Grom Who

Grandmother: Grom.
Grom who.

Grom, who raised me up, who took me everywhere, who gave me everything.
Grom, who never judged, who loved.
Who scraped together—
   while I lived in vestibules and 24-hour
   laundromats and unlocked parked cars— a dollar a day:
   "Here, Get yourself a doughnut and some milk..."

Grom falls down.

"Hey Pa, you better get to the hospital quick."

Huh? What?

"Grom had a heart attack."


"It looks real bad."

What? What...

"They don't expect her..."


"They don't expect her to make it through..."



"...the night."


I am hysterical with laughter for the second call.
What the hell am I supposed to do, exactly, I am asking,
   begging my son for instruction.

I am asking my son because I am clueless, detached, stunned.
Stunned, detached, stunned, stunned.

At bedside.

Hands, wraps of glycerine parchment over grey glowing bone
Hands, in my hands,
 Arms battered,
 dark bruises and tracts of transgressions,
   the spike there, the nail here,
Crunch, stab, purple roses and garlands of black and blue, blooming

Everything is transparent.

Her hair is transparent, her arms are transparent, her skin is invisible

All say die. All say "she is going to die."

At bedside.

I hold her hand as she drifts toward me,
and away from me, and toward me again.
     Hello. Goodbye. Hello.

 The beautiful nonsense.
   "Oh, that's so pretty... bright blue, butterfly..."

The tubes and spikes, a heavy net holding her down,
The dried blood, the transparent tape, the ache visible and anointed,
 Bless you, your pain, your discomfort
 Your beautiful white hair

   "That's not the one, that's not right..."

I take the cool lotion and draw it slowly between the continents of tape,
   her skin parched and crackling like dried leaves,
I think her unconscious, but then:
   "Oh, that's so wonderful..."

The lips crack, the sponge dipped and dipped again

I look to the cousin I don't know, across the bed.
   "Amazing, isn't it?
   The body, under such duress...

     'Wait, whenever... Whenever, wait...'

   ...and the mind begins stringing these images,
   these pictures together, all these words that seem
   on the surface
   to be nonsense...
But all so personal, this poetry, this private art-film
   unfolding behind her eyes..."

 (A map of arcs describing the curve of her life)

     "We had the key wrapped, we were trying to turn it..."

 And the tales.

     "I was a lemon-eater. Do you know what that means?"

     "Jesus appeared to me, he put his hands on my side..."

     "I fell five times. In my life."

She will not make it through the night becomes
The first 24-48 hours are the most troublesome becomes
The doctor is amazed that she survived the explosion in her left ventricle becomes
She's not out of the woods
     the woods did you say the fucking woods the woods yet becomes
She'll require a pacemaker becomes
She's going to go home on Tuesday...

I begin by spending much of the first 48 hours
at bedside
waiting to be there
for the last
   gasps / moments / words / holy instruction
seeking revelation, both of us prepared
   (having spoken repeatedly)
To Go To Let Go To Stop To See
   "my husband... waiting..."

I end by spending the next few days afraid
that the legs will fail her that the dependence will be undeniable
that the spirit will ebb that the mind will not do
that the bright cackle of her laughter will be buried by pain
that she will


Without really stopping.

We have spoken repeatedly.

99.12.11 / R Lopez

the week that was

1999.12.29 - the family decides that my Grandmother will be packed up and sent
         to a nursing home.

1999.12.30 - my wife and I, after several hours of eye-to-eye and
         heart-to-heart, decide on ABSOLUTELYNOT.

1999.12.31 - having naively assumed that I might have a week or so to get
         everything ready, I receive a phone-call from the hospital
         saying that they are releasing her to our care in an hour.
         I beg the doctor for twenty-four.

2000.01.01 - a one-day frenzied version of the "week or so" of
         preparations, followed by her arrival early afternoon.

2000.01.02 - we acquire many new skills.

2000.01.03 - ditto.

2000.01.04 - ditto.

2000.01.05 - after beginning weak and worn but nonetheless PRESENT
         (which I require), she is suddenly confused: periodically not
         recognizing us, mixing words, wetting herself without
         realizing, and gently hallucinating.

2000.01.06 - ditto.

2000.01.07 - ditto. which makes me frustrated, angry and confused, because,
         dammitt, I need her to be PRESENT—all the while the doctors
         and nurses saying it may be the meds
         it may be the lack of nutrition
         it may be a series of micro-strokes.

2000.01.08 - the day begins nicely with renewed lucidity, the cackling
         laughter I so adore, an improved appetite, and an engaging
         disposition. while bringing her lunch at 1:34 p.m. the
         following differences are noted:

           a) face drooped.
           b) slumped badly in chair.
           c) utterly incoherent utterly.
           d) absent left side absent of strength not,
             I say, NOT PRESENT.

         I call the doctor. I call the nurse. I call 911.

         what we have here is a big angry macro-stroke.

         amazingly, when I arrive at hospital at 3:00 pm she is more
         lively than I have seen her since the mid-December heart attack.

         "She is a machine."

2000.01.09 - Lucille, Lucia, Dear Grom, Lucy Baby!
         (You crazy old bid)

         returns home to us to resume
         to resume the life-and-death watch.

         I have been absorbed, occupied, held fast by all of this—
         coming as it has with such rapidity such rapidity
         such a storm of new horizons.

         Forgive me. Yes.

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