Today was my last day going to the ICU. Grandpa died today. All week, they said he was getting better and that he might be moved out of the ICU, but today he shocked us all and died.
The doctor with the shiny bags under his eyes gave us the bad news almost as soon as we got into the waiting room. His eyes were swollen and the lines on his face seemed more pronounced than ever; in hindsight, I guess he wasn’t grieving gramps in particular but it felt that way, seeing him then. I was embarrassed that my mom started yelling at him immediately, saying that he’s a poor excuse for a doctor, that they said he’d be fine, what did they do wrong, etc etc. He remained very calm and repeated a few key phrases, I don’t remember what they were. Then mom stopped yelling and started crying. The rest of us were stunned, absolutely shocked and just looked at each other with our mouths open. They said his heart just stopped. We knew it was under a lot of strain but we didn’t know it was that bad. We got to go into his room and say goodbye, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
He didn’t look much different from what we’d seen the past two weeks. If they hadn’t told us, maybe we’d thought he was sleeping. He had his eyes closed. I guess he wasn’t breathing though.
There’s one thing I can’t stop thinking about. He wasn’t able to speak after the stroke, but he could still write some shaky messages with his left hand. Every day, we’d ask him if there was anything he needed. Every day, he wrote, “cookies” in his shaky, thin handwriting. He got a kick out of handing it to a new nurse or aid. He’d have this half-open mouth guffaw. “Ahaa!!!” And most of them would laugh and shake their heads. We all knew what he meant. He wanted cookies. He loved sweets. This was the jovial old man who I’ve watched all my life be chased out of the kitchen with handfuls of fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies. Every year, a sliver of my birthday cake went missing; eventually I tried to hide it for him, since it was “just off the back.”
The doctor explained early on that because of his strokes and his other problems, he was at a high risk of choking on his foods. It was our choice to feed him only mush or let him eat normal foods with the risk that he might choke or get a pneumonia from sucking things into his lungs. Of course Mom thought it was ridiculous, why would we risk him choking, this is her father you’re talking about. So grandpa never got cookies, and — I just hope there are cookies in heaven.