I wonder from time to time if I'm a good person. I am able to justify all the shit I ever do pretty well. I can compartmentalize things so well it borders on a superpower. But still every now and then I think about the scope of things and wonder how I really feel. I saw a lady on "Moment of Truth" once the Fox game show with the lie detectors etc. who was up to several hundered thousand dollars after revealing life ruining secrets only to get eliminated and lose all the money by the question:
"Do you think you're a good person."
She said yes. And the lie detector test determined that answer was false.
That's kinda what I picture with myself. I answer that self posed question with "yes. i've done some terrible shit. but overall i'm a good person." Well good is an opinion, but do I really believe that I fit what I consider to be good? Pass or fail, if I was on Fox's "The Moment of Truth" and I was posed that question and answered "Yes," would I be eliminated for lieing?
I have so much shit to deal with first, out of necessity for survival, that I don't hold it that much against myself that I don't shed a lot of tears for the kids starving in Cambodia or whatever. But that's normal, with the geographical and intangible distance between me and that kid, he's hardly even real to me. But I also don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about the troubles of people in my life. I mean, fuck I have enough to worry about. Right?
Well, my last remaining grandparent has inoperable throat cancer. And continue reading, because I promise it won't be as pedestrian as that.
Grandpa Junior has throat cancer, and has had it for about 8 or 9 months. I found this out in jail, and I was told that there was a good chance he would die before I got out. I remembered saying please don't let that happen, I'll never forgive myself if I don't get to speak to him now before he dies. I even contemplated writing him a letter, which would reveal the awkward nature about where I was since all outgoing mail must have a big disclaimer stamped in red ink saying "______ COUNTY JAIL." This would open up the subsequent conversations to all sorts of uncomfortable questions that I would prefer leaving unasked. And unanswered.
Well I did get out, after about 5 months, and he was still in stable health, although looking like shit from hair and weight loss from chemo. I was on the bracelet at this half way house for about 10 days putting off something as simple as making a phone call, not because I didn't care, but fuck I just hate dealing with shit like this. I feel bad enough already just going through daily life in a state of blindingly obnoxious soberness. As they say in Trainspotting about daily life when Renton gets off heroin "...to have to endure it in a state of FULL CONCIOUSNESS." Yuck.
But I did eventually place a call to him and to my 19 year old sister living in Minneapolis with her 1 year old, my niece. Grandpa knew something was up but I didn't elaborate on it much. He was actually surprisingly quite a bit harsher and more judgemental about it all than I would've expected someone diagnosed with terminal cancer to be, but in the end he just said get my stuff together and he's sure i'll be fine.
Yeah. Lets hope so.
Anyways, I went on the run from that half way house in one of the coldest weeks all winter, in Wisconsin, and eventually after one of the craziest (and trust me there have been some CRAZY) weeks of my life decided "fuck it, this shit is too cold" and turned myself in. I was very surprised to only be given a week in jail for punishment for going on the run, and was let out and able to pull off some amazing shit like the magician I am and was able to convince my parents to let me stay at their home. Shit is comfortable there, extended cable, broadband internet, pantries and fridges full of food, and all the conveniences of white suburbia heaven (or hell), but living with my parents makes it far from a picnic. Believe that.
Anyways, even though my Grandpa's home is only a few blocks from my parents house where I was living, weeks went by without me stopping by to visit in person. Maybe because of the hassels being on the bracelet creates (you have to get everything scheduled and approved ahead of time yadada), maybe because I just can't deal with shit and get along by telling myself "tomorow" "tomorow" "tomorow."
Maybe it was because I'm just a bad person.
I did end up stopping by with my father twice, for only a very short visit. I knew the suffuring he was in was incredibly painful. But it was something I was able to not get too tore up about. He got hooked up with a nurse who stops by daily, started taking his meals through a feeding tube, and breathing with the aid of a machine. All the standard things that come along with the progression of cancer. A few days ago he was moved to a nursing home.
