Thursday, February 19, 2004

Part 1- Going back to Muskegon

It seems that things like wedding and funerals bring out all of the best in your family tree. All of the drama being stirred up in my family since I announced I was planning a wedding got me to thinking about it a lot. I have decided to document the last family funeral I went to, to coincide with my documentation of the wedding planning. I feel there may be some sort of strange symmetry, as there tends to be with matters of family.

This last July my grandfather passed away.
If I started filming from the moment I got the call that he had a stroke and kept filming until I returned home from the funeral it would have been the weirdest documentary ever. It started out normal but went crazy from there.

Part 1- Going back to Muskegon

It started at just before midnight. I had just dropped my daughter off at the airport; she was going up to Alaska to spend some time with her grandparents during summer vacation. I was in the process of moving into a new apartment so my plan was to start packing and get things moved while Darian was away.
The phone rang and it was my father.
“Hey.” He said with a tone I didn’t recognize in his voice, but it made all of my panic bells go off in my head and heart.
“What happened?” I asked without thinking.
“My dad, he had a stroke, he is in the hospital.” He said I could hear his voice breaking up on the other end of the phone.
“I’ll be on the next flight.” I said and I hung up and started looking for a ticket there that would get me there sooner than later. As the evening progressed my grandfathers condition worsened. I was getting regular updates all night, but my flight was not until the next morning.
His stroke started a bleed in his brain. He was still conscious but he was fading fast. They told him that they had to give him a shunt to release some of the pressure.
My grandfather is a very stubborn man. There was no way that he was going to let him put anything in his head even if it would be the only thing that could save his life. He would rather die than come across as weak, and that is the fate he chose.
By about 1AM the doctor said that it would only be a matter of days. I had to get there fast if I ever wanted to see my Grandfather alive again.
I got on the airplane going to Muskegon Michigan early the next morning.
I made it to the hospital to see my grandfather hanging on to the smallest thread of life. He looked so small lying in that bed in that little blue hospital robe.
His breathing was heavy and he stressed. He had been a smoker for years and it had ruined his lungs. He sounded like he was choking.
He was panting and pale and I was able to stay in the room for about five minutes before I excused myself to the restroom. I shut the door behind me and slipped to the floor and cried.
As I sat there crying I started to wonder how many other people had done the same thing in this particular restroom. Seeing as it is the only restroom for guests in the ICU of the hospital I thought I was not alone in my fear, sadness and mourning. I found some strange comfort in these thoughts and I was able to pull myself together enough to go back and face what the next week might bring.
This would be the only time I cried throughout this whole experience.

I returned to the room and talked to my grandfather for a little while. He was on the verge of completely disappearing. They just gave him a does of Morphine and said he would be out for the night so it would probably be best to get home and rest up, it was going to be a long week. I went back to my Grandmothers house to get some sleep.



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