Why was I crying?
One of his arms is bruised an ugly purple.
His chest rises and falls with each breath, but the air never passes his lips. Instead, it enters his body through the tube penetrating his throat. Saliva gathers at the corner of his mouth.
His bright blue eyes are closed now. He doesn’t see me.
I wonder what he does see, though. Perhaps, behind those closed eyelids, he sees a glimpse of the gates leading to the Heavenly Tribunal, the hinges squeaking as the doors begin to swing outward.
My grandfather is dying.
It seems so ironic, seeing him now. He was always so charismatic, always a charmer; we used to joke about how, every time you started a conversation with him, you came to regret it. He had thousands of stories up his sleeve, each one more outlandish than the next.
Now we speak to him. Or try, anyway.
We talk ourselves hoarse, asking him how he feels and whether the blankets are too thick. We introduce ourselves every time we show up and tell him exactly what the nurse will do as soon as she comes in.
He doesn’t hear us, though.
Sometimes, his eyes open, and my grandmother leaps to her feet and starts babbling away to him, merrier than any stream.
He watches her for a few moments, as though she’s a mildly interesting insect, and then closes his vivid blue eyes again.
His eyes were always so bright.
My siblings and I used to look at ourselves in the mirror, widen our eyes, and compete for the role of having “Zeidy’s eyes.”
Those same eyes are now blank with incomprehension.
When I watch him, I sometimes imagine that I can see his soul battering again the feeble case that is his body, sensing that its time to ascend is drawing near. That’s when my eyes start watering and my nose turns a deep pink.
But I don’t let them see me cry.
I don’t cry. Or at least, I shouldn’t.
But, here I am, leaning against the cold bathroom wall while nurses bustle past the locked door, chatting and laughing as though they hadn’t a care in the world.
And tears are streaming down my face.
There’s nothing to cry about, I think. He’s leaving to a better place, where he’ll be a whole lot happier than any of us.
But the tears still spring to my eyes and streak my mascara down my face, and I don’t know why. I can’t understand why I’m crying when I know there’s no reason for me to. After all, we were never close, never shared any special bond. And it would be for his good. I know all that.
But I’m still crying.
I’m beginning to realize, though, that I’m not crying for him.
I’m crying for myself.
I’m crying for the loss of life, the terrible passing of an opportunity to accomplish. Once you die, it’s over. There’s nothing left to do, nothing more to say or give. Everything is gone, and it will never come back.
I’m crying for eighteen years of unfulfilled promises to myself, G-d, and everyone else. Eighteen years of hours spent staring at a brightly lit screen or talking, talking, talking about everything and nothing at the same time. Eighteen years of thinking and feeling and dreaming big, massive, ginormous dreams and never, ever doing a darn thing about any of it.
I’m crying for the old, white-haired woman who, if I’m lucky, will be me; I see her as I see him, hooked up to countless tubes and beeping machines, waiting for the inevitable, for the choices and chances and opportunities to pass away forever.
I’m not crying for him.
I’m crying for me.
But then I wipe away my tears and step out of the bathroom. I walk home quickly, my eyes dry, my jaw set. My mother glances at my red eyes and pink nose worriedly.
She needn’t worry. I won’t cry anymore.
Crying for myself means that I accept the fact that I’ll die without having accomplished a single thing I’ve promised I would, without having fulfilled a single dream I’ve ever had.
But I don’t accept it at all.
I will not accept that reality. I will dream and think and feel and, above all, do until the very breath leaves my body and my soul steps through the gates of Heaven to face its judgment.
I won’t go down without a fight.
And all the way home, not one tear escapes my not-so-bright blue eyes.
I’m not crying for him.
And I refuse to cry for myself.