It’s Monday morning, after 9 but before 10. My dad calls, the usual. He tells me that he didn’t want to call me, the night before, but there was a scare. My grandfather got rushed to the ER in an ambulance on Sunday night. To my grandfather’s sad, sad surprise – they sent him back home. After multiple occasions of draining fluid out of his lungs, they just can’t do it anymore. It’s too clogged, and they can’t do it. That’s it Grandpa, the hospital has thrown in the towel – what about you?
Monday. After my dad calls me and tells me this: When I talk to my grandfather now he won’t be able to respond, he can’t talk. He’ll open his eyes, but he won’t respond. I say okay…. I think to myself: I know what that means. You’re sugar coating it Dad, I know he’s dying – you can tell me. I know what it looks, feels, sounds and smells like when someone has 2 days to 2 hours left to live. It really is not my first rodeo. I spend the rest of my workday just trying to process it and prepare myself. At the very thought of it, tears start impairing my vision but I wipe it away and start over again. I spend my whole day preparing my final goodbye to my grandfather. I leave work at 4 o’clock Monday, and I head to Attleboro because I’m house/cat sitting so I feed the cats, and I’m still reciting my goodbye. I’m on the highway, and still saying my goodbye. I get to my grandparent’s house…it’s a house full. Everyone is there for the same reason, to say goodbye.
I sit down at the dining room table. The room where my grandfather has been placed for the last I think four months in his hospital bed is straight ahead. The lights in the house are all dimmed. There’s people on the couch, where my grandmother is also sitting. In the room where my grandfather is, sedated, there’s my two aunts, his daughters. My dad was heading back when I got there. They gave him three doses of Morphine, to put him in a state of calmness and relieving any pain for what is to come. I’m still sitting at the dining room table, at a seat where I can see directly in the room and directly in the living room. The door was shut so I never knew who was exactly in there, but I kept waiting and waiting for it to be empty so I can just have the moment with my grandfather by myself before it’s now or never. My dad walks in, tells me I should really get in there because that room is never going to be just me and him. I refuse and object, I’ll keep waiting..I still have time.
My dad, cousin and I are at the dining room table, sharing laughs. Dad tried FaceTiming his cousin, Nando, in Portugal, since cousin Cathy was around. All of a sudden, my dad’s name is called by my uncle’s wife, Zilda, to hurry quickly into the room. The door shuts behind him.
This is it. It’s happening. I start my crying before it’s even confirmed. I don’t need to see it to believe it, I know. 6 PM. I’m instantly so angry at myself that I did not go in that room before his last breath. I planned to say my goodbyes, I had it all worked out. I hear my grandmother loudly begging, crying. Before I wait any longer, I head in there and remain in there for the next 38 minutes. My grandmother asking my grandfather please answer her. Talk to me. Talk to me. Talk to me. Fale comigo. Fale comigo. Fale comigo, Gil. Whaling out, in disbelief. I don’t even know how to describe how heartbreaking it was to see her asking for him to be alive. To just rewind the last 2 minutes. She laid on top of him, holding his head, his hand. She lost him, and immediately she lost herself too. Someone slipped a Xanax into her mouth at some point because she needed it. She wasn’t going to calm down by herself, if she was going to calm down at all. She said she lost her love. That must be one of the worst feelings, ever. To lose the love of your life to a person is one thing, that’s one heartbreak. But to lose the love of your life to death, that’s an irreplaceable and unavoidable heartbreak that can never be filled or mended. In time you work out how to deal with it, but it will never be a real thing that happened. The rest of your life is a dream.
Word of mouth is the way of communication in a Portuguese family. One by one, family by family, they all start showing. My cousin, Jessica, shows up. I needed her there, she knows how to comfort. She has my back like I’ll always have hers. Without me asking, she asks everyone in the room to please let me have 5 minutes to say goodbye once they are done doing what they have to do. I’ll forever thank her for that, I needed it and she knew I did. When I could, I went in there. Sat beside his yellow, cold, dead-weight body. His body may have stopped all functions, but his soul lives on. I’m that type of person. I believe in souls. I believe they’re wandering all around us. I believe his soul exited his body even before his last breath. So I continued because I knew he was listening. I told him that I’m happy for him. I’m happy that he is no longer in that unbearable pain. I asked him to please always stay with me, stay with our family and guide my grandmother to him. I’m okay with his passing because at 20 years old, I understand. I understand that it is life, and you cannot stop someone from dying. I will not be selfish and wish you were still here if it meant you would still be in that pain. Thank you for always tickling me, being mad at me when I didn’t call, buying my scooter when I was little and buying my first car when I got my license. Thank you for taking pictures with me when you were sick even though you hated the person you became. Thank you for letting me lay in your hospital bed with you, thank you for always scratching my back. Thank you for your jokes, and wise-ass remarks. I never got your nose, but I always got your humor. Thank you for always asking how work was, anything new? Thank you, vovo.
I hope you understand our happiness while we understand you’re no longer here. We are happy for you, vovo. We are happy you are no longer in pain. Go smoke your cigars. Go to Portugal. Be in all these places at once. But the most important place you will ever be… is in our hearts. See you in my dreams.