My grandparent’s house is bursting with emotion these days. Some good, some bad but all of them hit like a ton of bricks when you least expect it. My eyes well with tears when I go from room to room, straddling the thin line between the heartache of loss and the joys of life abundant.
In one room you find a frail old man, strength escaping his grasp by the minute. Fears run through his mind as he tries desperately to remember what he has to do that day, task oriented to the very end. I calm his nerves as best I can when he asks me to take him to work, afraid his boss will be mad at his absence. His blanket clutches tight to his chin bringing more comfort than my well intentioned solace. I can’t take you to work, Papa but I can sit here and tell you it will all be ok for as long as we need to. It will all be ok. I hope he hears me.
In the living room, my little big girl has learned to crawl and is excited to beat on the screen door. She has no fear as she looks outside, the sun invites her to new adventures. She, like Grandpa, fills the room with shouts only hers come from her toes, joy cannot be contained as she finds new ways to scoot about.
Grandma folds herself over his chair after closing the door and turning off the tv. She strains to hear him, to understand his gargled speech. Her joints are sore from trying to find other places to sleep in the house, away from the yelling that fills the night when his fears are the most alive. She’s tired but she is strong and in her own way, she fights for his life and his comfort as best she knows how every single day. We all fight for his comfort. We are desperate for each smile as they space further and further apart.
Grandma’s face comes alive when Lu hums the lullaby Grandma sings to her. On her lap, Lu stares at grandma’s mouth, studying each sound that comes out. They play and grandma laughs and once again, there is life. Lu brings dolly after dolly for grandma to “loo loo” and the day is speckled with nonsense songs and joyful squeals. The laughter in grandma’s eyes is priceless.
The list gets really sloppy throughout the night. The medicines are spaced just so in a desperate attempt for peace. We aim to find the cadence that keeps his murmurs from becoming agitation, it is like trying to conduct a control burn during the peak of the Santa Anna winds. We haven’t pinned it down exactly but we try every single night. I hope he knows that we are trying.
No matter how long the night is or how late peace is found, there is coffee in the morning. Pajamas on, we sip the strongest brew Foldgers makes and recap the wins and losses of the night. There is always a tender moment to remember, a time when grandpa has a moment of clarity and apologizes for the antics. We hold tight to those times. Lucie cruises around the table and her Nana gives her breakfast. Lucie falls more and more in love with Nana as they laugh and take selfies. Coffee washes away the stress and sadness of the night. It cleanses the house for a new day.
The deep sleep comes for grandpa in the day. We pace beside him, watching him like a newborn, waiting to see his chest rise with another breath. Please let him breathe, please just one more, he does and my chest untightens for just a moment. We don’t wake him to eat anymore as his body falls deeper into that sleep. We wait for his signal and the hours pass by. We wait. We hold our own breath, subconsciously willing air into his lungs. It’s all going to be ok. We cover him and kiss his cheeks. We would swaddle him if we could.
Outside, Lu’s hands swat at the grass as she plays outside. My own hands are busy trying to swipe twigs out of her mouth that she swears taste delicious. Her fair white skin glows in the afternoon sun, her blue eyes twinkle. More squeals of joy. Life is exploding out of her every moment. She is so fresh, so full of life. She is the air we are all desperate for and we are thankful.