Today is on year to the day that I took off from work. To pack our things for our pending move out of NYC and back to Queens. We'd already painted, scrubbed and scoured our new home. As I sat in my cluttered apartment I thought of all the things I still had to do: pack, clean, organize, carry, visit my grandpa (who just got back from vacation with my family) and stay up all night to do more packing.
I called my Grandma who told me to save visiting for later in the day or even tomorrow. My Mom hadn't left her house yet and she wasn't talking to me. My Grandma didn't want to sour my Grandfather's good spirits with negativity which is so evident from my Mom - she wears her heart on her sleeve - or more like her scowling eyes, pursed lips and harsh words.
I relented and stayed home ... packing. Later that night I got a phone call - My grandpa was back in the hospital and was not doing well. I got in the car immediately and headed to LIJ, where I found him in the ER, my Grandma crying, my sister falling apart, my grandma with a oxygen mask on, my aunt and uncle and 2 cousins crying and distraught. I knew then it was worse than him being overly weak. I know it was more than him not breathing well. I knew this wasn't a false alarm.
It was then that my Grandma, hyperventilating, asked me what to do. The doctor had asked her to sign papers, as his chosen person, whether to put him on a respirator if he were to stop breathing on his own. This was a weight no one wanted to carry on their shoulders. I didn't know what to say. I talked to my Uncle and we all concurred that he was tired, that he didn't want to do this anymore, and that keeping him alive via machine was immoral and not what he'd want. Eventually the papers were signed by shaking hands and that was done. We were told to prepare ourselves, it was only a matter of minutes or hours now. So we did... we talked to him, asked him to push through, told him we loved him, and held his hand. My other Uncle came along with his girlfriend. They were both in tears. We were all in disbelief.
Then he was transfered to a room. So we all went upstairs to wait... and wait and wait. Only 2 of us were allowed in at a time. My Grandma should obviously be there. We took turns seeing him, but then my Mother came. She hadn't yet seen him in the hospital and spend some time inside. It was already close to 1AM. My Papa asked to see Amanda & Kyle - so they were woken up and brought upstairs where they sleepily said hello to my Grandpa. Amanda knew this wasn't good but didn't quite understand how bad. The hospital knowing this could be our last moments together, allowed all of us (14 of us) enter his room and spend what felt like only minutes with him, but was actually maybe an hour. We then said good night and left. My Grandma stayed with him through the night. I retreated to my Sister's house where we slept in an extra bedroom not wanting to be too far just in case.
The next morning, I called my Grandma who had stayed all night, with no food, no insulin, and no medication. I was worried, I didn't want to lose them both because she wasn't taking care of herself. I convinced her to let me bring her food and medicine when she all of a sudden said - no you're right, come get me and Lauren will stay here. I will go home, shower, medicate and come back. So that's what we did. I went, Lauren and Paul went upstairs and stayed with Papa and Paul walked my Grandma out to the car. Her cell had died, my phone was left at Lauren's, and we were completely off line. At home, my Grandma showered and I got her things together when the phone started ringing. It was Rommel who now changed his mind - he wanted Papa to fight and do whatever it would take... but that required dialysis - which would prolong his life but not save it. His liver was failing, his kidneys were failing, and his heart was not pumping enough oxygen into his blood stream. He was tired- and we all needed to understand this.
The phone rang again, and thats when I got the worst phone call of my life.... Paul, yelling at me that I'm not picking up my cell phone, that it's an emergency, and I needed to get back NOW! He yelled and yelled and yelled so I got my Grandma and said, it's an emergency we need to get back now! She began freaking out, crying, running, skipped her medicine and we ran to the car. I drove faster than I ever had before, peeled into the ER parking lot and told her to get our and go. A lady saw me frantic and asked if she could help - I told her I was leaving the car, keys and all and a boy named Paul would be running out to get the keys. I told her that if she could watch the car and not let anyone take it unless their name was Paul. Without even caring about the car, I ran away, door open, keys inside, ignition running, and found my Grandma, walking fast, but in circles. I grabbed a wheelchair and put her in it and literally RAN her to my Grandpa. When we got there, we saw his door was closed. When we opened it, I noticed all the monitors off... and Lauren holding his hand crying saying over and over and over again... He's gone.
My grandma broke down. This was nothing short of a disaster for her. Her husband of 47 years and 53 days is gone. She yelled and yelled "Why couldn't you wait for me. I only left your side for a moment. Why wouldn't you let me say goodbye." I knew why he waited... for her to leave. It was all in his last words to me, "Lil, take care of your Mommy Yolly, okay?" He held on all night never giving up because he wanted to make sure my Grandma didn't experience watching him die. Even in his last moments he was trying to protect her. He knew Lauren would be strong. He knew he felt comfortable with her. He knew she was his favorite. He knew it was time. He told her he was tired... laid into her and let go. The doctors came in and unplugged the machines allowing him to take his last breaths in peace.
My Grandma's cousin arrived soon after we did, thinking he was coming for a visit. Once he saw what had happened, he called the rest of the family to have them come. All thinking they were arriving to say goodbye, realized it was too late and broke down. But at that moment we all sat and talked about how much we loved him, with his body still warm by our side. Until we knew it was time to leave, pray, make funeral arrangements, and tend to Amanda and Kyle, children experiencing their 1st death.
Tomorrow - the 1 year anniversary of his death and I still cry. Writing this, my eyes are puffy, and my breathing short. Tomorrow we have a mass dedicated to him at 5PM followed by the rosary at their house, then of course food. I set up the alter last night and felt like he past away only yesterday. I miss him. I miss him every day. The sound of his voice, his silly history channel, his preaching, his food, his hugs, his company... all of him. I really do miss him with all the fibers in my being.