I have a family member with cancer. Being jobless and available, it makes sense that I'd be the one to provide daytime support and care.
My grandfather, the beloved patriarch of our close Irish Catholic family, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. He had surgery last week, and came home from the hospital Monday.
I am struck with how closely it resembles infant care. He wakes up, needs to pee, needs to eat, needs to be kept up and somewhat active for some time, and then is settled back into bed, and then I do the other things that need to be done: dishes, laundry, dusting, mopping. And then he wakes up and the cycle starts again.
My days are infused with the mingling scents of Pledge and urine. My thoughts linger on mortality and meaning, on endings, beginnings, and the space between the two.
I take copious notes. I ferret through the rich family history of his house. I look away as I help him pull up his pants. I balance his dignity and his needs. I feel so grateful that I can be of service to him in such a time.
He brought us all into the world, he made my crazy-sweet-beautiful family happen. He is peaceful, sweet, compliant in my hands. I give him the tenderest care that I can: his skin is itchy and dry so I rub the lotion in. He is hungry, and I feed him. He is tired, and I settle him into bed.
It is only fitting that the way we go out of the world is the way we come into it: with our loved ones taking care of our most basic needs. I am honored and humbled to be in the position to provide this care.
This is what life is about: taking care of the people you love. That is the only meaning that makes any sense to me.