The Bearer of Bad Tidings- One Less Set of Footsteps

The Magic Door

Earlier this week I wrote a post called The Father Leans On The Son. In it I spoke of my concern about my grandfather’s health and some other issues tied into it.

Earlier this evening I received a call at around 7:30 PM in which I was told that the paramedics were taking my grandfather to the emergency room. I took five minutes to change clothes and grab a book and then headed off to my parent’s house. I wasn’t sure if they had taken his ID and since the hospital is all of five minutes from my folks I figured that I had the time.

During the drive over I asked my grandfather to hold on a few minutes longer or maybe I prayed for five more minutes so that I could speak with him again. I am not completely certain. What I do know is that the time passed quickly and before I could blink I was inside the ER.

One of my younger sisters and BIL arrived moments before I did and together we waited for a nurse to give us an update on his condition. It was a short wait, not more than three minutes passed before we were hustled into a private room. I took a deep breath because I knew from their manner and approach that the news was grim.

The attending physician gave a succinct report on what happened, paused and then explained that by the time the ambulance arrived at the hospital my grandfather had already passed away.

“We did our best to restart his heart but in spite of our efforts we were unsuccessful. We lost him to a terminal condition. I am very sorry.”

And with these words he confirmed what I already suspected or maybe really even knew, Grandpa was dead. He was gone and that was that.

While it wasn’t a surprise it still felt like someone had dumped a bucket of ice water on my head. I took a moment to console my sister and then I called my father and for the second time in my life I had to tell him that someone from his immediately family had died.

The first time I was able to do it in person but in this case I had to do it by telephone. He and my mother had just sat down at a restaurant to eat dinner. They were enjoying a much deserved weekend away and I was about to not only wreck his appetite but lend a different color to the memories he was creating about this particular trip.

I don’t choke up easily, but this made me. The lump in my throat made it an effort to speak. I clenched my fist, took a deep breath and then told my dad that I was at the hospital.

In a calm voice he asked “Is grandpa ok. What is going on?”

I hesitated and then said no. For a moment there was silence but it didn’t stop the message from being sent.

“Dad, I am so sorry to tell you that grandpa is gone. He died, he passed away.”

There was more silence on the other end of the phone. I could feel my father composing himself and then came a series of questions and instructions. “What happened, how did it happen and I need you to call the mortuary and these people” were part of a short burst of speech from him.

Then came a couple more instructions and fatherly concern about how I was doing. I told him that I was fine but the docs said that I’d never play the piano again. I felt him smile and then he told me not to worry about it, that I didn’t have to sit with grandfather because his neshama had already departed.

There were a few more words exchanged and then I ended the call to go visit my grandfather. It was time for me to spend a few moments alone with him.

I walked inside and closed the curtain. He lay there with his body covered by a sheet, but his head was exposed with his mouth wide open. I had seen him look like that on a thousand occasions, except those times he was sleeping.

I bent over and kissed his forehead and listened for breathing. I checked his carotid for a pulse and his wrist, but I didn’t find any. I gently poked him and asked him to stop fooling around but there was no response. The light in those bright blue eyes had gone out.

And then I cried a little. I asked him to forgive me for anything that I might have done to upset or disappoint him and he didn’t respond. I didn’t expect it, but I still had the smallest inkling of hope that the doctors were wrong.

I bent over one more time and hugged him. When did he get to be so small. The man who carried me as if I weighed nothing, who took me to Dodger games and taught me how to enjoy a real shvitz in a real steam room was simply gone.

It was hard. It was cruel and it was wrong. I just wasn’t ready for my grandfather to be taken from me. In the morning I will tell my children. My daughter is only 2, she won’t get it, but my son will understand enough to be upset by this. My job will be to console him and explain another aspect of the life cycle to him.

Anyway, I am babbling now so I am going to wrap this up. People will say that this for the best. They’ll remind us that his health was not great and that now he is in a better place and I hope that all that is true.

I won’t lie and say that I am happy about this. I am not. I learned so very much from him and now my teacher has left me with so many lessons left unlearned and untaught.

But I learned the most important ones and I have some incredible memories and so ends the stream of consciousness about my grandfather who is now of blessed memory.

photo by: h.koppdelaney

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