This post is not about death

I believe that there are instances of our life that happen like pictures.  With or without a camera those incidents are daguerrotyped into our brains and we’ll never completely get them out.  One of those pictures is of my first kiss. Another is the scene in my 3rd grade classroom when a girl got a hold of my journal and read the entries aloud. One that just happened is the face my grandfather made as he collapsed to the floor.

He’s been falling a lot lately and I don’t have anything in my toolbox that can help. I’m not a doctor. I can’t research his symptoms and prescribe adjustments that will result in him living longer.  If I could. I don’t know that I would.  He’s been ready to die since his wife died two years ago.  He wants it to be over and yet his life continues.  Well, some version of his life is in the works, but it’s not the whole one. Unfortunately, it’s not even sliced into neat pieces that are conducive to an orderly existence.  His mind is split into pieces that leave him calling me by my cousin’s name, calling his daughter by his mother’s name, and calling his sons by names I don’t recognize.  Sometimes when his computer tries to reboot itself he is left standing blank in a doorway or just in front of the sink.  If my aunt or I recognize the symptoms soon enough we can prevent fall. It’s not always possible.

A few days ago friends of the family, whom I’d never met, were visiting and asked me to describe him in one word. I chose ornery. It was, apparently, a harsh descriptor because everyone looked around the room and silence ensued.  But he is ornery. He is stubborn. He is mean. He is sweet. He is loving. He is my grandfather and I am here for him. I quit my job for him. I am living in the basement of this house for him. And me. I couldn’t remain 3,000 miles away, hear about his deterioration, and be okay.  I couldn’t be forced to deal with his death from a distance as I was my grandmothers’ and a former student’s. I needed to grieve up close for him and that’s what is happening.

I grieve for him slowly as I walk behind him bracing myself for his fall.  I grieve for him in pieces when I have flashbacks to the vibrant grey-haired man of my youth.  The one who would scrub my skin so hard in a Jamaican bathtub that I felt as if my whole self would peel off.  The man who loved me in my youth but allowed me to be abandoned by his son. The man who always had a drink in his hand, but never seemed to be drunk.  The man who loved my grandmother but cheated on her anyway.  The man who never said I love you. The man who loved me.  I grieve for him in whole pieces when I am away and hear his voice on the phone.  When I hear a great crashing sound as I go to bed and run back upstairs to care for him after he has fallen, if he has fallen. The man who I help get in and out of the shower. For whom I sometimes hold my breath as I walk into the bathroom to flush the toilet.  The man for whom I adjust old sweatpants that are too big and need to be tied extra tight to satisfy him.  The man I sit next to as he stares blankly through windows and relives his hauntings.  I grieve for this man constantly these days.  I am living in a state of grief.  It’s not always as hard as it was today.  But I saw his face as he fell and he was so afraid. I was too far to catch him and didn’t see it coming.  I will never get the sight of his fear out of my mind.

This post isn’t about death it’s about grief.  I want the grieving to be over.

IMG_3464

Emotional Eating

Kale salad

I have this thing with food. I’ve talked about it at length in other blog posts like here and here.  It’s a process.  I’m back in Georgia and I’m stressed.  As I’m typing this my grandfather is taking a shower and I’m sitting outside the bathroom door as a precaution.  He’s already had 2 or 3 near falls this morning. Luckily I was there to catch him.  What do I mean by near falls?  His breathing becomes labored. His eyes roll to the back of his head. His body becomes rigid. His spirit goes away. When these “spells” occur, he has no control and will often fall or clutch the nearest object with the death grip to win all death grips.  Two or three times I was there. Once I wasn’t.

I heard something that sounded like marbles against a wall from the other room. I walked into his bedroom found him in the closet in an awkward diagonal with his head against the wall, stomach on boxes, and feet on the floor. I put him in the rescue position on the floor of the closet and put his head on a pillow.  He resisted told me he wanted to “bade” (take a bath).  I responded that I wanted him to stay there for a few minutes because he’d just hit his head.  He argued that he hadn’t and that he was fine.

