“If I didn’t take care of myself, take my pills, I’d be in a psych ward,” The man in to room next door is loudly explaining to his nurse. “I’m 65,” he says. “I’m not going to live that much longer.”
I’m sitting in the corner of an uncomfortably cool hospital room, in an uncomfortable leather chair. The heart monitor beeps somewhere is in the hallway. I sit, waiting for the nurses to bring my grandma back to the room. Echocardiograms, CAT Scans. She’s being submitted to those and every other kind of imaginable scan and grams that they can conjure. They’re trying their hardest to make her uncomfortable. Good intentions that are seriously annoying the 89 year old woman that I call Granny. She can’t speak. The stroke earlier today has stolen that from her. It’s taken her ability to comprehend what people are saying. It’s taken her ability to say “yes” or “no”. She struggles to say something, moving her mouth and lips to make words, but is unable to make them materialize as sound. She gives up, putting her head back down on the pillow with a hand over her eyes. She cries, but can’t wipe her nose because of the lines streaming oxygen into her veins. She shakes her head, shrugging her shoulders, surrendering to another battery of tests.
Mom called earlier, saying that she had called Granny and she was completely incoherent and then she hung up. Mom babysits my nephew 5 days a week, so I packed up Sam and Delaney and headed to my brother’s house to watch the baby while my mom went to be with Granny. By then the ambulance had taken her to the hospital emergency room. She was unable to recognize anyone, even my mom and dad. She couldn’t function, or even follow simple directions. When she was able to produce her full name, she beamed, her face transformed into that of a child, so proud she was.
As soon as I was able, I got myself to the emergency room. She recognized me immediately as I reached the side of her bed. I grasped her hand, and even in the ER she was classy, a giant moonstone ring on her left hand, a blue-stoned silver ring on the other. A little red lipstick. I held her hands tight and leaned down to hug her. I kissed her cotton-candy hair trying not to cry, trying not to be tangled in the wires and tubes that encased her like a strait jacket. I held her against my chest like a child, she held me back, and we sat there for a while in silence. She looked at me, forming her lips into shapes, moving her mouth to speak, but was unable to say whatever she wanted to say. The look in her eye flashed from hope, to frustration, to fear. She covered her face with her hands and buried her face in the sheets, her shoulders shaking as she tried to hold back tears. I held her, and cried, too. I looked at her tender pink scalp peeking through her thinning white hair, the age spots on her face, neck and hands. I imagined it was me standing at that brink…knowing that I’m 89 years old. I’ve already lived long past my life expectancy and suddenly I’m facing death. Do you want to let go? Do you want to stay? The oxygen tubes are half lost in the crepe paper skin around her neck. She looks at me, her giant blue eyes rimmed with red.
“I…don’t…know, “ she stuttered. “I…don’t…know.”