I was at work this morning when my asister Cindy called me. She told me that she was on her way out to the nursing home to see our grandfather..that he has pneumonia again, his heart rate was elevated and his oxygen levels low.
Now, my grandfather is 96 years old...and has survived numerous bouts of pneumonia the past several years. He's been to the brink of death each time and has rebounded...surprising us and his doctors and caregivers. Cindy was careful to tell me though that this time the atmosphere was different. According to our mom, the nurses kept coming in and asking her if she needed anything and giving her spontaneous hugs...
I stayed at work until four and then headed up to the nursing home. My mom and two uncles were there, keeping vigil. The moment I saw Bumpa, I knew. There would be no miraculous recovery this time...and in fact, the Head Nurse came in and told us that they couldn't give Bumpa antibiotics for his pneumonia..that he'd choke on it and make it worse. The only other option was to give him the medicine via I.V. but that would have gone against Bumpa's wishes and so, we just waited.
Cindy was home at this point, checking in every so often to see how we were holding up. Steven was taking care of the kids, knowing that I needed to be with my family...worried about us all. I skipped home for an hour to change my clothes and my rapidly drying out contacts (and to snarf down a bagel) then rushed back so we could continue to hurry up and wait.
The morphine was administered...vitals checked...chit chat was passed around the room. All the while, we watched my grandfather sleep...seemingly comfortable for the moment.
Around 11pm, the night nurse in charge of Bumpa's care arrived. She'd heard that his health was failing and was quick to bustle around his room, wiping off his mouth with a moist washcloth, adjusting his pillows, telling us all how very sorry she was and how she loved to hear him sing every time she came in to see him.
After a bit, my uncles wandered down to the small kitchen on my grandfather's floor. Cindy called just then and we were talking when his nurse came in to check his temperature and said in an alarmed voice, "It's 103! Let's take off this heavy blanket..." Just as she went to pull the blanket down I looked at Bumpa.
"Mom..he's not moving...I think he's gone....". I heard Cindy gasp on the other end of the phone.
"Dad...DAD! Dad..I love you!! I love you!!", Mom sobbed.
The nurse ran out to get one of her coworkers and I ran down to get my uncles. I think they knew what had happened when they saw my face but I had to say it...
"He's passed...he's gone...".
My grandfather lived 96 years...he had a beautiful wife, who was struck down when she was 67 by a massive heart attack. Three children...seven grandchildren...twelve great grandchildren...and many close friends and relatives. He was a fighter...a stubborn ol' Yankee as he liked to proclaim himself. A lover of horses and golf and riding around his backyard on his lawnmower with one of his grandchildren sitting on the seat in front of him.
After my grandmother died when I was seven, he struggled to fill her role in the family. He never forgot a birthday...always calling and sending cards...showing up one day when I was home with the flu, bringing ginger ale for me..just like Grammy used to.
He filled her role with amazing grace and I will miss his smile forever.