I lost someone this week.
I sit here, staring at the screen, wondering….
Where do I start?
How do I write this?
How do I cope with this?
What do I do?
What do I do?
What do I do?
I don’t know how to move forward. I can only hope that these words are actually making sense I type them because I cannot see the screen through my stupid tears and won’t stop.
Grandpa is gone.
No, it wasn’t Corona. But that doesn’t make my hate for it any less.
Because of Corona, I couldn’t fly back to America to say goodbye to my grandpa in person. I couldn’t hold his hand as he was lying on his literal death bed. As hospice nurses walked in and out, giving him his medicine and checking his vitals, everyone else in my family got to go in, hold his hand, give him kisses and hugs as they cried and said their final goodbyes. My little sister got to be there the whole time. She drove 15 hours from Colorado to be there.
I am so heartbrreakingly jealous that she got to be there with him, that she got to say goodbye.
On Saturday morning of last week, my dad sent me a message.
“Hey, kiddo. Call me when you can.”
Grandpa was on Hospice, which was just a fancy way of saying that they sent him home and gave him lots of painkillers. No more treatment. Let him live his final days comfortably.
Family and friends were in and out to say goodbye.
Close family stayed and talked to him. There were moments he was able to get out a word here and there.
I called in on Wednesday. I couldn’t handle it anymore. Pretending to be happy in front of all the kids at work and staying focused was a huge challenge. I stepped into the bathroom for panic attacks more often than I could say.
I Skype my dad that day.
Wednesday, I called in again. I was feeling a little better, starting to be my optimistic self. This is Grandpa, I thought. He will make it through it. He would never stop fighting!
Wednesday night, my dad called me. Grandpa wasn’t doing well at all. He had maybe a few more days. They sent me a video of Grandpa saying hi to me and telling me he loved me.
Thursday, I called in again. I fell back to uncontrollable sobbing. I needed to see my grandpa. Not a video. I told my dad and he asked me if I really wanted it. He could hold the phone up so I could video chat with him. “Grandpa can’t talk, but he can hear you,” he said.
He held up the phone.
I could never have prepared myself for the slamming pain that hit my chest in that moment. How could this frail, skinny, sickly man be my grandpa? Grandpa was chubby and jolly, fill of life and love. The man on that bed was a stranger.
My voice came out in choked sobs as I tried to talk to him, telling him how much I loved him and how much I missed him. How I remember him playing the accordion and leading sing–alongs on his player piano. How my obsession with popcorn started because he taught us how to make it on the stove with the little turning pot when we were old enough to reach.
He couldn’t talk back, but I saw as tears started falling down his face and he struggled to open his eyes. It was just for a moment, but there he was: my grandpa. That sparkle in his eyes was there just for a blink. He was trying to say something but a strangled moan was all that was coming out from his open mouth. I couldn’t say anything in that moment even if I wanted to. My heart was being torn from my chest.
Grandma reached over with a sponge on a stick and wet his mouth, telling him to keep trying, he could do it. More choked sounds were all that came out. He was visibly frustrated. He was trying to tell me something and I couldn’t understand. His last words to me, lost.
“You want to tell her you love her?” my Grandma asked him.
He nodded. Everyone off screen gasped within the sniffles and my aunt said, “That’s the most sound he’s made and the most he’s moved in days.”
My dad pulled the camera away and I was angry and relieved at the same time. I wanted to see him but I needed to get away. My dad was teary-eyed as he talked to me for a moment more and we both turned off our screens. I fell back into bed and cried for hours.
I couldn’t sleep at all that night. I woke up every half hour and grabbed my phone, dreading that horrible message: he’s gone.
Morning came. The message didn’t.
I got dressed, packed my lunch, and even took out the garbage. I talked to my little sister on the phone until it was time to walk out…
Then I called in.
I couldn’t do it.
