Tuesday, March 20, 2012

At least he was comfortable

At least he was comfortable

“Cover the baby’s ears. The alarm goes off when you open the door until it’s closed.” Grammy opened the door as we hurried in, a piercing alarm sounding all the while. The building smelled like stagnant air and muscle atrophy. The nurses and aides wore pitiful, forced smiles. The air was heavy and oppressive like being forced under by a wave in the ocean with a tinge of panic, as if you’ll never get out.

Grammy led the way through a pair of swinging doors and down a long corridor. Grey-blue carpeting covered the creaking floors. The unmarked beige walls were cold. Blank faces peering out of the rooms to the left and right told stories their bodies no longer could. A small shaky woman came toward us.

“Oh! What a beautiful baby! God has really blessed you,” she said as she patted my arm. “I wouldn’t mind taking him. Such a blessing…”

“Oh, thank you,” I replied with a polite smile.

We moved on. Grandpap’s room was to the left. The floor was uneven and one board in the middle of the room cracked loudly when stepped on. Grandpap’s roommate was not in. His bed was made with a green and blue plaid blanket, and his dresser had pictures and knick-knacks decorating it. Grandpap lay motionless in his stark bed: white sheets and a white button-up shirt on backwards to make it easier for the nurses to clean him. The only thing on his dresser was a plastic cup of water with a straw and a note taped to the wall reading: “Jim needs food pureed- water through straw. –Hospice.”

There was a window by Grandpap’s bed. It was open a crack so he could hear the birds. Even in the middle of July there was a chill in the room. We talked to Grandpap about the flowers out the windows, and the birds, and the tiny bunny that was hopping around; he loved those things. Every once in a while his face would twitch like he was trying hard to come back. He tried to open his eyes to see the baby.

“Dad, Augusten’s here... Devastasha’s baby,” said my mom. “You remember him, huh? His middle name is your name, Dad. He’s James just like you.” I thought I saw a smile.

Grammy sat in the one rickety chair in the room. It was a tea cup with one half of itself missing; the seat looked like woven straw, but it squeaked with every move. Grammy needed to sit since she had several fractures in her hip and back trying to lift Grandpap while taking care of him at home.

She had no choice but to sit; we had no choice but to stand; and Grandpap had no choice but to lie there. There was such remorse in that room, and we had no control. All at once the room choked us and crushed my chest.

This is where my Grandpap spent his last four days: this with uneven creaking floors, and cold beige walls. He had no choice. But none of that matters. At least they made him comfortable.