Afraid to Say Goodbye
My paternal grandfather has been in the hospital for the past eight days now. I have gone to see him at least five out of the eight days. The last three visits have been hard as he is not real responsive.
For that matter if I don’t press the issue he’ll sleep for hours and during the few minutes that he is awake he doesn’t say much of anything. He is lucid, knows who I am, occasionally says my name, but not much else.
Some of that doesn’t bother me. He can be exceptionally gregarious, but at the same time he often goes hours without speaking as he doesn’t feel the need to make small talk. I am used to it and have spent many happy hours sitting with him.
But this is different, this time the quiet is not the same. I don’t feel like the quiet is because he has nothing to say. This time it feels to me as if the effort to speak is beyond what he is willing to do, not capable, willing.
The difference is that he seems to be weighing whether he wants to stick around or if he feels like he has done his time. He hasn’t said that to me, hasn’t even hinted at it so I might be over reacting to this. I hope that I am.
But maybe I am not.
I have a special relationship with all three of my grandparents. Yes, I said three. At just short of 37 I know how very lucky I am to have them and I treasure the time. But this particular grandfather and I have a very special bond that is a little bit different.
I remember the time after my grandmother died. I was quite young, but not so young that I don’t remember large chunks. When my mother went into labor with my youngest sisters he was the babysitter. I remember him pulling me in my wagon the day that my folks brought my sisters home.
He took me to my first Dodger game, took me to the steamroom to go shvitz with the other altercockers. I spent hours with him and his boys at Farmers Market, watched a few poker games and heard stories of his youth. I know about the time he spent as a carney and a pool hustler. I know the stories about WWII and so much more.
I am not going to write about those now because he is still here and if I learned anything from him it is that you don’t give up. But I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t nervous. He is 91, really more like 91.5 so who knows.
The last two trips to the hospital were hard. I didn’t say goodbye, he was asleep. But the honest answer is that I was afraid. I was afraid that if I said goodbye I’d get a telephone call later on letting me know that he had slipped away. Call me superstitious, but I was really nervous about it.
The day will come. No one outraces the sun and no one avoids the next step to whereever and whatever. I know this.
Tonight I hugged and kissed my children. I chased the monsters out of the closet and punched the bad guys in the nose. I helped spiderman, the power rangers and superman keep their bedroom safe. I know this is true, because my little boy told me so. I was his superman, his hero and I intend to do that for as long as I can.
But somewhere a little West of me one of my heroes is laid up in a hospital and the truth is that tonight I could have used him, would have liked to have spoken with him. I improvised and did what I think he would do in the same situation. I owe him an awful lot.
I don’t know what is going to happen and I am not going to spend too much time worrying about it because it is not productive. So when I sign off this evening and go to sleep I’ll dream about a man pulling a little boy in a blue wagon or the guy who bought me my first Dodger Dog and we’ll call it a night…for now.