Say “Uncle”

I don’t understand why they have to make hospital beds so big.

My Grandad is swallowed up in his, half sitting, half laying, wiggling his toes under the blanket like a little kid as the nurse asks him a series of questions about his health. In his whopping 61.7 kg state, he can in no way measure up to the body mass that the hospital bed wills him to be.

To be fair, it’s not actually a hospital bed… It’s a rehab bed. As if that’s any better. The last person I saw in a rehab bed died of neglect from the people “taking care” of her.

But Grandad just smiles, ready to be as pleasant as possible if that’ll get him home faster. “Are you feeling any pain?” the nurse asks. “Nope,” he says with a smile. “Feeling much better.”

I decide to be the narc. I lean over and whisper to the nurse, quiet enough that Grandad can’t hear me. “He was saying his feet hurt earlier.”

The nurse swivels her head to look at me, then swivels it back to Grandad. “Were your feet hurting you earlier?”

“Well,” he fumbles, caught in his lie (he gives another reassuring smile), “they’re sore, but that’s just from not using them.”

“Well, that’s the sort of thing I want to know about,” she says, nodding and making a note on her chart.

 I don’t blame him for trying to weasel his way out of rehab. He’s already been in the hospital for several days now; he just wants to go home. But to his credit, he was surprisingly quick to agree to it. As I said earlier, he’s been unusually pleasant… He quickly descended from his prior attitude last week — when the doctor asked him to stay overnight in the hospital so they could carry out the procedure the next morning, he got mad and left because he didn’t want to wait — to his consent to an extended stay while they fuss with his medicine. The time has finally come for Bill Boyne to say “uncle” and let the doctors do what they want to do.

Sometimes it’s good to be humble. Sometimes humility is forced on you. Either way, it’s better than winding up dead. This week has seen a lot of death for me: a neighbor died. A friend of the family who was basically an extra grandfather growing up died. A distant relative died. Each death could be seen for miles away: He was old. He had cancer. He was homeless and not taking care of himself.

I try to picture my Grandad being in my shoes, hearing about so many people passing away. Would it be easier to hear when you’re in your 80s? Some say you get used to it; it becomes monotonous. I say, it must be a wake up call every time. Remember death, friend? It’ll come back for you eventually.

Once you get a taste of death, it lingers. You’ll never not know that taste. And there are days that you will fret over the next time that it will reach your lips. But what good does worry do in this scenario? It removes you from the moment; it distracts you from making new memories because you so avidly hold on to the ones you have.

This is my struggle: I have no ability to move forward. In this instance, or in any other instance in my life, I cling to what is already established. I fear the great unknown. You’d think with all my improv lessons, I would have gotten it by now: the unknown is what’s so brilliant about the world around us. I even take pleasure in announcing my love for the unknown, but when it comes right down to the things I want to keep in my life — the people — it’s harder to accept that constant ebb and flow of reality (read: life).

Snap out of it, Sam! Life never presents itself in a palatable form; it offers up joy, but always hand in hand with worry, concern, fear, anger, sorrow. With a little humility, it becomes clear that this will never change. And so you have to say “uncle” and let life do what it’s come to do. It’s better than winding up dead.

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