June 24, 2009

And Then He Died

Three years ago I stood in the emergency room of the hospital and listened to the doc explain that my grandfather had died. And then I went to the room in which his body lay and say with him. I wrote about that moment in The Bearer of Bad Tidings- One Less Set of Footsteps.

Two thoughts come to mind about that post. I can't read it without choking up a little. It is raw and it captured the moment so well that three years later I still feel it. But I was and still am very appreciative of the comments. It was one of those moments where I knew without a doubt that the blogosphere is a real community.

It is hard to believe that three years have gone by, especially when I think about all that has happened. Some of the hardest and most challenging moments of my life lie before me and I sorely miss his advice and support. I would have liked to have been able to discuss some of this with him.

He would have listened and shared some thoughts. Chances are he would have told me a story or two. I never got tired of them. Grandpa was a very fine storyteller. He did an excellent job of painting a picture that you could see.

In my mind's eye I have a million images of the Chicago of his youth and the things that he did. It is not hard to imagine what life in the carnival business was like, winters in New Orleans or the things that he did in the army.

He would have taken so much pleasure from his great-grandchildren. It makes me a little sad that the dark haired beauty has completely forgotten him. Sure, she knows his name and recognizes his picture, but she doesn't remember him. She doesn't remember how he came to the hospital the day she was born and held her or how he told me that it was ok to make sure that her boyfriends were afraid of me.

So many good memories and so many stories to tell. He took me to my first Dodger game. Taught me how to throw a punch and told me that if I hit someone to make sure that I was ready to take what came afterwards.

When I was learning how to drive he took me out, had me drive back and forth through Laurel Canyon and around Farmer's Market. There were movies and lunches and so much more.

One of my favorite memories comes from my sister's wedding. I wrote about it in a post, but I can't remember exactly where. I really should find it because it is a great story and it deserves to be told properly.

A handful of years later I find myself visiting my grandfather at the hospital. We're exchanging stories and he is filling me in on his health. He tells me that if he had known that he was going to live so long he would have taken better care of himself. I tell him that I am sure that he is going to be around another twenty years.

He shakes his head and tells me no. He is serious and he looks me in the eye and says that he knows that the finish line can't be that far away. Tells me that he is going to fight for every breath and that if there is a such a thing as the angel of death, he is going to kick the crap out of him.

I laugh and ask him how. He smiles and tells me that he'll punch him in the nose and that when the tears well up in the angel's eyes he'll slip out the door. We both laugh at this and then we are silent.

A few minutes later he closes his eyes to go to sleep and I look around the room. Beeps and whistles and the whirring noises of various machines are all that I can hear. I move closer and am comforted to hear him breathing peacefully.

Not so long afterwards I am alone in a hospital room with him. This time there is no peaceful breathing, no snoring. Although his hands are still warm I know that in a short time they won't be any longer.

For a moment I stare at his body and inside my head I can hear someone say, "and then he died."

You might also be interested in these posts:

Pictures, Videos and Memories
My Grandfather Laid Tefillin
The Challenge of Aging
The World's Fastest 95 Year-Old Man
Passing The Baton- Grandma is 94
Not Quite Goodbye- And Some other Thoughts

No comments: