Confronting mortality

See I was gonna splatter my brains about dating and being an introverted extrovert (ambivert or some shit), but that’s not important right now. What’s important is that my granddad aka Ironman, was hospitalized. Did you hear (read) what I just said? My granddad, who never gets sick, is still working 40 hour weeks at 60+ years of age when he could have retired years ago, and is one of the funniest dudes I know was hospitalized. My granddad, who’s been saying he’s going to retire “this year” since 2010 (probably earlier). He’s the Invincible Ironman to me. Everybody else lives the life of random unnamed super heroes who showcase themselves in cameos doing one cool move. Granddad wears the utility belt in the family and Grandma, his Pepper Pots, has been there for 40+ years holding him down.

Seeing granddad full of tubes and IVs and the machine from <insert notable hospital show here>…it was just too much. All my life I’ve never seen this man down and out in this manner. Yeah he’s slowed down a bit over the past 20 years, but he’s not decrepit. He’s active, his diet’s okay, and he’s generally healthy yet aging man. One of my heroes incapacitated, somewhat out of it on morphine. Unreal. When I walked down that long sterile corridor looking for the room they had him confined to I didn’t know what to expect. I knew he was going to have an IV or two in him. I knew he was gonna be hopped up on some drugs. I knew he wasn’t gonna be looking like the caramelized Tony Stark I know and love.

When I saw him it was weird. His eyes were closed and he looked like he was in some type of muted pain. The kind of pain you know is there, but it’s not bad enough to deal with directly. You acknowledge its existence; it’s a thing, but not so much a thing you pay attention to it. A very “this is my life now” type pain that you just hope goes away eventually. I stood about 3 or 4 feet from the foot of his medical bed just trying to register what my eyes were relaying to my brain. It felt so surreal and I know I sound mellow dramatic, but for the first time in my life I felt the weight of mortality on me. I got a glimpse into the cruelty of the powers that be and how powerful the construct of attachment is. I legitimately got upset over the fact that my granddad wasn’t up and about being his normal self. He wasn’t ragging on my dad or throwing shade at the Warriors or harping on how much of a crybaby LeBron is (have you seen his latest Tweet?). He was laid up in this bed with these thin-ass covers, hooked up to some weird-ass machines, with some uncomfortable-ass tubes snaking about his body. I don’t normally get upset so that’s how I knew it was bad.

So I stood there awkwardly trying to process what the hell was going on with this man. Eventually my grandma encourages me to get closer and talk to granddad. I squeeze between the left side of his bed and some chairs, one of which my sister was in. I got annoyed that she was watching asinine YouTube videos next to Ironman, but I figure that was her coping method. Whatever. I greet granddad and he responds, sounding a little like Boomhower from King of the Hill. I knew the morphine was doing a number on him, but I tried my best to listen. I didn’t know how to respond to him asking how I was doing and if I was okay. That was my line honestly, but I told him I was fine and that I had to come out and see him to make sure he was relatively okay.

And he says he appreciates it, in the most resigned voice I’ve ever heard. Maybe it was the drugs, but it sounded to me as though he was slightly remiss that he’d become a “burden.” Which is bullshit because there’s no universe nor alternative reality where somebody as beholden to his family as my granddad would ever be a burden. Hell if anything, everybody after grandma was a burden for years before today. You know, raising a family and all that jazz.

So it was so weird to hear such a great man sound so defeated, but it was cathartic because despite the male side of my family being awfully reserved emotionally, this was a flash of true vulnerability I’d never seen from him. On top of that, this same vibe of defeatism was resonating in my dad. He’s generally Mr. Stoic, Mr. Man, Mr. Stone. But today he was daddy and momma’s boy; true emotion emanated from him and everyone today. And the the craziest part is that grandma was just in the ER literally 1 month ago on my birthday. What are breaks and how do I find them?

Viewing your parents and your grandparents and your uncles and all the “old” people that have been old to you since you were a kid in that state of disrepair is sobering. It calls human mortality into perspective. As much as I ignore the inevitability of the people I love dear dying, I have to contend with that eventually. There’s going to be a point where an overnight stay at the ER will be the best news I get. There’s going to be a point where somebody I love and has loved me since birth is not going to get up from that medical bed to tell me a joke or embrace me with love overflowing. There’s going to be a point where they will no longer be able to say how proud of me they are despite me feeling like a failure. And that scares me, but it mostly motivates me to share as much time as I can with them. To learn about the past first hand instead of from a history book. To engage with them as an adult willingly instead of by happenstance as a child. To solidify in their minds that I value them as beautiful human beings and as amazing family members.

That’s the job of children and grandchildren, to connect with your parents throughout your life, for life. Doubly true if you’ve no reason not to. Not everyone can claim they have that ability and many that did would jump at the chance to for even one day. And it’s funny and sort of sad that it takes drastic events to really be conscious of these things, but that’s how we’re wired for the most part. Like Q-Tip said, Jodie Mitchell never lied.