Somebody to Love

March 13, 2009

I woke up on Friday, and I felt the same as I had most mornings'cold and ready to go back to bed. Mom's birthday had been the day before; she came home from the hospital at about 11:30 at night, put on her night gown, ate a little of the dinner my sister and I had prepared for the family, blew out the forty nine candles we had carefully pushed into her cake, and ended the day with a glass of wine and a small piece of her birthday cake.

Merlot, courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa, Mr. and Mrs. Keford Dekan, who would soon be the only grandparents I had left. They gave Mom wine and a gift set of 'Beautiful' perfume and lotion by Estee Lauder. Mom was 49 years and one day old that night, and by the look in her eyes, that awful 'I just got home from a sixteen hour long 12-hour shift taking care of seven or eight people that are going to die a horrible and painful death of cancer,' look, I could tell that she had lived a lot more than most 49 year olds, that she had been through and seen much more. But she was still beautiful. As the television reflected itself in her glasses, I could see her hazel eyes sigh in relief to finally sit down for the first time, and she sat on the couch, perfectly reposed eating her cake, and she was beautiful.

My dad did not come home that night, which was odd even for him. So I took a hot shower, as I did most nights, braided my hair, and fell asleep beneath my electric
blanket. I slept, artificially warm, and dreamt dreams that I soon forgot, and somehow, I did not reawake until my alarm clock rudely cussed into my ear at 4:25 Friday morning. I was cold and ready to go back to sleep'as usual.

I walked my dog by the light of the rising sun, shimmering in a glittery yellow haze, and I returned home around 5 a.m. I showered, and threw myself together for school. I was dressed and had my makeup finished by 6:17, at which point I flicked on my curling iron. As I singed my hair around the scalding golden barrel, a bitter tear cascaded down my cheek, and I left my hair how it was-- half curled, half stupidly plain and frizzy. I did not care.

I do not recall my classes that day. I can't remember hauling my books around, or wading through the busy sea of messy teenage blurs, or doing any of my work. What I do remember is how incoming text messages from, my mother, kept coming, and coming. None of them were good and happy misspelled texts that I was used to receiving from her; none of them said 'Luv You! Have a g0od DAy. (: ' None of them.

I left school promptly that day, not caring to converse with my friends, wishing to avoid my teachers, but to crawl into my sister's car and drive far away, where my classmates would no longer curiously stare at my smudged eyeliner and half frizzy hair.

We drove to the hospital, where Mom was, even though she had the day off. She sat outside the screeching automatic doors slouching the way I imagine her patients did, sickly, drained, basically dead in their fancy hospital beds. Alone. She hunched, making indentions with her elbows into her thighs. I could see her eyes clearly through her glasses. She had been crying.

We sat there for a long time, not saying anything. The automatic door squeaked open, and a patient would exit, being rolled by a volunteer in their ugly green polo to their awaiting car. They would cautiously crawl into the vehicle, and then the car would vanish into the crowded parking lot.
Those people did not appreciate the joy of getting to leave the hospital. As they mumbled past, they probably wondered about the TV they missed, or what kind of food they should order out for their first post-crappy-hospital-food meal. As my sister, my mom and I sat silently baking in the sun, I secretly hated each of the patients that was wheeled out of the frigid hospital for scowling and griping at the volunteer to hurry up because they didn't care. They didn't seem to remember all the people from the rooms surrounding them, the people that my mother dedicates her life to taking care of, the people she nurses until they lose their fight against death and die up in their sterile beds. They did not give thanks for their opportunity to leave the hospital, to go home and once again sleep in their own bed in their own home.

I hated them.

I knew he was sick. Everyone in the family had known he was sick for a long time, but it was never really clear to any of us. None of us ever imagined him dying. So when the three of us stepped out of the elevator and on to the 5th floor, seeing familiar
faces, some having travelled many hours, we knew. We approached, and they all solemnly rose and met us in the waiting room, tightly embracing each of us. Their hugs felt stiff, and I could tell that they were just pretending when they told me and my sister that it was 'OK'. It was not.

A few hours later, my sister and I were led back to my Grandfather's room. The walk was painfully long, and with each step I felt a little lonelier in the world, like I was walking away from my life and into some awful black hole. For the first time, as I walked past IVs and respirators, I had a horrible sensation that hospitals were not a place that people came to for treatment, but a place they came to die.

I had the shivers by the time we reached his blue and green flowered curtain. The nurse looked angry as she motioned us to go inside, her facial expression having the same effect as the She was not a good nurse like my mother. All she cared about was American Idol and her frozen dinner waiting at home. We went inside, bracing ourselves to see him hunching in agony, the way I imagined the sickly to be. He was sleeping. My eyes stretched across the stark white walls where I saw my father wearing the same suit
he had left the house in early Thursday morning. He had not left the hospital in 16 hours. And now he laid with his worried head in his trembling hands on a couch the size of a bus seat that seemed to be made of cement. He looked up, and his face was swollen with his tears, and his body was beaten with anger and hurt. I had never seen him so defeated, but when I did, I couldn't do anything but cry. My father's father was dying.

