October 31st, 2018: Wednesday
It was Halloween and we took our kids trick-or-treating as we always do. Before hitting the streets, we made the usual rounds at my aunt and uncles, my grandparents, and my parents. We kept the visits very brief this year as the previous year, we stayed too long talking and catching up. As a result, most of the houses had stopped giving out candy for the night. Wanting to make sure our kids had a good experience, we limited each visit to only a few minutes.
November 20th, 2018: Tuesday
My grandfather had called to let me know my grandmother was in the intensive care unit at the hospital I work in. I went to see her that morning, but she was tired, only being able to talk briefly. She fell asleep three times in the five minutes I was there. Though my grandmother slept a lot normally, this seemed unusual to me. I presumed it was whatever drugs they must have had her on. I left and came back later that afternoon.
When I did, my parents were there and my grandmother seemed to be in good spirits, very lively and awake. We talked for probably a good fifteen to twenty minutes, and everything seemed well. I figured she’d be going home within a few days. That night she was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland. She wasn’t expected to make it through the night. I found all this out the next day.
My parents went down to visit her on Thursday. On Friday, I called them up because I heard they were going to see her on Sunday.
November 25th, 2018: Sunday
My parents picked me up early that morning. They had my cousin’s daughter with them and we drove down to Maine Med. My grandfather was there sitting in her room. He’d been there all day and night since that she was brought down that Tuesday night. We all talked and laughed. There was worry, but we were getting through it. And then the doctor came. And he explained to us the situation. I’m not going to go into the details, but the basic gist of it was if they didn’t operate, she would die. If they did operate, she might die. If they operated and she didn’t die, then the odds were she’d never have the same quality of life she had before and the odds of her ever being able to go home were slim.
In my thirty-seven years alive, I had never seen my grandfather cry until that day.
Everything was explained to my grandmother. My grandfather continued to ask questions. There was one more test they could run that they hadn’t done yet. I guess, if they found fluid in a certain part, they could drain it easily and it would greatly increase chances of recovery. If it was found in another part, well, it would be extremely difficult. They took my grandmother to get the test. And when she came back, she called us each one by one into her room and gave us the death talk.
That afternoon we went home. When I got home, I drove an hour away to my friend’s house for the WWE Survivor Series PPV. We had been planning on this for like two months. It may seem strange that I didn’t stay home with family, but I had had a long rough day with far too many tears. I knew harder days were coming and what I needed was to have a normal night with friends. We had beers, an unnecessarily large pizza, wrestling on tv, and lots of laughs as we had done most months for nearly 20 years. It was just what I needed.
November 26th, 2018: Monday
They found fluid in the place they didn’t want to find it. My grandmother opted for hospice. She came to the hospice in our area as she knew people who had used it an knew it would be comforting for her. After work, I went up with my wife and kids. Most of the family was there. It was a good time. My daughter had drawn a picture of her and my grandfather in their chairs at home for her. My grandmother was more alert than I had seen her in a long time. Somehow, it was a very happy event. So many smiles, despite knowing what was to come.
November 27th, 2018: Tuesday
I swung by after work to see my grandmother. It was snowing. Because of the weather, I was a little later than I intended. When I arrived, family from out-of-state was there. They almost didn’t recognize me. I don’t think I had long hair and a beard when they saw me last. My grandmother was awake, but I could tell she was getting ready to go to sleep, so I didn’t stay long. Near her bed was a large glass door. A light was on outside and you could see the snow gently falling in the calm winter night. I said to my grandmother that I was glad she could see the snow falling. She was too. I told her I loved her and wished her a happy birthday. She said, “See you tomorrow.”
Up until this point, there had only been two deaths in my life that I can say had any major impact on my life. The first was my father. He was murdered shortly after I turned four. I’ve heard all sorts of stories. I’ve heard it was a crooked cop. I’ve heard that it was a drug deal gone bad. I don’t know what happened exactly other than he was shot in his home and he dragged himself to the front porch where he died. The murder has never been solved.
The next was a friend from high school. She got into a bad car accident in my early twenties. The power flickered and then went out as the car crashed. The fog was heavy that night. As I drove a friend home, I was going less than 10 miles an hour and could only see a couple of feet in front of the car, even with the lights on. We took what side roads we could to avoid getting into accidents with regular traffic or pedestrians.
November 28th, 2018: Wednesday
I stopped by the hospice at seven am to see my grandmother. The door was closed. I reasoned she was still sleeping. Not wanting to wake her, I went to work with the intent to return that night. As I pulled away in my car, I saw my grandfather driving past. I called him on his cell but he didn’t answer, so I left him a message telling him I just saw him on the road.
A couple of hours later I was at work trying to fix an account in the Sports Therapy department when my phone rang. My mother was calling to let me know that my grandmother died this morning at about seven am. While I was right outside her door. I left work and headed to my grandfather’s house. On the way there, I picked up a six-pack of Boston Lager and a cigar. The cigar to keep my steady as I drove and the lager loosen my up when I got home.
I tried to keep my composure, but the first thing I did when I got to see my grandfather was basically burst out into tears apologizing for not being there. I should’ve gone in the room to be with her she took her last breaths. I should’ve waited for my grandfather so he wasn’t there a lone when it happened. I felt absolutely horrible.
He hugged me and cried with me. He didn’t blame me. He wasn’t mad with me. Nobody was. They all understood. But I still felt horrible about it. The fact that I didn’t go in, the fact that I didn’t knock, the fact that I didn’t wait around five damn minutes so my grandfather didn’t have to find out alone, that ate me up inside.
And it still does.