11pm My brothers are asleep on the floor. My mom, her cousin Sydney, my aunt Rebecca are all lounging on couches around the hospital bed, drinking wine, gossiping. He's in the bed, unconscious, on oxygen, his naked chest covered with a sheet. Gabriel was asleep in the car, is overtired now, but there is so much going on in this strange night time place. He can't fall asleep.
12am Gabriel and I are in the kitchen, eating toast.
Mom, he says, his eyes very wide, in a semi-whisper, Did you know that Grandpa is dying?
Yeah honey, yeah I know.
1ish We are all sitting around the bed, gossiping, drinking wine, occasionally erupting in fits of giggles. We have to talk about funny things, we have to gossip, it's the only way to be here. Every time he draws a ragged, shallow breath, is this the last one? My mom pulls down the sheet, feels his chest.
-It's that fucking pace maker.
2am Rebecca has drifted downstairs, where Jonathon is cooking. Sydney is asleep on the couch, snoring. Gabriel has finally drifted off. My mom is dutifully moistening his mouth, alternating doses of morphine and ativan, kissing his forehead.
-It's time to stop, Dad. It's time to stop.
3am I take Gabriel to lay him down in Grandpa's bed, everyone but my mom is asleep.
-I'll be right back.
Just before dawn Everything's done, she says, standing over his bed, in his room, where Gabriel, Sydney and I are sleeping. How did I get here? He didn't make it to dawn. I'm so glad he didn't have to suffer through another day. We hug. Everything's going to be okay.
6am I stumble downstairs. My mom's taken the boys back home. Rebecca and Ben are on the couch, Becca wrapped up in Grandpa's quilt. It's cold. I put on my grandfather's sweatshirt. Take it out of the clean laundry on his dresser. Jonathon fumbles over making coffee. We remember things. Childhood things, earlier things.
630am Gabriel wakes up, yelling for me.
-I want to go home.
-Let's go to Grandma's house.
My glasses are still in the library, I think I left them on the couch, next to the hospital bed. I'm carrying Gabriel. A red quilt is pulled up over him, his beret is resting on his chest.
-Why is his face covered mom?
-Because he's dead now.
-So you covered up his head?
-Yeah honey, that's just his body now, Grandpa's gone.
7am Daniel is sleepy but not sleeping on the couch. He's changed his clothes for the first time in days. I open the door to my mom's room, where she and James are fast asleep.
730am Everyone left me, at the end.
-I meant to come back, I don't know what happened.
-No, it was okay. I needed to be alone with him. It was the first time I've been alone with him in weeks. I needed to be alone, so I could tell him that he had to let go. I told him to stop. I told him to stop breathing, that it was time. And he did.
8am My dad comes home.
-I couldn't go to work today. I told them I had to go home.
I think my mom and I are both surprised by the tears in his eyes, by how affected he is by this.
My mom hands me a cup of coffee. I'm standing in the laundry room. Suddenly, the coffee is dripping down the wall, and I only have half left in my cup. How did that happen? Did I stumble? Did I throw it?
We go for a walk, my parents, Gabriel and I, a walk down around the pond. Walking slowly. Walking so slowly.
-I have to take Gabriel home for a little while. We need to be at home. I'll be back.
1030am I'm home, though I hardly remember getting here. Gabriel watches a movie, we eat, we lie in bed together.
1pm I'm driving back to my mom's, I still haven't slept. I have to pull over because I'm seeing double, because I'm hallucinating. Finally I get there. I carry my sleeping son to my mom's room, we both slip into silence.
5pm I'm awake, but barely. By limbs are like lead. I have to fight to get out of bed, to get Gabriel out of bed. We can't sleep all day and be up all night, we have to go back to our lives tomorrow.
Yesterday I go through work in a fog. Julia takes me out to lunch, we run into my mom. There are insane things happening in my family right now. We laugh. How can you not laugh? I pick Gabriel up from school. He's distraught.
-Are you sad honey?
Grandpa's dead. And Elijah says they're going to burn him, and I don't want him to be burned.
-Oh honey honey. It's okay. It's okay. That's just his body. He's not there anymore. It's not scary for him and it doesn't hurt him. Everything's going to be okay.
Today I get a card from my coworkers. I hate cards. Because my grandfather was well-known in our community, the notes inside are thoughtful and specific, which makes me hate the card more, but also hold it dearly. I'm so tired. Everything is foggy. I'm not sad. But I am. I'm not crying, but I'm just so tired.