospitals! Nothing good ever happens here. The last time I was at the hospital was when I was 14 and my grandma died. The time before that I was 6, my parents had been in a car accident that killed them both.
As the minutes pass, the knot in my stomach grows larger and larger making it hard to breath. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, Dr. Dale returned to the room with the test results.
Sitting down in her chair with a serious look on her face, “Frank… I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
Forcing a fake smile, “Well what is it Doc?”
“Well... the X-Rays showed a mass on your right lung, so we had to run some tests. The results concluded that you have stage four lung cancer,” she said ever so calmly.
I could feel the pale blue walls closing in, and my body went numb with shock.
Shaking my head in disbelief, “What are the treatment options?”
“Well, first we would have to perform surgery in order to remove the mass, and from there you would undergo chemotherapy and radiation,” she replied in a reassuring tone.
With a solemn look on his face, “No, I don’t want any treatment,”.
“Grandpa don’t be ridiculous! You need treatment!” I exclaim.
Raising his voice, “Now God damn it Elizabeth, I said I don’t want any treatment and I mean it!”.
Crossing her arms with a sigh, “Now Frank, the decision is yours to make, but you should know that without treatment your life expectancy is only 2-4 months and…”.
Cutting her off, “What are my odds if I agree to the treatment?”.
“Well on average, a person with your prognosis… I would have to say 6-12 months. However, there are people who defy the odds and live for several years,” she says optimistically.
“Then no, I don’t want the treatment!” he said matter-of-factly.
With a sigh, “Well I can’t force you, but I do think this is something you should discuss with your family before making a final decision.”.
I felt like I had been punched in the stomach as I gasped for air that seemed to have been sucked out of my lungs. I fought tears stinging my eyes as my whole world crashed and tumbled down around me. Grandpa is all that I have; I can’t imagine my life without him.
I don’t even remember driving home from the hospital. Everything seems like a blur from the time we left to the time I fell asleep.I wake up the next morning hoping it was all just a nightmare, but when I go to the kitchen Grandpa looks at me, and by the look on his face I know that it was real.
Timidly I ask, “How are you feeling?”
Acting as if the appointment didn’t happen yesterday, “I’m fine.”
In hope that he changed his mind, “Have you given what Dr. Dale said any thought?”
With a frown on his face, “I’ve already made up my mind Elizabeth; I’m not having the treatment and that’s final.”
“But why not Grandpa? Even if it isn’t much more time, 6-12 months is better than 2-4 months!” I plead.
“I don’t want to spend what little time I have left hooked up to tubes and machines, that’s why!” he says looking defeated.
Fighting back tears, “So what… I’m just going to sit here for the next couple of months and watch you die!”.
With a smirk on his face, “Well after you went to bed last night, I bought two, one-way tickets to Hawaii! What do you say to one last adventure?”.
“Are you crazy? You are sick! You need to stay close to the doctors!” I exclaim.
Standing his ground, “I’m going Elizabeth… now it’s just a matter of whether or not you’re coming with me.”.
I could try to fight him on this, but it would be completely useless. Anyone who knows my grandpa could tell you that he is stubborn; once he decides something, no one can change his mind.
In an assertive tone, “Fine, I’m going with you.”
Less than a week later, we are on a plane, flying from New York to Hawaii. Grandpa thinks of this as some big vacation, but for me, I’m just there so that I can take care of him. I talked to Dr. Dale before we left; she told me to expect a sudden decline in his health. It has been a week since we found out, and Dr. Dale predicts that the decline will occur within 3-4 weeks. Grandpa is so calm about it; he keeps telling me that he isn’t worried about 3-4 weeks from now. He says that he just wants to enjoy the time he has left. I on the other hand, am a nervous wreck.
After about ten hours on the plane, we finally land in Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s beautiful here, but all I can think about is Grandpa.
Bursting with excitement, “What should we do first?”
Looking through a guide book, “First let’s drop our things at the hotel, and then we can do whatever you want.”
Laughing to himself, “Let’s go to the beach and learn to surf!”.
Concerned I reply, “Are you sure that you’re up for that Grandpa?”
With a grin on his face, “I’m sure,”.
After we dropped our bags at the hotel, we head down to the beach. The sky is the color of cotton candy, and the air smells of salt water. We meet our instructor down on the shore; he is a native with long dark hair and brown eyes.
“Aloha! I am Ano, your surfing instructor,” he says with a smile on his face.
“Aloha to you too! I’m Frank!” Grandpa says excitedly.
With a nervous laugh, “Nice to meet you Ano. I’m Elizabeth.”.
Picking up his surfboard, “Nice to meet you too! Are you ready to surf?”.
Nodding his head up and down, “I sure am! Elizabeth...are you?”.
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” I reply.
One thing you should know about me is that I am a clutz. I have awful balance; I’m always tripping and falling over. I just know that I’m going to do horribly at surfing. Ano shows us how to paddle out and stand up on our board. He makes it look so easy.
With a smile still on his face, “Are you ready to give it a go?”.
