Washing cars with the Church Youth Group was lots of fun. The long line of cars seemed endless, but an occasional squirt of water kept us wet and reminded us that we were really having fun. It was the end of summer and this would be our last fundraiser for the Church Ski trip to Glorietta, New Mexico.
It was also the first time in several weeks that I would get to spend time away from home. A broken hip and other health complications confined grandpa to his bed. Fortunately, circumstances allowed me to stay home with him and serve as his personal aide. This included total care as well as total time. Because he was not able to move on his own and had to be checked on constantly, I provided him with a tea bell so that he could get my attention without having to yell out my name. The tea bell turned out to be a great solution and a common sound in the house.
But this Sunday afternoon was different. Dad stayed home with grandpa and I went to the car wash. The sun was bright and gave forth warmth that was hot to the skin yet soothing to the soul. The air was clean and was very crisp. I could not have picked a better day to be outside. There was activity all around... there was life!
It seems like only a short time had passed when my sister Diane arrived. When my eyes met hers, I knew that something was wrong. Her voice was shaky and weak when she said, "Grandpa feels very sick and wants to go to the hospital. He wonít go in an ambulance. He said that he wonít go to the hospital unless you take him". I immediately dropped the wet sponge from my hand and dashed off in my car. Grandpa hated hospitals and I knew something was wrong if he was willing for me to take him to the hospital.
They say that traffic lights take forever to change whenever time is of the essence. Itís really true. [Red Light] Ring! Ring! The night before, grandpa woke me up several times by ringing his tea bell. He needed to go to the bathroom and so I carefully lifted him and placed him on his portable toilet as I had on many occasions. Time passed... false alarm.
[Green Light] Taking care of grandpa was a privilege, and I was able to develop a more personal relationship with grandpa because of his accident. We chatted for long hours, and I would also bathe him, shave his face, trim his thin moustache and I helped to feed him too. However, the total care that I was providing for 7 days a week was taking its toll on me. All this work never really bothered me, but that night I was very tired, no I was exhausted.
[Red Light] Ring! Ring! Up from bed and yes it was another false alarm.
[Green Light] It was not unusual for grandpa to have a false alarm. He was alert and of sound mind, but his frail body required that he be cared for like a baby. Potty training for children often resulted in false alarms and it was no different for grandpa.
[Red light] Ring! Ring! Once again, I got up to help grandpa and once again a false alarm. The bell rang on eight more occasions and each time a false alarm. I was walking back and forth and back and forth in a trance-like state. I was very tired and my patience was growing very thin. Ring! Ring! The bell rang and rang, but I did not move. Oh, I could hear it, but I was so tired that I grit my teeth and tried to squeeze my eyes shut with the same motion. I thought that if I could shut my eyes tight enough, I would not hear a thing. I was tired and I did not want to get up for another false alarm. Grandpa even cried out, "son", but I did not move. I lay in bed as if I had not heard a sound. Finally, my father awoke and he went into grandpaís room. This time it was not a false alarm. Silence. When morning came, I felt quite guilty. Why did I not have the energy to get up and help grandpa? Why?
[Green Light] Finally! This light took forever to change. This should be the last light before I get to the house. Iím coming grandpa!
It seemed like forever, but within minutes my house was within sight! I pulled into the back driveway and jumped out of the car. The engine was still running. As I ran through the back door, I slowed down just as I approached grandpaís room. My body was moving fast, but my feet felt heavy and my legs felt weak. I entered the room and saw my father leaning over grandpaís body. Father turned and said, "He kept asking for you Philip, but he could no longer wait. He just died in my arms."
I immediately put grandpaís body on the sturdy floor and began to apply CPR. I had practiced CPR on many occasions, but I never thought I would actually use it. His thin chest revealed his rib cage and his frail body did not seem to be strong enough to absorb any chest compressions. Nevertheless, I applied CPR with urgency and with some caution.
It seemed like everything prior to this had been in slow motion and now everything was going very fast. 15 compressions, 2 breaths. 15 compressions, 2 breaths. I kept thinking of past experiences with grandpa and although time around me was going fast, my mind allowed more time to be experienced.
It was like I was experiencing two different speeds of time, an external time and an internal time. Surprisingly, my mind was able to simultaneously maintain a sharp focus on both the external and internal events.
15 compressions- do doot too doot too doo! "Whatís going on in there", said my mother. "Iím teaching grandpa how to play the kazoo", I replied. I was quite surprised how quickly grandpa learned. Life had taken a toll on his body, but not on his youthful heart. We both had a blast playing the kazoo. From a distance all you could hear was a comical tune and laughing... lotís of laughing! ...2 breaths.
15 compressions, 2 breaths, 15 compressions, 2 breaths. 15 compressions- his body seemed so fragile. Cancer had shown no mercy and left my grandpa a mere 90 pounds. He was always easy to carry, and I loved to carry him around. Heíd always say, "Son put me down before you drop me"! Iíd laugh and say, "Grandpa, I could carry you all day. I promise I will never drop you". I always felt funny carrying grandpa. He once carried my father who at one time carried me and now I was carrying him! Yes, grandpa was like a baby... my baby.-2 breaths. 15 compressions-
The front door slammed open and in walked 3 paramedics. I stood back and immediately they began to work. Their equipment seemed sophisticated, but the paramedics seemed very efficient and caring. They applied oxygen and injected several drugs into grandpaís body. The exchanged many technical terms and finally turned to me and gave me that nightmarish nod.
The nod that makes a parent feel hollow and makes a child feel abandoned. The nod that makes a mother wail and a grown man cry. There was no denying it now... grandpa was dead.
Suddenly the room seemed small. The corners of my vision were turning gray. I walked away somewhat confused. I donít remember what happened next.
Days later, it was difficult to clean out grandpaís room. I almost felt as if I was erasing signs of his existence. I put everything away except for his cane and the tea bell. Habit had caused me to continue to check in grandpaís room. I would walk in to check on him, and his empty bed would bring me back to reality. It was still difficult to accept that my grandpa was dead and I had an eerie feeling every time someone accidentally rang the tea bell. I displayed the cane in my room, and I placed the tea bell in a shadow box of collectibles. The shadow box would keep it in view and no one would be able to ring it. But before I placed the bell away, I rang it one more time. Ring! Ring!
A week before grandpa died I asked him, "Grandpa, do you need me"? He anxiously replied, "Son, I need you very much. I could not live without you". What I really meant, was if he needed something at that particular moment. What he gave me, I will have forever.
Ring! Ring! "I love you Grandpa"!