Friday, I talked to my sister for most of the day. My dad eventually came home and joined the conversation. The time difference had them finishing up the day as mine was getting started. Dad needed a stiff drink as he talked to me. The conversation inevitably came to the topic we all wanted and then again didn’t want to talk about.
He told me that he loved Grandpa. We all do. But as strong as that love is, part of him wanted it to be over. He didn’t want to say goodbye, of course, but when it was over, that fear of when it would happen would be gone. Watching him suffer would be over with. The heaviness in the air in watching the man we know would lift as he found peace.
I struggled to not cry as I explained how relieved I was that I wasn’t the only one that felt that way.
In the afternoon, my husband took me out for dinner at a burger place. He knows I have wanted to move back to the states for about a year now and how hard it was, especially now. He thought some American food would cheer me up. It did, but then I had crashing guilt wash over me.
Who was I to be happy in that moment when Grandpa was in that state? When our family was suffering as well as they took care of him?
That’s how the rest of the day went. If I started to laugh, it was broken with tears. If I wasn’t doing anything, my mind wandered to him and I cried some more.
Saturday morning, I told my dad I wanted to talk to Grandpa again. I was better this time. I cried, of course, but the sobbing wasn’t as overpowering and I was able to convey my feelings. He tried for me. He tried so, so hard to open his eyes and look at the screen. They fluttered constantly. His eyebrows lifted and his jaw dropped like he was trying to stretch his face to force them to open.
“It’s okay, Grandpa,” I assured him. “I know you’re tired.”
He didn’t stop trying. And it broke my heart all over again.
Instead, I told him about the dream I had the night before.
I was lined up to see him and when I walked up, he saw me and stood up. He gave me a big bear hug, just like he used to. Then he told me that I need to listen to Christmas music every Wednesday.
Everyone giggled a little at the last part. Even Grandpa let out a breath that I swear was what he could do for a laugh at the time.
“Did you say that, hon?” Gram asked.
Grandpa actually said, “Uh huh.”
I don’t care if it was a joke. I’m going to listen to Christmas music every Wednesday from now on.
Grandpa needed rest so they pulled the screen away again way before I was ready. I talked to everyone for about a half hour before dad let me say goodbye one more time.
This was the last time.
That day was hard. It was a struggled balance of moving on with my daily life and remembering what I was about to lose. My family is very tight-knit. I saw Grandpa just as much as I saw Dad. I stayed the night over there maybe once a month until high school. Sometimes more. We took family vacations every other year to a big family reunion in Ohio, then stopped at Cedar Point.
I told Dad I needed a phone call. Not a text. I didn’t want to wake up to a text message saying he passed so many hours ago. I needed a call when it happened. He promised me he would.
I mentioned my feeling guilty for having moments of laughter.
“Don’t you dare,” he scolded. “Grandpa would be very upset if he knew that. Don’t you dare feel guilty for feeling happy. He wouldn’t ever want that.”
I went to sleep that night but woke up and jumped out of bed at about 2:55 feeling very uneasy. Panicking. A Miss Clavel “Something is not right” moment. My stomach was a mess and I felt sick. My husband sat straight up at my sudden outburst and looked at me.
A minute later, my phone rang. I answered. “He’s gone, kiddo…”
I’ve been dealing with it in waves. I will be okay one moment and sobbing uncontrollably the next. The stupidest things will set me off. Other times, it’s obvious things.
Everyone keeps posting to Facebook and showing pictures and memories.
My little sister and my grandma sent me voicemails that he left her that she didn’t delete. I have them saved on my phone. One in particular really set me off.
“Hey, hon. It’s me. Just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing. Talk to you later.”
I miss him. I miss him so much that I can’t eat or sleep or even breathe. That constant fear of seeing the message on my phone is gone, though. So is the need to be near my phone at all times.
I still am, though, because I need my family right now. I desperately, now more than ever, want to go back and be with them.
Between Corona and the riots, though, I’m stuck.
This year is horrible.
I hate 2020.