“Tears are words that need to be written.”
— Paulo Coelho
Tears prick the corners of your eyes, but you pretend they’re not there and swallow hard. “It’s the air-conditioning,” you say. “It’s that cleaning stuff they use,” you say. It’s the hospital smell, you don’t say. It’s the sight of all those tubes and wires that all hooked up god knows where and I don’t know where to look because you’re not you you’re not you you’re not you, you don’t say. A smile crinkles your great-grandmother’s cheeks and she asks how you’ve been, how is school, how are your siblings, and you answer, taking care to look straight into her eyes and not at her lifeless white hair nor at her slightly slack mouth nor at her limp arms, so thin and frail, lying on the stiff sheets. She’s going to get better, you know this; not all the way better, of course, but enough to move out of the hospital into … well, you’re not sure where. Some sort of assisted living place, you’ve been told, but further details haven’t been shared with you, and you don’t particularly care as long as your great-grandma will be safe and healthy. You don’t ask her about it, because you know it upsets her; she’s never relied on anyone besides herself before now: she lives (lived) alone, still drives (drove) a car (this giant behemoth of a Cadillac that you hate driving when helping her with errands), and can (could) move about with a walker faster than any eighty-nine-year-old you’ve ever seen. She’s gonna be fine, she’s made it this far in life, right? But still but still but still, there is a pinch of worry between her brows when you do bring up the “other place” and you know she doesn’t want to go, but it’ll be great, you say. “We’ll come and visit as often as we can,” you say. Not as often as before, with her being only a twenty-minute drive away, but often enough. You promise this, and you don’t break promises. But this discussion makes the air tense, and you change the subject, but you’re slowly running out of words, the hospital walls are closing in, and you want to leave but you don’t want to leave, and it’s a relief and a regret when the nurse comes in. Visiting hours aren’t over, but you take that as your cue to go. “Goodbye,” you say to your great-grandmother. “I love you,” you say. “I’ll come back tomorrow,” you promise and mean it. She smiles again and says she loves you. “See you soon,” she says. And you leave, but a heaviness has settled on your chest. The tears you rejected before are making a return, and this time, you can’t stop them and you leave the hospital in a controlled but hurried walk, desperate to get to the car, desperate to get home, desperate to outrun the tears. But you can’t and they rush out before you even get your seat belt on, and you cry and don’t know why. You leave the parking lot and begin the drive home, and the tears still come and your throat aches and your heart hurts so so much and you still don’t know why. She’s fine she’s fine she’s fine she’s getting better she’s fine, you repeat, and these words aren’t reassuring, and you sob and sob and sob.
You do go back to the hospital the next day, but it’s early in the morning, and she’s not awake. The doctors are grave, the nurses are sympathetic, and you know what’s to come.
Once again, this is inspired by – rather, outright taken directly from – my experiences with the passing of my great-grandmother. I’ve written quite a lot about this, but I hope no one minds if I continue to pay tribute to the woman who always encouraged me to read and learn and write. =)
(Also, I wrote this on a waiting room computer of a Mazda dealership while waiting for my car to fixed, so that was a little awkward, heh.)