We are back from California.
We spent close to a week there with my grandfather and the rest of my family. No real news to report. Hospice is still caring for my grandfather. He has days of being lucid, happy and the Davie we all know and love, followed by days when hospice says the end is near and he is withdrawn and even surly. It is emotionally exhausting and devastating- leaves you feeling utterly helpless.
It was also a good visit with my family. Does that sound bizarre? A death vigil turns into a great family visit. Well it was. Briar really connected with everyone. It was amazing to watch her take in all that was happening.
The health services room was no cake walk. Grandpa’s roommate, Bill, was in very bad shape. Something to do with a surgery for diverticulitis that went bad in November. I can only describe the sounds he made as being those of someone who was slowly choking to death. His wife, Barbara, was there ’round the clock and was so sweet to us- bringing us fresh oranges from her garden. Her daughters arrived on Thursday and Saturday. I was so relieved because I had feared they would not make it in time. He is still fighting against all odds. Barbara loved Briar. Briar would dart past the curtain over to Bill and Barbara. She would stop and look up at Bill in the bed. His face was gaunt to the point of making his skin appear as if it would split if he made any expression- which made it a little easier to take that his face never did change expression. Looking from Bill, then to Barbara and then back at me Briar would make little sounds, or quickly come back to our side of the room. She never showed fear on her face and I think she provided a much needed diversion for Barbara that required no exertion of energy or emotion on her part. One day she came
over to our side and said more to Briar then to me, “Briar. You are such a source of sunshine. It is just so wonderful having you here. I just…” she smiled at me, shook her head and went back to Bill. I won’t say that I took any credit, but it felt so incredible to know that on some level she had been brought the tiniest bit of relief from her constant grief.
Briar was also magical with Grandpa. You just never know how a child will react to older people. It seems that more often than not they try to stay as far away from hem as possible. Having your child wail and thrash in the face of an adoring elderly person may be one of the most uncomfortable things in the world. You can’t tell when it will happen and you can’t do anything to hide it once it has happened. Briar never let herself go into a full on tailspin in the face of close talking older folks. She would gently lean back, squeeze me and give me the “Hey, mom, I’m thinking about having a mini-meltdown, can you get me some breathing room?” and I would deftly rearrange her to prevent a scene. With Grandpa she made the connection between the twinkly eyed, vital looking Grandpa pictured next to me on my wedding day with the haggard looking man with wild, wavy white hair and a thick beard in the hospital bed. “Ampa” she would say as she would point from the picture to my grandfather.
We were blessed to actually have a few moments when grandpa was awake and interacted with Briar. As a matter of fact, the morning that we left we went to say goodbye, anticipating him being in the same non-responsive state as the night before. To our surprise (indicative of the kind of emotional whiplash we have all been enduring) he was up and peppy. He looked at Briar, broke out in a huge grin, lifted his arm and pointed at her as he said, “Briar!”
At times it felt as if the trip was purely selfish, a chance to resolve my own feelings, but I do believe that with the moments he had with Briar and the magical spell we all experienced as we read Pooh to him, this trip was for all of us. I wish there were more certainty.
I wish that I didn’t find myself hoping that he would just peacefully go.
It feels so wrong to want him to die.
I said before that I cannot imagine a world without Davie, and I can’t.
But I also cannot imagine a life for Davie without all the things that have made him Davie.
No phone calls.
I think we are living in a world that walks a fine line –
when does our ability to prolong life stand in direct contradiction of the need to ensure quality of life?
Is it worth staying alive just to beat death?
Even if what you are doing isn’t living?
Who is that for?
Maybe another time I can better articulate what it is I am feeling. There’s so much confusion right now. All I really do know is that I love my grandfather and I am keenly aware of the preciousness of life and how very important it is to live each day honestly and fully.