I wish I could roll back the hours.
I tell people all the time that I live my life without regret…and I do. I certainly feel like the lesson learned is worth the pain- for the most part.
This year marks the 5 year anniversary of my grandfather and my godfather’s deaths. I group them together because that’s how I lost them; the day I buried my grandfather was the day my godfather died.
I was not long home from four months in Mexico when my family told me my grandfather had been sick while I was away. When I say sick, I mean, in-and-out-of-the-hospital-in-a-nursing-home-then-back-home-to-get-taken-back-to-the-hospital-in-an-ambulance-sick. Nobody told me, they said, because no one wanted me to worry. Because I couldn’t turn back time (not that I wasn’t pissed about it) I had to let it go, and just be glad my grandfather was back at home, seeming no worse for the wear.
The day all that changed was Memorial Day. We were getting ready for the cookout that we had for every major holiday, when all of a sudden my grandfather started slurring his speech and dragging his foot. My grandfather, like MOST elderly black men, was NOT trying to go the hospital. He went though, because I wouldn’t let it go. My dad, my grandfather, and I got in the car and headed to the emergency room.
Like in ANY other emergency room (where you have not arrived by ambulance/don’t appear to be in life threatening danger) we sat. And we sat. And we sat. The longer we sat there, the more time my grandfather had to convince himself that nothing had happened. By the time he saw the Er doctor, it had resolved. She didn’t see anything, and she let him come home, despite the fact that I repeatedly told her that something had happened. If you don’t know what a transient ischemic attack is, look it up. I’m still convinced that’s what my grandfather had.
We went home. My grandfather, formerly the most active man I knew, started spending most of his time sitting in his room, and celebrating 4/20. If you are following this story at all, I already told you that it was May. Not long after, he got so bad that he had to go to the hospital- by ambulance. We find out that he had cancer. EVERY WHERE. It was inoperable by the time they “found” it. It had reached almost every vital organ, including his brain. There would be times I would go to visit him and he didn’t know I was there. He talked to people no one but he could see, the same way that babies stare at the ceiling in wide eyed wonder. Every once in a while he would have a lucid moment. During one of them, he told me he felt our relationship had changed, that he wished we could be the way we used to be, but he understood why it had changed and he forgave me.
That was the last time I talked to my grandfather.
In some many ways, my grandfather was one of the glues that held my family together. I can certainly say that our family has became a little more fragmented, as he was the peacemaker for no other reason that he had an authority that no one questioned. He could stop a squabble with a look.
Though time has dulled the pain, it’s still there. I have still caught myself going to pick up the phone to call him. I have had to stop myself from asking to speak to him. As I type this, I can’t stop the tears from falling down my face.
There are some people in your life who are irreplaceable. Sometimes you are fortunate enough to recognize them for what/who they are to you while they are in your life. Other times, only the wisdom of hindsight lets you know how important they were to you. This is one lesson I wish I hadn’t learned. Maybe it’s not proper to say I regret his passing…but I do.