Submitted by Sarah Collins (Actress Class of 2017)
My goodbye was five months long. Since receiving my license in April, I’d been
running around trying to do everything I could for my grandparents. I’d routinely show
up on Saturdays with glowing yellow roses for Grandma and shiny glazed donuts for
Grandpa. I would usually spend an hour to an hour and a half with them, depending on
whether or not death’s stench was acting up. Turns out 25% of the odor was emitted
through my grandmother’s mouth, which made sense since you could see the food in her
dentures, the other 75% from Grandpa’s decline.
Towards the end of Grandpa’s time, I was scared to visit alone because the last
time I visited, I walked in on Grandma trying to help Grandpa put his pants on. I waited
five minutes before I said anything. I decided to leave the room for a bit, but when I came
back, it was to the same scene. I thought about leaving for good, but decided to
speak up, instead. After Grandpa got his pants on, we talked for a bit. While slurring
amalgamations of words, he outlined his charcoal black shoe with a washcloth.
“Grandpa, I’m sorry I don’t understand what it is you want.” The more I tried to help
him, the more frustrated he got. My grandma, his saving grace, decided that he should
have some lunch, since he didn’t go down at noon. We walked him seven steps to the
table, where it took three minutes to push his chair in to his liking. She began to cut up his
turkey. He attempted to fork the pale turkey that matched his skin. I stood there,
helplessly watching. I spoke up offering to help, but he just yelled, “Would everyone just
leave me alone!” So, I did. I turned around, walked four steps towards the door and left.
That was the last thing he ever said to me.
But there I stood the following Monday at 5:00 pm along with my brother and
mom. I could hear the oxygen machine struggling from long periods of use. Grandma led
all three of us to the living room, adjacent to their bedroom. When I walked by, I saw my
grandfather comatose in bed. He looked gray. His mouth was open in the shape of an
oval; his eyes closed. It was as if I was looking death right in the face. As the visit
progressed, I saw my grandma cry for the first time. I held her supple hand and cried with
her as I sat in Grandpa’s Lazy Boy recliner. My brother got up to say his goodbye to
Grandpa, then my mom. When she returned, she asked if there was anything I wanted to
say to him. “No,” I said.
A week later, he died. Every once and a while I’ll ask myself if I made the right
decision not saying goodbye, but then I realize that I’m a kid; and that a kid shouldn’t
have to make those types of decisions. If Grandpa hadn’t died, then I wouldn’t have all
these questions. If I said goodbye, then I’d have to face the fact that it was all real, so I
Occasionally, I’ll go alone to my Grandpa’s grave. Last time, I brought him
flowers and a pumpkin. I’m new to the whole “unspoken” cemetery etiquette. Regardless,
though, I’ll sit on the ground and clean off his headstone with a tissue while I talk to him.
When I run out of words to say, I’ll put my hand on his gravestone and think quietly
about life. I’m undecided on whether or not life’s cycle is a beautiful thing; I guess that’s
something only time can tell. Perhaps I’ll know when I stop expecting to find Grandpa in
room 317, or perhaps I’ll know when I’m an adult.