Throughout my life I have had very few run-ins with Thanatos. My grandmother passed unexpectedly from a myocardial infarction in 2003 and a handful of years ago, my uncle surrendered to an abiding battle with alcoholism. When I was 25, I was forced to utter the hardest 3 words–I have Cancer. Fortunately, my prognosis was positive (is that an oxymoron?) and surgery ended all talk of chemo, radiation, and Life Expectancy. Papa Rog and others have not been as fortunate.
Last Wednesday, my grandpa was admitted to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms. It turns out that years of high blood pressure along with an unannounced decision to abandon all prescriptions (they weren’t doin nuthin for me) had caused irreparable damage to his heart. The doctor’s initial prediction was that with rehabilitation, lots of TLC, and hard work, he might live (at most) for another six months. The next few days showed a critical decline of his heart’s functionality and the decision was made to let hospice take over. (Interesting how it’s easier here to use the passive voice and pass off responsibility for the decision.)
I can only take these last days one at a time, each one a gift. Every day I visit him manifests more confusion and less energy. Last night my cousin and I were with him during dinner. The nurse brought him his order of beef stroganoff and through grunts of pleasure he informed us, “Turkey and stuffing.” I hope it was my grandma’s 🙂
He is seemingly unaware that he is dying. No one has told him that he is, and I’m starting to think we are cowards for it. Every time he asks me when he’s going home, what the plan is, why he’s there, I look down and mumble, “One day at a time, grandpa. One day at a time.” I feel we are stripping him of his dignity. As my mom pointed out, “He’s 87 years old. He’s thought about death.” I want the opportunity to tell him how much I love him and how I’ll never forget everything he’s done for me…