My grandfather s in the hospital at the moment. The smell and brightness of the place is suffocating.
My aunt and uncle are there too and we haven’t caught up since Christmas. So we talk too loud and too cheerfully to drown out the sound of his broken breathing. He is weaker after an operation on Monday.
Later on the others have gone and the three of us can’t take our eyes off him. His lips seem to have retreated back into his face, only moving now and then to curl up with pain. He is swallowed up by the big wheelchair and I almost smile, he is wearing huge aviator sunglasses because the light hurts.
We are there for hours and hours and his body is perfectly still. His face is perfectly smooth and soft with hardly a wrinkle. We’re all staring and trying to remember when he was tall and tan and strong.
There is a long minute where he slowly raises his hand and point his finger to my sister and beckons her over. He puts his hand over hers and she squeezes it, he gives this sad little sound. We talk to our grandmother about work and swooping magpies and any old shit.
Then he points to me and my sis and I change places. His hand is like crepe paper. He hooks his fingers round my thumb like newborn babies do. Before the Parkinsons he was never a touchy kind of guy. I want him to know how much I care. I grip a little tighter. His hand trembles but he squeezes back.
A little while later we have to head back but we don’t want to say goodbye. We all kiss him then hug my grandmother so tight. It feels so strange, she never hugged back so hard before.
We don’t know what’s going to happen next, how long this will continue. No one wants to speculate or think about it. There’s a heavier feeling this time. We leave the ward but turn back and go hug and kiss them again.
Out in the car park Mum starts to cry a little. But soon we’re driving and somebody says something funny and we dive into that conversation and stop thinking for awhile.