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My Tears Haven't Yet Dried

When I walked into that tiny, enclosed hospital room, what I expected to see wasn’t lying in the modernized electric bed, surrounded by IV tubes and nursing schedules. Instead, a man with drooping eyelids, a pale complexion, saddened eyes, and a doubtful heart took the place of my grandfather. It hurt to see him hurting. That was the one thing I knew without a doubt. My grandpa, Gerald LaBrusciano, dedicated member of the Jet Blue airways team for fifty years, respected veteran who fought during the Vietnam War, well-loved father and grandfather, was now a living ghost.
The leukemia was the culprit. For some reason, a reason only God is familiar with, it didn’t respect my grandpa, unlike just about everyone else. And I guess that’s when it attacked. The cancer wanted him to suffer, I think. It did everything in its willpower to make sure that happened. And lucky for them, they succeeded. It spread through his body like wildfire, making everything a hundred times harder. When he was emitted to the hospital, it was hard to drag myself over there and see him. Not only did my fear of hospitals keep me from going, but my fear of seeing someone so innocent, so hopeful, so full of life, in the process of having all that life ripped out of them.
And of course, it ripped my grandmother apart, too. Seeing her own husband struggling so horribly made her hurt. She was depressed and everything seemed to be just too much for her to deal with. So, she just didn’t deal with it. It’s all she could do. She’d spend almost every night at the hospital, by Gerry’s bedside, gripping his frail hands. When we couldn’t make it down to see him for a couple hours, she got upset. Throwing around the ‘You don’t care enough to make the effort! He’s your father and you don’t care!’ card. That, especially, hurt me. How could she say we didn’t care? My grandfather was in the hospital, battling the darkest side of leukemia, and she thought we didn’t care about that? When my brother Nick came down from Florida to see Grandpa (we hadn’t seen Nick in months, since he was going to college so far away), he’d grown a bushy beard. His hair was practically like a lions’ mane, golden but not tamed. My Grandma, MaryLynne, would have none of it. She told my mother that Nicky couldn’t visit his own grandfather on his death bed unless he shaved the beard. Because, apparently, Grandpa didn’t like beards. Of course, that wasn’t true—MaryLynne was too stressed to keep herself sane. But her attitude throughout the year got progressively worse, erupting in plenty of fights between her and the entire family. Stress seemed to pile on.
It took a lot of courage to finally stand up and let my family know I’d be going with them to the hospital. But not only did it take courage, it took hope. The hour and a half drive was exhausting, just because the worst wasn’t yet right in front of me. And then, pushing open those huge, swinging doors, stepping into the cold hospital… that was even harder. Victims rolled past us in wheelchairs. The newly suffering were being wheeled in on stretchers, screaming and aching in agony. They all seemed to reach out for us—with their hands and their hearts.
The receptionist pointed us to where we would be going and handed us a plastic map. Making our way up to the floor that was supposed to be healing my grandfather, I wasn’t sure whether or not I felt regret. I might’ve; I’m not sure. It could have been gratefulness. To this day, though, I’m immensely grateful that I made the choice to see him. Because if I didn’t, God knows how quick he’d speed up Heaven’s doors.
After that first visit, I gathered up even more courage to see Grandpa again, a few more times. But each time I went, he seemed to either get better or worst. One doctor said this, but another said that, and the third doctor said that. We couldn’t be sure which truth would really lie. All I knew was that with every positive, there came a negative. And I just wished there was someway we could switch those two words with each other, because all I wanted was for something good to come out of this horror that left my family so distraught. I thought things were getting bad when Grandpa lost all feeling in his hands. Any touch to his fingers was unknown to him. It bewildered him when we told him we held his hand for a few minutes. But that wasn’t even the worst of it. He was scheduled to have a tracheotomy. The little incision in his neck was covered with a patch of gauze. The man I was looking at for the past few weeks just wasn’t my grandfather. Or at least I didn’t want it to be.
There were so many times where my parents warned my siblings and me that the visit that day just might be our last. But Grandpa pushed through it—each and every time. There were times he wanted to give up, right then, right there. There were times we all asked why. There were times we had regrets, times we had to thank God, times we had to question all that we ever believed. But throughout all those times, we all stuck together as a family. Because at that point, we were all each other had.
But all those days are a little bit fuzzy. The one day that’s sizzling in my mind, imprinted in my memory, draped to my eyelids, is the day we were told the words we’d been dreading to hear. I was in my parents’ room, IMing Ashley on the computer. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but I remember hearing my mom laughing on the phone with one of her co-workers. She hung up after a few minutes, and immediately after, the phone rang again. I didn’t hear laughing again. I heard weeping. I hesitated to go see what was wrong, mainly because I already knew what was wrong. But I ran into the other room, and looked at my mother’s puffy eyes, her cheeks painted with tears. She whispered something into the receiver and hung up. Looking me in the eyes she said, ‘Savannah, Grandpa passed away. Just a couple minutes ago.’ She pulled me close to her, and we just sat on the couch, hugging each other. My voice quavered and hiccupped and my own tears were beginning to sting my cheeks, too. Despite the massive amount of pain that had just begun, I was happy that Grandpa was done with the suffering, done with the pain, done with the doubts. He could make a new life. I knew he would. He’d be much happier; immensely happier. As hard as it was to deal with, I knew that somehow we’d get along. Because with just a little love, a little faith, and a little hope, I think anyone can get through anything, no matter how huge the challenge.
I’m not looking to be sad. I’m not looking to cry. I’m not looking to be upset. The only thing I’m going to do right now is celebrate his life; not mourn it. I believe he had so much to live for—and he did. Grandpa exceeded any expectations anyone might have had for him. He pushed past the distress, the pain, the worrying, and found the sun shining. His ability to do that is an ability not many people are lucky to have. But those that do are the ones who make others see the sun when all we see is darkness.



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Nicky H. said...
Jun. 26, 2009 at 3:42 am
aw, this made me cry:(
My Grandpa was a very respected man in his community as yours was
 
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