Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jokes About Dying...

Yesterday I spent an hour with my grandfather. His health is deteriorating rapidly, and I know there isn't much time. This summer I feel like I have spent the majority of it trying to make my mom feel better, and I have not had a chance to process what his death will mean for me. Yesterday I got my first real taste of it.

My grandpa always seemed larger than life to me. It isn't that he is the biggest man alive, but he had a big presence. And he seemed indestructible. I remember once he wanted to drive me to college, because he couldn't really believe it was a 10 hour drive (it was I assure you-12 hours if you traveled with my dad). My g-pa and I made it in 7. I have never been so sure I was going to die in my life. He just kept laughing and saying this drive was nothing. He may have also been drunk (which he was often), but still.

We were close when I was younger, but grew distant when he and my g-ma split up. It wasn't until I was older that I realized most of the anger I carried towards him came from my mom's own feelings of rejection. It's funny the emotional baggage you carry for your parents when you are a child. I wrote him a letter when I graduated high school apologizing for my distance, but by then I was off to college and then graduate school. I will admit I hid behind the distance between us (telling myself I didn't want to be around a drunk driver to make it better). It just felt easier to keep things status quo. Now I wish I had been more accessible to him. The thing is, he never had a bad thing to say about me or my mom. He has loved us the same as ever. Someday I hope my mom sees that.

When I walked in yesterday and saw him in the hospice bed it really hit me. He looks like someone that is dying. He was also not wearing pants, and that was disturbing too (sorry if it is disrespectful but it freaked me out). We sat and talked for about 30 minutes before he fell asleep. I was not sure what the protocol is for this situation. Should I talk about how much I love him, and tell him thanks for being my g-pa? I chose to let him lead the conversation. And the jokes began. His g-friend came in and said she was going to by lotto tickets. He said something about winning the lotto and dying in the same week. To which I replied, "But it would be a hell of a funeral." Then I had a moment of panic. Did I just crack a joke about his funeral to him?!? Then he laughed and it was on. We spent about 10 minutes trying to outdo the each other with inappropriate death jokes. He won (I think he had an unfair advantage though--he has thought longer about his impending death than I have).

We also talked about my mom and his worries about her. There was nothing I could think of to reassure him, so I kept quiet.

When he fell asleep I left the room so I wouldn't disturb him and I sat awkwardly in his living room. I wasn't sure what to think so I tried to keep my mind blank of death and dying. This might have worked if the T.V. wasn't on CNN and the coverage wasn't all about people dead or dying from the recent floods. I focused instead on the family pictures scattered about, realizing how little I have known about my grandfather's life in the last 18 years. I also found out there is a hole in the floor in the living room.

His home health nurse came in and I left. As I kissed him goodbye he introduced my as his granddaughter first then he said my granddaughter, Dr. Lorelai. When the nurse heard this she looked up and said, "Oh a doctor! How do you do." and then shook my hand. Superficial Bitch. I told my g-pa I would be back in a couple of days. The nurse stopped me and said. "But aren't you a doctor? Don't you want to watch his catheter change?" WTF?!? A) Even if I was a medical doctor, there is no way in hell I would get near my g-pa's catheter region (I am making a circular hand motion in my own catheter region). It was bad enough he wasn't wearing pants, and I could see his underwear (and catheter drip line). B) I am not a medical doctor.

I laughingly explained, "I am not a medical doctor but a psychologist, so no I wouldn't stay in the room for any procedures, but if you had a big feeling about changing the catheter we could talk." All she said was, "Oh, you're not a medical doctor (with a sneer). Why would I have a big feeling about a catheter (said with another sneer)?" I said, "well you'd be amazed at how fast big feelings can come up." Like making jokes about death with your dying grandfather.

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