Last Thursday morning, I woke up for work like normal. I turned off my alarm to see that I had a message from my father asking me to call him whenever I had a chance. I immediately did, of course.
You see, he has a nasty habit of sending me a message to give him a call when things are looking really bad.
The first time it happened, he wanted to tell me that my mother was leaving him. I already knew that, though, because she called me the second she walked out.
The second time was to tell me that my great uncle passed away.
The third time was when my godmother passed away.
Next was when my grandpa was sent to the hospital with congestive heart failure for surgury.
Then it was when my grandpa was sent to the hospital to have his gallbladder taken out.
You could see why I was worried.
He picked up relatively quickly and started with the standard small talk about how things were and how I’m dealing with quarantine. I basically answered and asked what was wrong.
He told me that I should probably take time to call my grandpa whenever I get the chance because things “aren’t looking good and we aren’t sure if he is going to make it through this time”. I was shocked to silence for a minute and just mumbled an ‘okay’. He was getting ready to try to talk to me for a minute but had an incoming call from my sister. He was trying to tell everyone, he said. I said it was fine and hung up.
And sat there blankly for a moment before I went to where my husband was still sleeping to tell him. I woke him up gently and when he asked what was up, the only thing to come out of my mouth was a choked sob. I burst into tears and couldn’t breathe.
I felt the control slipping. My heart started pounding and my chest tightened painfully. My breath came in short spurts and my throat felt like it was closing. Nausea hit and my head pounded in time with my heart.
At least this time I knew what caused it.
If he died, I couldn’t get back to the states. There are virtually no flights. And a mandatory 2 week quarantine after landing. I’d miss the funeral.
I couldn’t afford to go back.
I wouldn’t be able to return to Japan.
I’d lose my grandpa.
I’d lose Grandpa.
My husband immediately jumped up and hugged me. It’s what I needed this time and he knew it because of how I was reaching toward him. The panic slipped away enough for me to just thoroughly cry and sob, taking deep gulps of air as I tried to breathe, to just fill my lungs with clean air.
I calmed down enough to choke out small words to tell him what was happening. He just told me to call out of work and take a day to myself to call Grandpa and talk to him, to see (or listen) for myself to how he seemed.
I messaged my boss and explained. He understood. He would be a horrible person not to.
I called the office and was relieved to hear my partner pick up the phone.
“I can’t come in today,” I rasped. I broke into sobs again as I said, “I have a family emergency.”
She didn’t seem to know what to say. She just kept repeating “Okay.” She’d never heard me even worked up before, let alone sobbing hysterically.
I hung up, composed myself, and called my grandmother. I couldn’t call Grandpa directly because he doesn’t have Line on his phone.
She answered and I was about to ask to talk to Grandpa when I heard his phone start ringing in the background. Gramma put me on hold while she answered and handed it over to him. An old family friend was calling to chat and Gram said he perked up when he knew who it was so I let them talk.
Gram made it seem like it wasn’t as bad as my dad was making it out to be. That could be her just trying to stay optimistic but I feel like she would have more fear or sadness in her voice while talking about him if he was really that bad.
I didn’t get to talk to Grandpa but Gramma needed support too. I talked to her until her phone died and she seemed really happy. It helped calm me down a lot too. My dad Skyped me later and told me that he didn’t mean to ruin my day; he just wanted me to know that Grandpa is getting weaker every day and things aren’t looking great.
I refuse to believe that Grandpa will lay down and take it, though. He promised Gramma 100 years of happy marriage and they still have 48 more to go.
As my panic rises, I refuse to let it take over.