There was blood everywhere.
We'd passed the ambulance, going the opposite way down the road as we neared my grandparents driveway. The gust of wind it blew at us as it passed, going three times the limit just like us, rocked our car and I gripped the door handle.
As the ambulance disappeared, I was afraid that that might be it. That I might never see my PawPaw alive again.
Now, standing in a puddle of his blood in the living room with towels laying discarded in a random piles soaked through with the vital fluid, I was sure this was the end.
No one could lose this much blood and still be breathing.
The shaking turned into full body tremors as I walked down the hall, stepping through more blood. I couldn't pull my eyes away from the crimson pools.
Dad called me out of my trance as he ran into the house, hollering, "Get out here." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder and was running back through the house to the door. Weaving through the house full of neighbors already starting to clean up the mess, I followed him out the door.
As I stepped into the garage, dad tossed a set of keys into my hands, "You're driving your Nannie's van to the hospital." And he turned to open the passenger door of his car.
Shaking so bad and hardly breathing enough to operate a vehicle, I said, "Dad, I can't."
As if he were trying to infuse me with the mental toughness I'd never had, he turned and pinned me with the kind of look he'd never given me before, "You can. And you will." And with that he and my step-mom peeled out of the driveway.
Looking down at the keys in my hand and back up at my grandmother's cousin standing there looking at me, with tears in her eyes and blood on her hands, I knew I couldn't just stand here all day just because I was afraid to drive.
So, I got in the van and am still not sure to the this day how I made that 30 minute drive, hyperventilating.
When I got to the hospital, my grandfather was alive. My dad rushed me and my little sister Kim, who'd come running from the other side of the parking lot, through the ER and into a private room. There were nurses everywhere. And tubes everywhere else. My grandfather's vitals were beeping on a monitor, and I didn't need someone with a medical degree to translate them for me.
It was bad.
My grandfather was on the flat stretcher, completely colorless and still.
My sister and I stood there in the doorway staring, neither one of us moving. My dad gave us a push into the room, "If you want to talk to him, you have to do it now."
I swallowed back my fear and my tears and walked holding my sister's hand, to stand at the head of his bed, doing our best to stay out of the nurses and doctor's way.
Our grandmother was holding his hand and crying.
"He can hear you." Dad said from behind us.
"PawPaw?" I was tentative, unsure of how he could be conscious.
His green eyes opened and and he looked me right in the eye.
In moments like this, there's so much you want to say. Like thanks for pulling me out of that fire ant bed when I was five and too scared to move. Thanks for all those tractor rides. Thanks for all the peppermints during Sunday morning sermons. Thanks for all the laughs that got you smacked by Nannie. Thanks for being that annoying grandparent who made me act right, and bow my head. Thanks for teaching me the importance of doing things slow and with some intention. Thanks for raising my dad. Thanks for giving me a solid foundation to hang onto. Thanks for the 20 years of your life that you shared with me.
But that's not what came out of my mouth. All I could say was, "I love you."
And his nod was barely perceivable before he closed his eyes again.
As we were hurried from the room, the floor was a kaleidoscope through my tears.