19 July 2013

The Man I Thought Could Never Die



Two years ago, I was starting dinner when my phone rang. I had quinoa on the stove and my hands were covered in something which precluded my answering the phone when my mom called. I asked Amber to answer it, which she did with some reluctance because she was still mildly afraid of my mother at that point.

“Hey Mildred, this is Amber. How are you?”

A brief silence ensued as Mom talked to her.

“Oh God.”

That prompted me to come round the end of the kitchen to see what was wrong. She looked at me.

“Your grandpa’s collapsed and they have not been able to revive him.”

It was eight minutes past five. I know this because the last sane thought which went through my head for some time was “TURN OFF THE STOVE.”

I tend to pride myself on not losing my shit during a crisis. James fell off a cliff and I kept it together while he was bleeding his way steadily through the sundry clothing items I had stripped off and tied round him. When Amber and I were moving from Wimberley and the drunk driver hit the lady in the minivan who then proceeded to roll several times down the embankment, and I fully expected to find a dead person when I got down there, I kept it together. When my aunt got in that horrible accident where we literally all thought she was going to die, I kept it together.

When we got the call that my grandpa had just had a heart attack, I totally, completely, utterly lost my shit.

While Amber got further information from my mother and presumably called whomever she did to take care of the wildlife, I ran around the house screaming, “No, no, no, nononono, NO PLEASE GOD NO,” and stuffing various toiletries into my backpack.

We were out of the house and on the road in less than ten minutes’ time. I drove (to give myself something to do), and I swear that not even being late for an exam has ever made me get to San Marcos that quickly. Pearsall, however, is an hour on the other side of San Antonio. San Marcos is relevant because that is when my phone rang again. Amber answered.

“Hello? Yes sir. Just a moment.” And then she turned to me.

“Esposa, you need to pull over.”

And then I lost my shit again. It is a wonder I got off of the highway without causing an incident. By the time we pulled off onto Jackson Street, I could barely see. I actually do not remember terribly well what my dad said, other than asking me if I was going to be okay to get the rest of the way to Pearsall. He did strongly suggest that Amber drive.

When we finally arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, I walked off into the pasture where I spent a significant portion of my childhood. I realised that I had failed to pack any clothes, and as a result was wearing running shorts and feet shoes and would be wearing them for the foreseeable future. Grandpa would have thought my feet shoes were ridiculous city wear, and I wanted desperately for him to drive up, explain that there had been a mistake, and mock my wardrobe.

This afternoon, I relived that whole sequence like it just happened today. I spent this entire week dreading today. This is why I hate July. I also remember the night my grandma died. I was playing “Outlaws” on the computer when our phone rang just past midnight. Daddy did not even have to answer and I knew what it was because Mom was in Pearsall and there was no other reason for anyone to call us at midnight. I stayed up all night watching Designing Women and Murphy Brown because any time I tried to sleep, I went into full nightmare mode.

I think I eventually dealt with the immediate aftermath of Grandpa dying better than I did Grandma because I was twenty-seven instead of sixteen, and because Sarah and I manufactured a task for ourselves. Sarah compiled photographs and I wrote and designed the bulletin. When I was sixteen, I had nothing to do other than to remain very, very quiet. I also had ages to dread Grandma dying, while Grandpa took me flat aback.

The other difference was that I had actually gotten over my phone issues and called Grandpa a few days prior to the calamity, and the last I spoke to my grandma was months before. Grandpa, incidentally, was not great with hearing, and I cannot hear on the phone, so that conversation was actually really hilarious. There was a lot of “EH?” and “SORRY? WHAT?”

The last thing I said to him was, “I love you, Grandpa.”

The last thing he said to me was, “I love you too, Ivy.”

So at least I have that going for me.


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