Chapter Twelve - No Time
2004 - Mom is 55, Scott is 30, I am 27
It is October, and Scott is doing a little better since the hospital. He is now able to get around better, can finally bathe himself, and do some light household chores. It's a good thing because I can't be at home right now. I am at Grandpa's house, taking care of him for a few days. In June he was diagnosed with cancer of everything. Tumors in his lungs, tumors in his side, tumors all over the place. He's only got a little time left, no one knows exactly. But it's not long. He's in a lot of pain, and doesn't like the morphine pills. He doesn't eat much, even cookies. He is almost to the point where he won't be able to walk anymore. He's fighting it, but everytime he wobbles to his feet, I get nervous. He wants so much to be able to move around, do things. Until now, there hasn't been a day in his life that he wasn't up at the break of day, working, puttering around, feeding fish, building something, fixing something. The immobility alone wll do him in. And he's sad. And I think a little angry too. He hates, hates, hates the tumor on his hip. It has grown to about the size of a grapefruit since June. It is bruised and ugly. He wants me to cut it out. I think I probably could, but as much as I want it gone too, I better not.
For years, he's been the only father Scott has ever known. The only father I have really ever known too. Scott lived out here with him off and on for over a decade, and they're closer to each other than anyone else in the family. When Scott got really big, Grandpa had no qualms about showing his disappointment. I don't think he was disappointed in Scott himself, just the opportunities he has missed, and the life he has lost because of his weight. More than anything, I think Grandpa felt for him, wanted him to succeed, wanted him healthy and happy. But Gramps doesn't really communicate with emotion. Like most men, it's difficult for him to convey heartfelt sentiment meaningfully and appropriately. So, he picks on Scott instead. Calls him "Skinny", inspects his meals and rolls his eyes at the portions, inquires about the number of times he eats in a day, gripes about the grocery bill. Scott has promised him many times over the years, as he's promised us all, that he would work on it. That he would get better. Now there's no time left to keep that promise.
It is cold and pouring rain. The fish are pecking at the water in vain as the raindrops splash down. Grandpa and I are just sitting together in the living room, watching the greyness fade in and out, I'm silently saying my I'm sorry's, and I love you's. I hope he can feel it, can tell how much I love him, how much he means to me. I'm not ready for him to leave. I need him.
"Whatcha doin'?" Gramps is raising up his chair and preparing to stand up.
"Gotta go to the bathroom." He's grunting and breathing hard, coughing and struggling. I know better than to ask if he needs help. He gets so mad, wants to do it himself. He pulls the walker he hates in front of him, steadies himself, and finally makes it to his feet, albeit a very shaky stance. He moves along through the living room, in front of me, around the corner and to the bathroom. One slow, wobbly step at a time, he finally makes it. It takes everything inside me to stay in my seat. I want to pick him up and carry him there. I want to help him, but I won't.
After a while in the bathroom, Grandpa comes out, irritated and angry. He goes straight to his room. When I ask him what's wrong he shouts, "Can't fucking wipe my own ass anymore!!" He's not a big cusser, never has been, so I'm a little shocked he dropped an f-bomb, but I understand why, and it breaks me. I go to the bathroom, get two washcloths and a hand towel. I wet the washcloths with hot water, one with soap, one without. I bring them to his room and sit on the edge of his bed. He's sort-of half laying on his side, and half propped up on his elbow, gasping and steaming and tired.
"Well, let's get you cleaned up so you can get comfortable and get some rest." No answer. "Gramps?" No answer. "It's okay, really. I'm used to this kinda thing, really." No answer. "Okay, let's just hang out for a minute, catch your breath, there's no big hurry."
"I'm fine, just leave it."
"No, Gramps, we can't do that. And you'll feel so much better once it's over, I promise."
"Just leave it!" Tears have started to crawl down his temples, into his hair. He's humiliated. He's in pain. He hates dying. He's embarassed. I wipe away his tears with the palm of my hand, and he lets me.
"Gramps...now listen, please. This is no big deal for me. Quit making a fuss about it. I'm not going to let you lay here all night in your own poop. We'll clean you up, it'll be over before you know it, and we'll move on. Okay?" No answer. No movement. "Gramps, I don't know if you know this or not, but since Scott got out of the hospital, this is what I've been doing for him. I've gotten pretty good at it, actually. And it doesn't gross me out or make me feel funny. I love him, that's what he needed, and I did it. It's as simple as that. I love you, it's what you need right now, and I'll do it. You'd do it for me if I needed you to, so...let's just get on with it."
He reaches over and grabs my hand so suddenly I almost jump off the bed. He holds on for a while. He cries. He squeezes, and he takes as big a breath as he can muster. And then he rolls to the side, I clean him up, wipe his tears away, kiss his forehead, and tuck him in.
"Grandpa, I love you, get some rest, it'll be okay. Goodnight." I turn to leave the room, not expecting a word in return. He's been through a lot, a lot he's not used to. I hate that he's hurting. I need to get out of his room before I dissolve into a puddle of my own tears right here on the floor. But my hand is on the door when I hear him whisper something.
"Jelly?" I can barely hear him, so I go back to his bed and lean in close, my ear in front of his face.
"Gramps? You ok? What is it?"
"I'm sorry." I'm about to rebut this silly statement, but before I can say anything, he lifts his head up and kisses my cheek.
"Don't be. Get some rest, it'll be better in the morning." I can barely speak. My heart is exploding. I kiss him on the cheek, kiss his hand, then leave him. Two feet from his bedroom door I start running. Through the house, out the door, outside, outside, away, far away, where he can't hear me, outside, outside, now, now, now. I stop at some grass about 50 feet from the house, and crumble into a puddle. A puddle of water, a puddle of tears, a puddle of mud, a puddle of heartache. Why him? Why me? Why us? And then I can't even think anymore. I can't feel the icy rain pelt my skin, I can't hear anything but my own heartbeat. All I can see is his face, wrecked with tears and anguish and embarassment.