Passwords and Usernames – Big Bruiser Dope Boy

My grandma took care of my mom until a couple months before she died, when she was placed in an assisted living facility. They couldn’t handle her, so she was placed in a geriatric psych ward with 24/7 observation and aid. They were authorized to give her stronger drugs. My grandma lived through the Great Depression and was trained as a nurse. She felt guilt about handing her daughter over to the care of others.

I haven’t thought about what happened in the geriatric psych ward much. It was an austere, technological, grim, peaceful setting. Windows looked over trees and a lake, powerlines and industry. This place, the final physical station of people whose minds are being taken away from them. Plaque-thinned fat. It’s hard to pretend to know another’s perception, and impossible at the stage my mom was at. But there were things that indicated ideas. She rarely spoke. She said “no” a lot. We sat in front of the TV together. I ate food while melted ice cream was poured into her mouth because she couldn’t swallow anymore. She said “I love you” to both family and nurses, gave us hugs. I hugged the nurses, too. When my mom would cry and seem scared I would hug her. Sometimes she would push me and others away, struggle to break free. One time she was walking down the hallway with the nurses and I was walking toward her, and she saw me and started crying and held her arms out and I cried and held mine out and we embraced while the nurses cried. I’d sit next to her in bed. The nurses told me to take care of myself. I wasn’t sleeping hardly at all for weeks. People were worried about me. I would stay at my grandma’s at night because I didn’t want to be alone. I told my mom “I love you and whenever you want to go you can. I’m going to be okay, because you were a great mom and did a great job.” Her face relaxed and she smiled a bit. I wasn’t sure I’d be okay.

We’d walk in circuitous routes along the halls. I let her lead the way. She was in charge. That’s what the nurse said. I agreed. The nurse also said my mom was hallucinating the smell of smoke and saying “fire” in a panic. Reaching her hands into the space in front of her, manipulating invisible objects. Saying “I want to go home.” The nurse said home wasn’t a house, but eternity. None of us are home. Or we are but don’t know it yet, can’t until we leave the first and final human station. 

My friend drove out to be with me during what would be her last three days. He got into town earlier than I expected, while I was on a walk. He picked me up along the sidewalk in front of the cemetery and we proceeded to hang out and have a really good time. We ate the fantastic pot roast I made, which he watched me prepare in pornographic awe. We sat and talked about all kinds of things. I can’t even really say. We walked around town, played darts and pool at the bar. We laughed a lot. We visited some of my family. He gave my grandma a painting, a female nude that made her blush. We went to dinner with my aunt and uncle, who he loved. We went to an outdoor range. I remember feeling I’d be okay. We were cleaning the guns at my apartment and I got a call that my mom’s breathing had changed. She was close. My friend packed his things.

I drove to the hospital, about an hour away, and was greeted by my aunt and a nurse when the elevator doors opened and told my mom passed before I got there. They said it happened thirty minutes ago and there was no way I could’ve made it in time after getting the call. I went and spent time with the body, the eyes that looked at nothing, the hanging open mouth breathing nothing. She was home. I was not. Or I was but didn’t know it yet. Couldn’t until I left my first and final human station. I left the room so my grandma could be alone with her daughter. I stood outside the half-open door and heard her say “I’m not ready for you to go.”

We ate a meal at a bowling alley after. My grandma said “It’s been sixty-eight years of doing the wrong thing.” I didn’t have it in me to disagree with her, but next time I see her (it’s been a while), I want to tell her that when you’re helpless to awful things greater than yourself, which is almost everything, almost everything feels like the wrong thing. The Great Depression is over, but the Fate Discretion is yet to come. As it always will be. A lot of anything can happen in a couple months. I’m writing this by hand in a notebook my grandma had, to help remember things. It says “Passwords and Usernames” on the front cover in her handwriting.