I watch my grandpa's chest rise and fall, rise and fall, rise and fall. Sometimes it falls and does not rise for what seems like ages, but then, inevitably, it rises again and continues its pattern of up and down. At these moments I hope that his suffering will be over. That he will move on to the life he has been talking about for years. Then when his chest rises again in a great big heave, I sigh with relief and realize that for seemingly minutes I too have been holding my breath. I feel that as long as I watch his chest, it will continue to rise. But I also fear that as I watch it fall, it will cease to rise again.
Yesterday, Thursday, (the day that was years ago) my grandpa had a stroke. Or something. Now we sit and wait and twiddle our fingers. We do not know whether to wish for the slow quiet breathing that seems so near the end, or the mumbling breaths that ensure life. I am not sure which I dread more, the sound or the lack thereof.
At times I see life in his eyes and I know he can hear and understand the loved ones that surround him. At other times he reaches to the heavens with his left hand and his eyes seem glazed and distant.
I didn't sleep last night. Which was okay for me, but my grandma did not sleep either. We sat in the hospital room listening to his breathing and to his inaudible words.
Today the room was like a bee's hive. In and out with people. Sons, daughters, granddaughters and grandsons. Wife, loved ones, doctors and nurses. Night nurses, day nurses, nurses and doctors coming to explain hospice and other options for the future. Questions of feeding tubes, questions of cafeteria hours, questions of chaos. It was like watching a movie in fast-forward. A priest ran up the stairs, a really dear old woman brought us a balloon, some ER nurses (somethings, interns) brought us coffee. Vital signs and beeping and then silence in the room. DNR, so no need for checking vital signs. No drastic measures to keep a low quality of life.
Then recognition in his face, holding his hand, and remembering all the good memories. Countless stories of the kids and grand kids he rescued from flat tires, broken toys, and crocodiles*. A hero, a man. Now defeated and confused.
I did okay. I did not cry until I spoke to my mom on the phone and explained everything to her. Then I did okay again. I did not show tears until my grandpa's son Vince walked into the room and looked at his father. Each meeting each others gazes in understanding. Vince saying slowly and in nearly a whisper "I can't talk either." Vince had a stroke a few months ago. A beautiful understanding. A giant love. Then I did okay until all the talk about hospice care and quality of life. I hid my face and let the tears silently drop onto my shirt and pants, making a pathetic attempt at hiding my sadness.
When I see others cry, sometimes even if I don't know them, I usually cry. When I saw my mother, my grandmother, and my cousins with puffy eyes, I burst. I get so embarrassed to cry in front of people (more than one), so I could only hid my face and let my tears come quietly.
Now, I am tired. I am tuckered. I am wore out. Grandpa is in a hospice center, where he will be made as comfortable as possible. Though he initially lost all movement in the right side of his body, he has slowly gained some of it back (though no fine motor movements). My mom is in town and is staying with him tonight so my grandma can get some rest. And me too. It will be another busy day tomorrow. For everyone.
Too much coffee, not enough sleep, not enough food, and very little good news.
Think good thoughts for my grandfather's family and friends. He is ready to rest. His time could come in hours or in weeks, we just don't know.
I just wish he could go easier. This is just so hard for everyone. So long and drawn out. So much confusion in his eyes. I wish we could at least understand him when he mumbles in speech. But we don't always get to choose happy endings.
*Crocodiles (and wolves too):
Scary animals that live in the glove box. The only way to keep them from eating your legs is to kick the glove box closed.
(Don't worry, no children (me) or grandfathers (Charlie) were harmed in the playing of this game. The glove box may have gained some scuff marks and I may have been tickled anyway- I mean... eaten by crocodiles... but in the end it was always worth opening the glove box just to see what lurked inside.
P.S. I would like to apologize in advance for the chaos and confusion of this entry. I will write a better one soon - I will explain more soon. For now, just send good thoughts to my grandma (and everyone else too, I suppose).