Just two days ago, I was out looking for a dress to wear to a wedding. Instead, I am looking for clothes to wear to my grandfather’s funeral.

It still looks weird, even when I type it. I keep thinking that if I say it enough times, I might believe it.

Mom jolted me out of bed today — I took half a bottle of sleeping pills because I cannot shut off my mind. And it seemed so impossible that only 24 hours earlier she was calling with the news that rocked my world straight off its axis.

The VA Hospital, even in death, is a clusterfuck. I am starting to accept the fact that my grandfather walked in there, unassisted, a month ago just to get his fucking meds adjusted. That was all, no more and no less. And today, Mom is pressing the suit in which he will be buried.

Makes you want to crawl right in the coffin yourself.

He’ll wear a Western shirt with his suit. That was him — a country singer/guitar player. Always with the shiny cowboy boots, bolo ties and just plain air of sweetness to him. Always a class act.

When he got checked into Presbyterian Hospital for three glorious days, I remember fighting tooth and nail with my mom, telling her to never, ever let the VA take him back. EVER. He had a real chance at Presby, and he knew it. He was eating and chatting and flirting and was downright jovial. He wanted nothing more than to get back to his pretty house and sit on the porch with a cigarette and feed his birds. He was so hopeful, so sure that he was finally in good hands.

The fucking VA took him back — literally, in the back of a jitney — because that’s what they do. They don’t want to treat you, but god forbid you get a taste of real care at a superb private hospital. I had a PCP over at Presby’s sister hospital, Montefiore, and I was trying to figure out how to get him assigned to her or someone in her unit so he wouldn’t have to go back to that rathole. But the thing is? You can’t work fast enough — stupidity outnumbers you.

I remember Mom telling the fabulous docs/nurses at Presby that it would take the VA Hospital one night to undo everything they did to make him better.

She was right.

If I haven’t said “That Poor Little Man” a million times yet, then I’m only four times shy of it. *sigh*

Mom’s been asking when I’m coming back to Pittsburgh and I’ll admit, I don’t want to go back to that empty house, that I’m only going to have to empty out in the next few weeks. Nothing’s paid off — the furniture, the car, the bills. We’re not even sure that the insurance policy has any value (although lord knows they paid MetLife out the ass every month, but recently they stopped because the bills just kept coming and the threats from MetLife kept coming that the policy was worthless if they didn’t find a way to shovel out $400 a month every month. Jesus. If we’d just saved that money over the years, we could have paid cash for this).

I give Mom a lot of credit. She decorated the house and loved it and lived — truly lived — in it. I’ve had my place since April and boxes are still everywhere. Although, admittedly, something has kept me from unpacking. I don’t know what, but at a moment like this, I’m almost glad that my life has had so little fuss about it.

I almost think I should move to Pittsburgh to let her keep the house, but my job is here. I have little else tying me to the area, but I feel like I’d regret leaving my new city for my old one.

What a mess.

Well, I’ll tell you the real mess. It’s that the incompetent twats over at the VA Hospital are just as incompetent when it comes to performing autopsies as they are at taking care of their live patients.

OK, so when you request an autopsy to be done, do they not just — oh, I don’t know — DO it?

Does it require 20 phone calls?

Does it require that horsefaced cunt of a doctor (Trang. Jesus Christ I hate that woman) calling my mom to first tell her that she’s not sure why Mom (allegedly) said to not autopsy his head.

HELLO? She never told them not to — and who the fuck would think to ASK that?

Another call came to say that the funeral director had picked up the body (gah) and that they didn’t have time to autopsy his head.

HELLO? The funeral director is a family friend, you fuckheads. And he wasn’t there — he was on the phone with Mom at the time and he was going to call when he was on his way to University Drive. JESUS.

A few more calls came, exhibiting the incompetence that the VA Hospital is known for. You know, we’re supposed to be fucking GRIEVING around here — is it really necessary to outline your stupidity step-by-step? Haven’t you hurt that poor little man enough — in death, can you at least give him some dignity? And maybe for once, respect the family for five fucking seconds?

I cried all day yesterday and moved furniture around. There’s room in my bedroom now for an extra bed, and I cleaned out a whole closet for Mom. (I love this place because of its closet space, I swear.)

I appreciate everyone’s calls and e-mails. I was in a heaving, wracking pile of goo every time the phone rang, so I spared everyone. I tend to run from death, when it happens to others. I don’t know what to say and I know it’s not going to be anything intelligent, so I steer clear. And now that it’s me, I don’t know what to say because I waver between “blubbering mess” and “so angry I could punch whatever’s closest.”

