Posted on June 4, 2018
I wasn’t at the hospital when my father-in-law passed away. I’d come down with the start of a cold the day before, and I didn’t want to risk making him any sicker than he was. He passed away the first night his two sons stayed with him for a 24 hour period. I also wasn’t there when my father passed. We thought it would take a week minimum before his body gave out. I left around 10p.m. and he passed around 3:15a.m. the next morning. I’ve regretted not being there when these two people left us. So when my grandmother’s future looked bleak and I was with her and other family members in the hospital last week, I was bound and determined to see this through.
My grandmother’s passing remains a surreal experience. This was not expected, not anticipated, and there was no warning. She emptied the dishwasher on Monday, interacted with us all, and was gone on Tuesday. The paramedics said she told them she was tired halfway to the hospital, shut her eyes, and never opened them again. Never spoke to us again. Never said goodbye.
A truly surreal moment happened after they disconnected grandma from the ventilator. Fifteen minutes into the thirty minutes it took for her to pass, a nurse wheeled a cart past the curtain and into the room where two of us held grandma’s hands, and others stood in a circle around her. I asked the nurse “What are you doing?”
“I’m taking her blood.”
My aunt and I gave each other a side look.
“So we can compare the results with samples taken earlier when she came in.”
My aunt cleared her throat and then spoke very politely. “You do realize she’s passing right now?”
The nurse’s eyes grew quite wide as if a deer caught in headlights. “Oh, my God. They don’t tell me anything around here!” She apologized and then left.
Mom ended up back in the hospital a couple days later. I can’t say I’m surprised. The news took its toll. I stayed at the house, took care of the dog, visited mom, interacted with my aunt, assisted her in getting what she needed from grandma’s belongings for the upcoming memorial etc., made sure mom has food, helped her pick out things she can eat, worked on setting up appointments, and everything else that needed doing.
Tomorrow—or today since you’ll be reading it today—I go back to work.
I’m tired. I’m goddamn exhausted. I have, for two weeks, tried to maintain a strength my mother can rely on. I have tried to be many things, and I feel often I’ve been too few. We rely on our parents for their wisdom, guidance and strength and never doubt they have it in abundance. And yet they don’t. They’re just very good at allowing us to think they do because that’s what we need. That’s what I project for my mother now even though I frequently doubt myself and wonder if I ever grew up past the age of 10.
I feel helpless, yet don’t let her see the cracks. I’ve bottled up my emotions because I had to. They’ll come out in time. They have to. I’m not ready for today. I’m not ready for tomorrow. What choice do any of us have, though? But I am glad I saw this through. My grandmother brought my mother into this world, and was there the day I came into it. It seems only fitting I should witness her leaving, especially if my own mother couldn’t.
How do we keep going, though? How do we do it?
I guess I’ll find out.
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, and the upcoming Falling Awake II: Revenant.