Saturday, July 7, 2007

Or not

I woke up at 6:30 a.m. today at my parents' home in West Palm Beach to go see my resurgent grandfather (my dad's dad) before I had to drive to Broward County (70 miles south) to see my surviving grandmother (my mom's mom) before an afternoon flight I booked out of Fort Lauderdale back to Vegas.

At 7 a.m., my grandfather was sleeping soundly. I couldn't wake him. I didn't want to try too hard, even when the nurse at the hospice said, "Toss some water on his face and wake him up!" So I sat with him for an hour, then drove to see my grandmother. She turns 90 this month, by the way. These are some sturdy genes, I tell ya.

Around noon, my father called. Grandpa was still not awake and the doctor could not rouse him. His kidneys had quit entirely, his midsection was filling up, his breath was again belabored.

I called Delta to ask what I could do with the one-way ticket to Vegas I had bought the night before. Shockingly, the guy I got on the phone was terrific, expressed his condolences and offered to put a note in the system to allow me to reuse my full fare without those change fees. Then, seeing the ticket had been booked within the past 24 hours, he said he could just refund the whole thing to my credit card. Amazing, huh? I have name so I can write Delta and laud him.

So I drove back to the hospice and stayed for another seven hours. I don't know how all the time passes. We talk, we eat this and that from the vending machine, we read and watch a little TV, we take note of every little tic and motion and then call those relatives not present to report them.

It's unlikely he'll ever wake up again, but he did seem to be showing small signs of awareness. My aunt and I are certain we saw him nod slightly when he was asked if he was comfortable and his breathing becomes faster when we speak to him. I put a stick with a tiny pink soaked sponge on it in his mouth and, while most of the time there was no response, twice he did clamp down on it and suck in some water.

As before, this all is an emotional minefield. Yesterday we were encouraged by his progress, so obviously we don't WANT him to die. But now he's uncommunicative, breathing with great difficulty and bloating, so maybe dying would be a good thing since he's said his wishes were no respirator, no dialysis, no medication? By now I would've been home in Vegas with Miles, who I miss terribly, because this looked like it could take quite a while and my grandfather's funeral will be in New York, not here, anyway. So we will now be apart as long as this takes -- and how long is that, exactly? Is it wrong to feel anxious, to wish it were over?

Again, thanks to everyone's kind, encouraging and thoughtful emails. It's nice to know sharing this is of some value.


Anonymous said...

Steve, no matter what is in store in the near future for you and your family, know that you guys are all in my thoughts and prayers.

Hang in there, my friend.

-Mike E.

Anonymous said...


And to take your mind off things... a language curmudgeon nit to pick with you. You've written a couple of times about "belabored breathing". I think it's "labored breathing." Labored means exerting painful or strenuous effort. Belabor is to attack verbally, to beat soundly, or to explain/insist excessively. I could go on but I wouldn't want to belabor the point in your time of grief.

Again, just ribbing you to take your mind off the sad event. Heartfelt condolences on your loss...