I wandered into work last night because I needed a hug (and got one — thanks D!). I also needed to do some stuff, because I’ve been dumping enough crap on people lately (actually, I love everyone for volunteering). One of the evening’s highlights was when one of my buddies and I started drop-kicking some plastic pumpkins and played pumpkin soccer down the longest hallway in the office. Then we jumped up and down on them and smashed their little styrofoam brains out. God, that was cathartic. Squashicide — the best distraction from grief ever!

My cousin told her son that because my grandfather is a veteran, we’re going to have a military funeral. Um, not really. The only ritual I will permit is a 21-gun-salute, only with the VA doctors lined up execution-style and the guns pointed right at their heads! (Again, I believe I’d see styrofoam brains come out!)

The thing I want to get from the autopsy is the real cause of the pain. The man’s always had back pain — he was a paratrooper and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, among others. He has an unsolid back fusion from two surgeries that didn’t take, not to mention the aches and creaks from old age in general. His nurse, whom my mom loved and whom I thought was an asshole, yelled at him the last night he was alive — she thought he was faking the pain and she told him, “I don’t like you anymore.” Whereupon he started to cry.

That’s something that’s always bothered him — he never shared his pain, the true extent of it, because a) the man’s got his dignity and b) he never thought people would believe things were as bad as he said. He’s always turned to me to say that I’m the only one who ever believed him. Of course I did — why do you think I fought so hard for him? Because he would have done it for me in a heartbeat; it was the least I could do to be his advocate.

When I called the nurses’ station yesterday to inquire about him (Mom just wanted them to make sure we could get his teeth — they talked over her like they always do when she asked), it was 7 a.m. I know the shifts change over at that time, but when I called to ask to speak with a doctor, I was told the doctor wasn’t there. And I said, fine, I’m inquiring about my grandfather Calvin. The nurse snapped, “Well, this really isn’t a good time.”


Yeah, because I was having the time of my own life, you whore. JESUS CHRIST. It wasn’t a good time for him to die, either, you goddamned cuntrag. I guess it inconvenienced your team to work on him too, huh?!?!


I could go on and on (and on), but at this point, I need to go scrub my butt and be a good daughter and get my ass out of Dodge.

I don’t know how my Mom is going to survive this — she did everything to give my grandfather a good life. Both of them are very much about the little things — filmy, pretty curtains; adorable little accent tables, rugs and lamps; mobiles and tastefully cute decorations, with a different theme in every room; decorating the front and side windows for every holiday. Everything is “just so.” He loved it that way.

He loved her cooking (and who could blame him?) and complimented her a million times a day. He told us he loved us every opportunity he had, even if we were just running out to the store or going into the basement to wash a load of clothes. He always said, “My babies!” when we would come home to him.

My own father, I’d tap-dance on his grave. I’d take the bereavement leave simply to ensure that I could properly celebrate his passing. But my grandfather? Was, for all intents and purposes, my dad.

They say girls want to marry someone who reminds them of her dad. And I tell you, the guys who have some of my grandfather’s qualities are the ones who catch my attention. I met someone awhile back and remembered thinking, “My grandfather would approve.”

And now we’ll never know.

Someone told me yesterday that I’m a good person, I guess for whatever she saw me doing or the things I’m thinking. I don’t know. I wasn’t really feeling it at the time. But the only saving grace to all of this, as if there could actually be any, is that my grandparents may be gone and the family line stops here with my Mom and me, but they raised us right. They gave us everything they could and taught us to be the kind of people they were.

That’s all they left to us, and that’s what we’ll carry with us forever, as proof that they were once here and the world was once right.

4 Responses to Squashicide

  1. Ted :

    Dawn, I’m so sorry to hear about your Grandfather. Please accept our condolences.

  2. Evil Genius :

    Oh honey, I just got here and saw your news. I’m so, so sorry. I’m sending you a gazillion cyberhugs, for what little that is worth. I wish I could do more. Please take care of yourself right now, okay? I’m thinking about you!

  3. Pratt :

    if there was one certainty I knew about you since i met you a few years ago and reading your writings,it was how much your wonderful grandfather meant to you. I am so sorry to hear about his death. Please accept my deepest sympathies. He must have loved you very much and as with special grandparents that i have had, you shall keep the fond memories you shared with him in a special place in your heart for the rest of your life.Sorry I’m not there to give you a good hug.

  4. Amy :

    Dawn, I’m so very sorry. I know how much he meant to you and I know how much you meant to him. Fucking VA.

    Echoing Pratt, wish I was there to give you a hug and cry with you.