"By the time you get here, he'll be gone," my father said. "Come if you need to for yourself, but it would be best if you waited for the funeral."
That'll be Thursday at the soonest. The latest, we can't know.
We're being spared so many things. Ambiguity, mostly, in several forms. There's no ambiguity in the prognosis anymore. My grandfather's stroke is massive. The fullest recovery he could make would not be a real recovery. The way my grandfather would have seen it is this: the person he was is gone, and now we're just waiting for his body to figure out what his brain already knows. There's no ambiguity in his advance directives about how he wanted us to handle a situation like this. He has a morphine drip now, and no other interventions, unless you count that, at any given moment, there are ten or fifteen Averys in the room, keeping him company--however many the nurse allows.
We're gregarious people, we can't abide the thought of leaving him alone, and in crises like these we're quite content to huddle sardinishly in small spaces together. My aunts and uncles and cousins, my grandmother and my parents, they're up in that room now, in shifts, sometimes resting, sometimes making runs to the soda machine, and they can't help it, they'll be laughing as much as they're crying in that room. My grandfather had a small repertoire of goofy jokes he liked to tell, and my kinfolk will be telling them. He had a vast repertoire of stories of the Adirondacks as they used to be, my my kinfolk will be telling those, too. They're catching up on each other's gossip, they're plotting out the life that goes on when this long night is over. They're doing it where he can hear them, just in case there's a wisp of him left that still wants to know.
I wish I were already with them, but Dad's right, it would be foolish for me to go up right now, for about a dozen different reasons, from a dozen different sources. I won't enumerate them. Just thinking about them makes me tired.
So my sister and I commiserate on the phone. In addition to having a not overwhelmingly portable ten month old infant, she also has several cases in which she's the court-appointed advocate for children who have been victims of spectacularly horrible child abuse, and she needs to make sure those kids will be covered before she can leave town for anything. It's making us a little bit crazy, not to be in Rochester right now.
As if our being there could possibly change the outcome.
At the moment, it looks likely that I'll be able to arrange my tutoring schedule so that I still get to meet my five new summer clients. I can probably get to festival on schedule. It would be very surprising if the current crisis lingered long enough to disrupt my plans for Writer's Weekend.
And I wish I could trade all that, to be able to see him as he was, one last time.