But last night at around 4 in the morning, I had been awake surprisingly for about half an hour and was watching Big Love, an HBO crime drama much like the Sopranos, but with Polygamists and Mormons instead of Mafioso's, on my computer. A call came in, and the home phone started ringing in the kitchen. I normally never answer that phone, since I have my cell phone I never get calls on that number, but I looked at the clock and was surprised to see it was 4 in the morning. I went to pick it up and placed the receiver to my ear to hear a conversation already started. My mother was aparently also awake for some reason at this strange hour.
Here's where it fucked me up.
The nurse on the phone explained that my grandpa's oxygen levels had been fluxuating the past couple of days, and that he wasn't doing well. They said they had difficulty saying or doing anything to ease him.
Saying that he was fighting off sleeping against their advice, and that he knew he was in very rough shape, and that "he was afraid to go to sleep because he was afraid he wouldn't wake up."
He was afraid to go to sleep.
He was terrified.
That image of him coming out of the semi-sedated state of morphine and klonopin to that horrifying glare of reality, to "wake up" to a state of full conciousness at 3 in the morning in a nursing home bed. Alone. Looking around the room to see no one. Nothing to hear but the deafening silence of the institution cut with the piercing monotonous hums and beeps of health care equipment and monitors of all sorts. To hear the cadence of footsteps echoing through the halls as nurses make their rounds. Maybe even the incoherent rants of the patients who's demetia has advanced more severely. And the one's who think (or know) they're going to die. That's gotta be reassuring.
The call was very brief, they just basically told her that they were already giving him as much meds as they were allowed to and about him fighting sleep I didn't really need to hear much more details. I didn't really know what to say or do like usual, but that little detail the nurse gave over the phone just really painted a painful color of real and I wasn't able to put it on the shelf to deal with "later" like I usually do.
I didn't know what to do, I just kinda walked upstairs to my parents room and said "what the fuck" kinda and asked i dunno, i didn't have any good words. But basically my mom had to work that day and my dad had stuff too but they were going to go down there immediately of course. I was on the bracelet and not allowed to leave the house so they left without me. I fell asleep, and phoned about 2 hours later and asked how things were going,
"Is he even there?"
"About 60/40," my Dad replied.
I basically just told him "screw the bracelet" and that i thought i should come see him or, something. fuck i dunno!?
I did and it was an awful sight. His face wasted away, cheek bones popping out. Head hanging down virtually unresponsive, tubes and monitors of all sorts. His legs, swollen up like balloons. They were terrible. In a hospital gown and slippers. Every now and then his head would bounce up out of his nod (which it turned out was exactly what he was in) to meet my eyes with his. Wide and glassy. Painful. Old. Like someone who was about to die. I did get a great deal out of seeing that his pupils were small as pin-pricks. He acknowledged me, was able to bleat out little messages which the person closest to him was able to interpret in between popping that thick film that would appear in his mouth like a childs bubble-blowing wand dipped in the solution. The only thing i remembered him saying was a response my dad provoked in him about my hair (it's very long. about shoulder length. and my dad HATES it.) I couldn't really make out the words. But i could tell it was supposed to be funny. He always had that great old-people sense of humor. And no one loved laughing at his jokes more than himself.
I didn't stay long. And I'm not planning on going back. I just wish THAT I could be the one to dose his meds. Wtf do nurses know anyways. But it did dawn on me that when I heard that call, the only thing that went through my mind was my grandpa in that scenario i just described. No thoughts about expectations or responsibility. I didn't feel a "oh I should feel this." Or the "i have to do this now only a rotten person wouldn't" type of shit that clouds our true emotions. I didn't feel motivated by a sense of "Guilt" or "OBLIGATED LOVE" like my dad has for me (Bull shit love).
No the only thing I felt was unadulterated compassion for a human being who i knew was terrified and alone.
And tonight of my mother who must be roling around in bed upstairs.
That's hardly enough to convince myself of if I am really a good person or not.
But at least I know I still have a heart. Somewhere down under everything.
Thanks guys, God bless.