"Ready to play?"
An IM from Elysium flashes on my screen. I'm still collecting myself so I tell him I need five minutes. I go to the bathroom and splash water on my face, staring into the mirror for a moment to examine my puffy, bloodshot eyes. I towel off, Karla is standing in the doorway looking concerned. "You doing OK?"
I kiss her on the forehead, the perfect place for my lips since I'm taller than her and my beard is a bit scratchy. "I'm going to go play some damn StarCraft II. I'm done with this for now." I move past her and slide back into my office and the comfy embrace of my computer chair. I slip my headset on and pop into Ventrillo. Elysium is already waiting for me and I know more friends are on the way.
I ease into the conversation and let myself forget that less than two hours ago I was sitting in my bedroom sobbing.
My brother Jason called first thing that morning to let me know that our grandmother was found wandering through her house at night with all the lights on, totally delirious and detached from reality. Even though she's in her 90's, she's always been sharp as a tack and immune to the usual mental rigors of aging. Knowing she's like this, it's like God suddenly reached down and flipped off her light switch, leaving her in the dark. My aunt is a nurse and she works nights. She found my grandmother talking to herself at 3AM and rushed her to straight the hospital. By the time we found out what was going on, they had been in the waiting room for five hours.
Jason is a stay at home dad these days, so he arranged a babysitter and rushed over to help out. I told him to call me when he knew more and let me know how things were going. I hung up the phone and stared at it, a mad desire to run off to the hospital clashed with a list of work appointments and responsibilities already starting to lean into my day. What could I do? I went to work.
The day sped by as I threw myself into my to-do list and tried to ignore the aching feeling gnawing at my guts. I filled my spare moments with Twitter, the forums, anything I could do to keep my mind occupied. The day was a blur. I stumbled home and collapsed on the couch, waiting to find out where she was and how things were going.
The phone rang. Jason again. They had her in the emergency care area now. Half the time she thinks she's at home in a place she hasn't lived in 15 years. She's seeing things no one else sees. She's trying to leave, they have to restrain her. My heart breaks a little more with every detail, I barely keep it together as we say our goodbyes.
I tell Karla what's going on and beat a hasty retreat to my little meditation corner in our bedroom. I sit down and lean my head against the wall, trying to convince myself I'd made peace with this, that I knew she couldn't last forever and something was bound to give. She's bounced back from dislocated shoulders, blackouts and breast cancer with a smile on her face and a great deal of faith and love in her heart. She's the spiritual matriarch of our family. She's already seen two of her own children, countless relatives and her husband die during her long life. Her faith has never wavered. She says she prays for me every night, no matter what. I believe her.
And now she's lost herself, and it's too soon to tell if she's going to come back.
Everything I'd suppressed in the stress of the day comes rushing back and I can't fight it any longer. Great, sobbing gasps escape my lips as I double over. Karla knocks on the door, asking me if I'm alright. "Not really," I manage. She rushes in and we talk, I unload everything and she listens. The resounding thought in my head is an endless litany. "Not like this, not like this. She doesn't deserve it"
I gather myself and visit her at the hospital, hoping she's already sleeping. She's not, of course. She's mistaking men in other hospital beds for relatives long since dead. She's lucid sometimes, her speech slipping into Dutch more often because she can't find the words she needs to express in English. She knows who I am and in a moment when she knows she's in the hospital and she knows she's not seeing things clearly, she tells me not to be afraid and that everything is going to be alright.
I help her to the bathroom. She smiles and waves at people as we shuffle down the hall, her IV trailing behind her. She hugs her nurse. It's comforting for me, because this has always been as natural to her as breathing. Her nature is love and kindness, even lost in the forest of her own mind; she still finds that in herself and offers it freely to everyone.
I know she'll never sleep while I'm there, she's always too eager to put on a brave face and make sure I'm doing alright and telling me stories. I get up to leave, kiss her wrinkled forehead and tell her it's time to sleep. She nods and lies down.
I get home and check my computer after catching up with Karla. An IM from Elysium is on my screen, asking me if I'm up for a game. I surprise myself and say that I am.
Now that I'd done everything I could, there was nothing left to do but wait and find some measure of comfort in build orders and bad jokes. I don't say a word about it to my friends as we play -- what I need most of all is something normal and predictable. I need to be grounded and getting my ass kicked in StarCraft II while sharing some laughs is a sure way to get there.
Tomorrow is another day.