This whole time, I had been telling myself to be strong, but I was not. We all cried, and forgot about being brave. Tears furiously rushed from my eyes, and they didn't stop until I almost puked, right there, before my sleeping, dying Granddaddy.

I fell asleep on a reclining chair in the waiting room with lullabies of sniffles and heart monitors pulsing in my ears.

I finally awoke to Mom brushing my hair from my face. Her hand was soft on my tender skin. No one said a thing, but I already knew the recital of words that she wanted to recite to me by heart. She took me back to his room, and our heels mechanically clicked along the tile. This time, I did not feel so offended by the nurse's insensitive and rude gestures, because I did not feel anything at all. Until I saw him struggling to breath, awake, in his fancy bed. The tight mask that was strapped to his face had torn his fragile skin, and his nose was bleeding. I could not see him this way, not like this.

For a while, I just stood there and tried to absorb everything about him that I could, and I tried my hardest to harness what he used to look like, before he lie here so pale and weak in this house of death. I did my best to remember the times he had bought Rebecca and me ice cream at TCBY, and the times he made us pancakes before bed, and even the times he took us flying in an airplane, and the time he taught us about the World Wars he fought in. The man that I could foggily recall was not the man that was here, dying. That man was still 65, and living with Grandmother in their beautiful and ostentatious home in Houston. But Grandmother died when I was 11, and that hit me as I stood there watching Granddaddy's weathered body desperately fighting to remain strong.

It seems that we all were doing a lot of pretending that day.

Eventually, Granddaddy spoke. He didn't say much, but what he did say changed my life forever.
'Girls, I want you to know that I love you very much.'
'I love you too.'
That was the first time in my life that I ever told someone that I loved them. As soon as I said it, I finally felt that it was ok to let him go, to let him leave his suffering and once and for all reunite with his wife, Grandmother.

I cried until the nurse came in and told the family that only two people were allowed in the room, all others needed to leave' 'puh-lease.'

I wanted to punch her in the face right then and there. Then, when she came back moments later to make sure that we had left, I wanted to beat her to the ground with her stupid little clipboard and make her regret being the most horrible, inconsiderate human being that I had ever met in my entire life.

I knew that this was my last moment with my grandfather, and I didn't want it to end. At the same time, I was completely exhausted from crying and thinking about life after death until my head was throbbing. My cheeks were sore, my vision was blurry, and my body shrugged over in despair. I leaned over his bed to hug him as best I could without interfering with all of the cords and IVs and tubes that were crossing and twisting everywhere, and his cracked lips grazed my swollen cheek. I loved him.

I waited for my sister to do the same, knowing that this touch I had barely even felt would be the last. I did not say goodbye like Rebecca; unlike her, I could not accept that this was the end of his life. I would not, and I could not. So Mom led us away, and just before the blue and green floral curtain fell back into place, I turned and quickly captured my Grandfathers' love, along with every wish and dream he could ever have for Rebecca and me. And just then I wanted to take away my father's pain. I wanted to take away from him so he didn't have to worry as his last parent left the world, leaving him and his siblings alone, orphans in this cruel life.

Rebecca and I waited in the lobby to repose ourselves before we left for home. We said goodbyes to the family that was still waiting there, although most of them had gone away to dinner or to their hotel for the night.

When the doors screeched open for us, the sun was gone, and I said a final prayer for Granddaddy, and how I was so sorry that he would not get the privilege of leaving
that horrible hospital, to return home, to lie in his own bed and watch American Idol.

Mom did not come home until 12:45 Saturday morning. She did not have to tell us what we already knew'Granddaddy had died.

I did not cry this time, I didn't need to. I knew that it would be easier this way, and that he would not want us to worry about him now that he was in Heaven. Mom was still a little shaky, so I stayed up with her until she fell asleep on the couch, infomercials
reflecting in her glasses. Although her hair was rumpled and her makeup had slid off her aging face, she was still beautiful.
By the glimmering light of the TV, I dozed off into somewhat of a hibernation. When I awoke, I could not differentiate between the blurry recollections I had from the day before and the dreams that I had only partially forgotten.

To this day, I cannot recall the exact words that he uttered when I hugged him for the last time that Friday night. However, I know that they are there, somewhere, buried deep within my heart.

Somebody to Love.

The author's comments:
In memory of my Grandfather, Eugene Cummins.
You are greatly missed.
I love you.

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This article has 1 comment.

Lisa! said...
on Mar. 26 2009 at 4:33 am
This made me cry, I was so moved!

You will go far with your writing.

Parkland Book