A few weeks ago, my grandpa Joe was hospitalized for pneumonia. While he was in the hospital my grandma fell and fractured for vertebrae, rendering her helpless. And to top it off, she couldn’t have the surgery because of her heart. So over these past couple weeks my aunts and uncles have taken turns flying down to Florida to help out, to talk to doctors, to take care of their cat, relay information to the rest of the family and, most importantly, just be present.
Six days ago, Saturday evening, my mom texted my brother and I and said they had found a baseball-sized tumor in Joe’s chest. She said his kids were there talking to the doctors but there hadn’t been a prognosis that she was aware of. The next day we were told Joe didn’t want a biopsy. The next day we were told they had given him three weeks. A day later, we were told they were moving grandma and Joe to manor care and that they would do hospice, for Joe, there.
I had to look up the technical definition of “hospice” because I’d always equated it with death – and that couldn’t be what it meant in this case because Joe was strong and vibrant and jolly and kind and how could they know if his tumor was killing him? Without a biopsy how could they know it wasn’t just a benign mass and that he’d be fine. People are fine with those, right?? I thought maybe the doctors were just being doctors. You hear those stories all the time about how people are given a few weeks and they live years and years and years, right?
Hospice: A home providing care for the sick, especially the terminally ill.
Terminally ill: A person who is sick and diagnosed with a disease that will take their life. This person is usually told by doctors that they only have several months or years to live.
Yesterday my parents flew down to see them and this morning, as I was rushing out of the door I thought to myself, “We should Facetime with Grandma and Joe tonight – cheer ’em up a bit.” I made a mental note to make sure we did that as soon as we all got home. I’ve been really bad about that since they were born.
Three hours later, at 10:22 am this morning, I received a text from my dad:
I’m sorry to say that Joe just passed away.
And just like a little kid who’s been in denial for too long, reality hit me like a ton of bricks:
I was too late. What a fucking terrible granddaughter. Why didn’t I call yesterday? Why didn’t I call two weeks ago? Why haven’t I been better at calling all along?! Why couldn’t I just find the fucking time!? UGH. I FUCKING HATE EVERYTHING.
I was wrong. Grandpa Joe wasn’t one of those cases that lives to see years and years. And the doctors weren’t just being doctors – whatever that means. Geography made it easy to fantasize and downplay what “the size of a baseball” actually meant. If my laissez faire approach to life that everything will just work out was a giant bubble, today everything would be covered in disgusting, slimy, film of soap water.
What a joke.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve said to Seth, “I should call my grandma tonight. Don’t let me forget to call them.” because I’d be rich if I did.
But if I had five dollars for every time I actually called, I’d still be poor as fuck.
Today, for the first time, I’m experiencing the loss of a loved one as a parent and that’s the hardest part. My boys will never remember how every time we’d Facetime with Joe he’d say, “Megs, ya got two beautiful boys there I tell ya!” in his thick New York accent. I can hear it like it was just yesterday – like I hadn’t been too late. No one will ever tell me how beautiful my boys are more genuinely than that man did. Matty will never remember how impressed Joe was with his crawling skills when they met for the first time last February. And Abbott will never have the pleasure – but at least they had Facetime.
You can’t ever really be ready to say goodbye or so long or until next time, but in the least we can use this as a reminder to love a lot while we’re here – while the people we love are still here. Use it as a reminder to pick up the phone, to try harder and be kinder. Use it as a reminder to value your time and who you spend it with – because when it’s gone, it will have never, ever been enough.
Rest in Peace, Grandpa Joe. Until we see ya again.