6/23/17

Gone

When I opened my eyes, Alex was asleep with his arm thrown over his face shielding his eyes from the light that was starting to come in the window. Behind me, on the nightstand, one of our phones was buzzing, probably getting ready to fall off the edge onto the floor.

For what felt like an eternity, I laid there staring at Alex. I already knew it was my phone. I already knew who was calling. And I already knew I had to answer.

So, quickly before it went to voicemail, I rolled over and hit the green phone button.

"Hey dad," I laid back on the pillow.

Alex started stirring.

"Hey," My dad paused just a millisecond and then, "He's gone."

Nodding at the ceiling, I forgot for a moment that dad couldn't see me. "Okay," Was all I said.

Dad was silent for a moment. "Me, Dwight, and Momma were all with him when he went."

"Okay."

"I need you to wake your sister and tell her," I might've been 20-years-old but I was suppose to be at my mom's house, not at Alex's. "And I need you to go to McDonald's and get about 10 breakfast biscuits. Nobody here has eaten."

"Okay."

As I let my phone fall to the bed, I was still staring at the ceiling but I could see Alex looking at me from the corner of my eye.

"Want me to call out of work today?"

I shook my head.

He pulled me into his arms, "You sure?"

I nodded.

There were no tears, but I was wondering how people do this. How do we lose people without losing part of ourselves? Or is it just par for the course?

We'd known this was coming for the past few weeks. He'd gotten progressively weaker and couldn't eat anymore. And then about a week ago, he'd lost consciousness. But it wasn't like a coma, because he'd come back but he wasn't really there but in some other world, or in the past, and he continued to call out for dad to help him. My dad. Not his dad. And there was nothing dad could do but be there and say, "I'm here, daddy."

Hospice was taking care of him, so he was at home instead of a hospital.

And so, I'd been prepared for this, but at the same time not. The day before had been Father's Day. And it was a bitter sweet day of gratitude for my own dad, all the while he was losing his.

When the men from the funeral home came to take my grandfather's body away, it felt cold and sterile. Professional and all about business. As they loaded him up and took him away, Nannie tried to keep a strong face but it was hard on her.

I'd tried to swallow a biscuit but it ended up being more trouble than it was worth.

When dad pulled me aside later that day, he seemed to be doing okay, but I knew that it was just a facade. "I need you to stay with your Nannie tonight. She says she's doing fine, but I need someone with her just in case."

I nodded my head.

And that night, with tears in her eyes, Nannie asked if I'd be okay sleeping in her and my grandfather's bed while she slept in the guest room.

"Sure, Nannie."

"Okay good," She half smiled at me. "I'm just not ready to sleep in there again just yet. PawPaw hasn't slept in our bed in months, you know he's been in that chair or the hospital bed, he just couldn't get comfortable. But it's still not the same without him, ya know?"

I nodded and tried not to cry.

When Kim and I had been little and had spent the night with our grandparents, if we ever got scared and wanted to get in bed with them, we could never sleep in the middle, between them, because they held hands while they slept.

And that night, I broke two molars in my sleep.

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