And there will come a point when you are reduced to a series of numbers and letters that you'll wish you didn't understand.
550. Sugar level. Normal is 80-110, they say. The culprit is the infection.
G12. 7th row from the bottom, 12th spot over. Your "niche" as they call it. The pricey drawer in which an urn will be placed. Where your ashes will rest. Right next to a waterfall, overlooking a koi pond. We liked it for you. Though the phony mortuary salesgirl we could've done without.
64. Not your age. But the code for the nursing home that we write on your sweatshirt collars and on the toes of your socks so that your laundry doesn't get mixed up with some other old person's. Because it's not couture or expensive, but its yours.
DNR. Do Not Resuscitate. These three letters in big block yellow font, lined up neatly on a shiny purple plastic bracelet tied intently to your wrist. Telling people to please let your heart beat its last beat because you want nothing to do with artificial life.
Today, the bracelet annoyed you for no particular reason. You--completely oblivious as to its significance. Trying with all of your might to rip it off. Though I know it's what's "best" for you-- I hate the sight of it. I tried, along with you, to remove it. But to no avail.
I alternate between feeling prepared for and being terrified of receiving The Call. "Do not be anxious about anything", the Bible says. But I wonder if Jesus himself had his moments even. Where you can't be anything BUT anxious.
With your granddaughters watching your orangey, almost-brown pee fall into a bag at your side and they rejoice because it's no longer blood-tinged and because you ate all of your pureed peaches and some of your mashed potatoes and pureed meat.
You are alert, though you're sputtering nonsense now. Something about closing a door and ordering a pizza.
The nurses take turns trying to find a good vein, because you've lived to see the number 95 on your birthday cake and now, there aren't too many good veins to choose from. The purple marks on your arms bear witness to this.
"God help us", I say, as Nurse Number Three makes her attempt to find a live one.
"Keep praying", she says, and I do and she finds success on your right arm and your Liquid Life can take hold.
One nurse says you look just like her Dad, who found a similar fate as yours and who ultimately took his cuisine through a hole in his stomach. He is gone now. Good, I think. He is at peace. Because no one should have to eat a bologna sandwich in liquid form.
But Perspective is key. Because many people don't live to see their Golden Years, and yours are so golden, I could make a chain out of them and wear it around my neck.
And some people die alone in that hospital room with no one to gauge whether your numbers are good or bad or whether that damn catheter is what's causing you to grunt in pain or whether you took 5 sips of milk today or 10.
Yes, though the tubes and the charts and the beeping of the machines tell a definitive story--I must look to the man who made the decisions and lived the life and moved and married and worked and produced a family. A space. A paycheck. A voice. A place for himself in history. No matter if that history consists of the smallest of empires. A wife. A son. A daughter. Some Grandkids (even Great ones). And some random in-laws.
It is, after all, a story. Told in laughter from little and big people alike and tears from those same little and big people.
Told in pizza and highballs and Cubs games and Vegas trips and snowstorms and suntans and hugs from people who called you Darling and Honey and even sweeter things like Pops and Abuelito.
Told in something that we like to call Love.
Yes, Perspective is key. For when your last breath is breathed and the numbers and letters are laid to rest, what will remain is the truth.
The truth that was You.
Grandpa Albert passed away on July 22, 2009--at the age of 95--as I embraced him in my arms.
Filed under: Uncategorized