Grandpa starts to paddle out just like Ano showed us, then he catches a wave and stands up. Ano and I cheer as he rides the wave back to shore with a big smile on his face.
With his jaw dropped open, “That’s was great Frank! Have you ever surfed before?”.
Laughing to himself, “I lived in California until I was 19, so I did a lot of surfing,”.
“Well, you’re up Elizabeth; show us what you got!” Ano said grinning.
With a nervous sigh, “Well, here goes nothing,”.
I paddle out towards the waves, just like Ano said. I see one coming my way so I stand up, but as soon as the wave hits the board, I wipe out. Wiping out would have been embarrassing enough, but my Grandpa showed me up at surfing! It also didn’t help that Ano was really cute. I paddle my board back to shore and hope that my face isn’t as red as I think it is.
Holding back a laugh, “Good try Elizabeth! You’ll get the hang of it,”.
As I ring out my hair, “Yeah, I’m sure Grandpa,”.
In a reassuring tone, “Don’t worry too much; most people don’t get it on the first try,”.
“Thanks, but I just don’t think I’m much of a surfer, I’m too clumsy,” I say embarrassed.
“Do you want to try again?” Grandpa asks.
“No, I think I’ve had enough embarrassment for today. I’m gonna head back to the hotel, but you can stay and keep surfing,” I say humiliated.
Shaking his head, “I think I’m done for today. Nice to meet you Ano! I’ll see you later,”.
Holding his board and smiling, “Back at you Frank!”.
I wave good-bye and we start up the beach towards the hotel. Grandpa has a mischievous look on his face that makes me think he is up to something.
“What are you plotting?” I ask accusingly.
“I’m not plotting anything! I don’t know what you’re talking about Elizabeth,” he says sarcastically.
Laughing with my arms crossed “Then why do you look so guilty?”.
With a devilish grin, “I can’t help it. It’s just how I look,”.
We get back to the hotel, and just as I’m about to walk into my room Grandpa stops and looks at me.
With that guilty look still on his face, “Get dressed we are going out for dinner. Oh, and wear something nice; Ano will be there,”.
My jaw hit the floor, “What? Why are we going to dinner with Ano?”.
“Well, when you were surfing, we got to talking about you. I think he likes you, and besides, he knows his way around,” Grandpa says with a grin.
“Yeah right Grandpa, he doesn’t even know me; there is no way he likes me,” I say.
I walk into my room and change into something dry. After waiting for a few minutes, I hear a knock at the door.
“Are you ready to go Elizabeth?” Grandpa asks impatiently.
Flinging open the door, “Yeah, I was waiting on you,”.
I follow Grandpa as leads me to restaurant at the edge of the beach. As soon as we go inside I see Ano; he waves us over to the table he is sitting at. I’ve always been a little on the shy side, talking to people makes me nervous. I just hope I don’t look as nervous as I feel.
“Hey Ano, nice to see you again,” Grandpa says grinning.
Looking at me and smiling,“Likewise, and you too Elizabeth!”.
Forcing out the words, “Thanks, you too.”.
After sitting for less than five minutes, Grandpa stands up and pushes in his chair.
“I’m getting pretty tired. I think I’m just gonna head back to the hotel and get some sleep,” Grandpa says.
Worried, I stand up, “Are you alright? What’s the matter? I’ll come with you, ”.
Shaking his head, “No, I’m fine! Stay here and have fun,”.
Realizing that this had been his plan all along, “Are you sure Grandpa?”.
“Yeah! You guys have a good night! I’ll see you later,” he said.
And just like that he was gone. It was just me and Ano sitting at the table. I felt so awkward sitting there. I can’t believe my grandpa just set me up! After a while we got to talking, and it turns out that we have a lot in common.
As the days went by Ano and I got closer and closer, however, Grandpa also got weaker and weaker. After being in Hawaii for just three weeks, I saw the decline in Grandpa’s health that Dr. Dale had warned me about. I could tell that has days were numbered, and so could he. Whenever Grandpa saw me cry, he told me that he had a good run and not to cry because it wouldn’t change anything. That’s the thing about my Grandpa, he was so optimistic, that he even saw the positive side of his death. Instead of seeing the end, he saw all the good that he had in his life. I tried to stay positive for his sake, but it was really hard. And I know what you’re probably all thinking. You’re thinking that by some miracle Grandpa is going to live. I tried to believe that too, but on July 18th of 2015, Grandpa died.
I don’t know what I would have done without Ano. Losing my grandpa was so hard. He was the only family that I had left. If it hadn’t been for Grandpa setting me up with Ano, I would have been completely alone. Just before my grandpa died, he told me something. He told me to live a happy life no matter what it takes.So I took his advice and made a sporadic decision to move to Hawaii permanently. After dating for about a year, Ano asked me to marry him. We have been married for about a year now and have a beautiful baby girl. She reminds me of Grandpa in a lot of ways. Her eyes are the color of the ocean, just like Grandpa’s. She even has that same guilty grin when she plots something. Although our lives aren’t perfect, we are happy; and that is the most important lesson that my Grandpa ever taught me. He taught me to be optimistic, and to do what makes me happy.