It's been pretty rough for me and my family since last Wednesday. My grandpa was taken to the emergency room that day and has been in the hospital since. Pneumonia, a minor undetected stroke, blurry vision in his right eye, confusion and short-term memory loss, a small blood clot in his heart, irregular heartbeat, frustration, depression. He was moved out of ICU the other day, which is a good sign. And his spirits are high. But who knows when he'll go home, if he'll even get to go home?
I've also been cooping myself up in the house since I graduated two weeks ago. That in itself was already starting to get to me, but now that Ma's in Kentucky looking after Grandpa and I've been home alone with the dog since Saturday, it's really starting to get to me.
I think about my grandpa, and I look at my dog, and I just feel sorry.
I'm sorry I didn't come with Ma to be with you. But I don't like hospitals, and just in case this turns out to be your time to go, I don't want to be there to witness it. It was disheartening enough watching you as you stopped being able to drive long distances, and your back arched more as you walked, and then you had to get a cane. The Grandpa I know is sturdy and resolute with a clear mind, and maybe I'm living in the past, but that's the image of you I want to hold onto. I want to remember you that way. I don't want to remember you as the person Ma handed the phone to the other day, who sounded tired and confused and afraid because he's almost sure that his time has come, even though he hopes to the Lord that it hasn't. So forgive me for not wanting to witness you lying in a hospital bed, looking small and frail and helpless, shriveling like a flower. I can't bear to see you like that. I can't bear to watch you dying, if that's indeed what this is. Among all the loving faces who've surrounded you in the past week, you haven't seen mine. And I'm sorry.
I'm sorry that I was so absent during the past four years while I was away at school. You've never forgotten my face and you're always the happiest to see me. My friendly, affectionate, lumpy, stubborn, sunbathing, increasingly cowardly old lady puppy. Being in this house, just you and me for the past four days, observing you make your rounds around the house as you migrate from one dozing spot to another, grunting and sighing along the way. And after all that, watching you turn in just to sleep some more at the end of the day. I think man, she must be bored. Do dogs get depressed? Because if I were you, I'd be depressed. I'm sorry I haven't had the patience to take you for strolls more often and accompany you as you waddle, taking however much time you need. I console myself that letting you out to freely explore the mini jungle out back and sunbathe on the deck for as much as you want will suffice for you, and maybe they do. You seem happy, and you have considerable stamina for a dog who's lived for over a decade. But it's hard to accept the fact that you're elderly, because I look into your eyes and still see the same puppy that I brought home at the end of my 4th grade year. The more your face greys, the more precious you become to me, and the more I wish I could've been a more exemplary owner to you. And I'm sorry.
Logically, at this moment where I'm acknowledging the regrets that I have toward these loved ones, it makes sense to act, now, while I can! Take that dog out for a walk, no matter how many pauses you have to take or how long it takes you to get back home! Call Grandpa and tell him you love him! Instead of spending your days in idle seclusion, drive down to Kentucky while you can, before you have to come back and start that new part-time job on Monday! Unfortunately, avoidance is one of my great defenses, and no action I take will change the fact that Grandpa and Madison are old, that they might be dying, and that all people and living things eventually die. I find myself wondering who will leave me first. In my head, I even beg them to stick around just long enough to reach another milestone. Please just hold on for another two years and four months so you can make 80, or Please just make it to the end of June so you can make 12.
Everything gets old. Everything eventually dies. And I guess I'm not handling the reality of any of this very well.