He wasn’t fine.

It’s always difficult when I find my grandad after he has fallen.  The last big fall he had left him bloody and covered in his own urine.  Afterwards, I craved Cheetos. It was immediate. Once the adrenaline settled the craving took its place.  That time, I ate them. This time, I did not.

I’m on day 6 of a 21-day gluten-free elimination test.  I craved Cheetos last night and refrained from eating them. After his fall this morning, the craving returned and I refrained from eating them again.

I continue to be amazed at how connected I am — at a chemical level– to food. The events of this morning have renewed my sadness and reminded me that he is going to die.  I will have no grandparents left. I will no longer be tethered to this family that hurts. At least not tethered through obligation merely bloodline.  As I continue to explore my odd position in this family and the oddities of this family I can’t help but wonder what will happen to me when his life goes away.

I just blocked my brother on Instagram, ya’ll.

Yup.

Not like funny ha ha blocked, but Eugh I feel gross, blocked. The story is long and so I won’t burden you with the deets, but he’s not my favorite person.  In fact, the thought of him makes me allergic.  My acid refluxes and I start sneezing at shit I didn’t even know was in the air. My nose gets stuffy and my throat itches.  I’m allergic to my family and I’m allergic to bullshit. Good thing I blocked him because I might have gone into anaphylactic shock.

You see, I may have communicated my disgust at his life.  All of it. We have a history of me expecting too much, and him being a terrible person. Ok, that’s unfair. Our relationship is complicated.

Short version?

We didn’t grow up together. Boarding schools. Different student homes.  I tried to keep contact and maintain a relationship and he was more interested in girls and sports.

I tried supporting him and doing the things I felt sisters were supposed to do, but never got much in return.  I’d call, he wouldn’t call me back. Rinse. Repeat.

As I aged, my resiliency for the taste of our cycle diminished. We stopped talking.  My paternal grandmother was on her deathbed and I reached out after a few years to tell him he needed to see her.  He drove down but was too late. Something about he and his wife forgot something at home and had to go back and get it.  That doesn’t make sense to me. They should have kept going for everything but their newborn.  Anything else, leave that shit like it fell off the wagon on the Oregon Trail.

She died before he got there.  She longed for him for 14 years and died without seeing him again.

While there he did the whole, I-need-to-right-all-that’s-wrong-in-my-life-because-we-are-mortal-beings , bullshit.

Him: “I want to be back in your life”

Me: “No, you’re just saying that shit because you’re sad.”

Him: “I won’t fuck it up this time, I’ll be better”

Yada, yada, rinse, repeat, soak cycle.

Me: Fine, but this is it. Seriously. I can’t take this anymore. Last chance.

Fast forward a few months.  We’d been texting regularly..meh, kinda regularly. He calls and says,

“Hey, they found a lump on grandmommy (our maternal grandmother’s) brain.

Me: “Ok. Um, do I need to fly there now? Is she okay? What’s going on?”

Him: “No, you don’t need to go, it’s okay. ”

Me: Ok. Lemme call you back later (I was at a Homecoming and couldn’t hear fo’ shit).

Him: Ok.
I call back later. No answer. I call again. No answer. He doesn’t pick up the phone, or text me back for two weeks. Finally, I reach out to my other family members and when they get back to me I find out she has died.

Yes, my grandmother was dead and my brother never told me.

I was done. I sent him a text message saying so (trust me I tried calling) — and that was it. He didn’t respond so I assumed that he was going to respect my decision.  It’s been a year, maybe more I don’t know.  Well, today I was looking at the “likes” on Instagram feed when I find out that he started following me 12 hours ago.  He didn’t reach out to me in anyway.  He just started following me.

He had a lot of time to say something and didn’t. I felt gross so I blocked him.

This blog address is in my bio so he’s probably read a bunch of my stuff and shared it with other family members I don’t care for.  Whatever, I put it on the internet so I can’t control that.

What I can control is maintaining my relationships with the positive influences in my life. That feels good. Positivity feels very good.