Saturday saw my mother, me and my two sisters descend upon my grandfather’s bedside like priests come to hear the final confession. We had been summoned, all of us, by the ward sister the day before, whose urgings had persuaded my mother that her original planned visit on Monday was simply (and I quote) “too far away”. We had to come now. ASAP.
This coupled with the news that my grandfather had been prescribed morphine on Friday had us fearing the worst. I mean, what else are you to think? Morphine is a pretty hefty painkiller. They don’t administer it without good reason. Or rather, bad.
So we were all there. Awaiting the arrival of the nursing sister of the day to speak to us. Apparently (according to another communiqué from the hospital) she wanted to speak to my mother in person to explain the situation more fully.
My grandfather lay before us. White, thin, skeletal. His skin now so transparent as to be almost non-existent – it looked as if a mad calligrapher had drawn veins and arteries in bold ink on parchment. His outline was a folded clothes’ horse of stick bones and rounded corners under the bed sheets. Piteous really when I think of how he used to be: always slim and wiry but always, always so vital.
The nursing sister eventually graced us with her presence, mystified by our request to see her. It seems she had no further information to give us. My grandfather was certainly very poorly but he was comfortable and stable. No real change from how he’d been over the last 2 weeks. It seems our urgent attendance was not really required. The priest need not be called away from his lunch. The morphine too was something of a red herring. Yes, he’s been prescribed it but he has not so far been given it – because he is in no pain whatsoever and does not need it. It is there merely “in case”.
Cue wry looks from us all. It is of course nice to know that although my grandfather is still at death’s door he is not yet, as we feared, ringing the doorbell. But it is irritating in the extreme to have lived with such a black picture of his condition for the last few days when the paint, barely dry, was only as grey as it has always been.
What havoc a little misinformation can cause! If the hospital can’t get their story straight between themselves my family and I stand little chance of ever staying well informed.
The only information that we received that could be deemed in any way useful was the sister’s expert opinion that it is highly unlikely that my grandfather will ever return home again. He needs 24 hour care. If he leaves the hospital it’ll be to go to a nursing home. The thing he most wanted not to happen. Alas, he is now so far gone that I doubt he’ll even notice let alone care where he is.
So, for the first time in my life, the house of my grandparents – the home of so many happy memories for me – will be completely empty and lifeless.
This seems another small death in a long line of small deaths that are inevitably leading to a bigger.
The dominoes are toppling but at least the game is not yet over.