When I was in fifth grade, about four years ago, I had just arrived at swim practice with my dad. There we received a call from my mother telling us that my grandpa had suffered a heart attack, died, had been brought back to life, and was now stabilized on a ventilator in Ohio. This was not surprising news, considering he had undergone a triple bypass surgery years before. My dad and I drove home, packed, and made our way to Ohio with our family. It was not until the very moment I walked into his hospital room, seeing his unconscious body on the gurney with all different sorts of contraptions keeping him “alive,” that I realized I loved him. Abiding by his wishes, we took him off of the machines.
Before this time, I had convinced myself that I did not love him for reasons I do not even know. He was not your average grandpa. For as long as I can remember Grandpa sat in his ancient chair with only his boxers to clothe him, his glass eye, and his dentures (if we were lucky) ten feet away from the television, continuingly threatening me with his yardstick if I did not move from his viewing. I knew exactly where to stand to be out of his reach if he was ever going to get up from his chair, walk the three feet to the closet and bring the threatening object to me. My grandpa made crude jokes, was slightly racist, lazy, and definitely never won father-of-the-year. I don’t know a crevice in the house he did not hide a gun. Besides all of that, he loved his family, and somewhere deep inside of me I knew I loved him too, but I tried to suppress it.
On the eight-hour drive to Ohio, I thought to myself how could I love a man who I only saw for about ten days a year? As we pulled into the hospital parking lot and made our way to his room, the thoughts I had been suppressing for eleven years had finally caught up with me. As Sarah said in the Death Cab for Cutie Song “What Sarah Said,” love is watching someone die.
One never knows how much they love a person until you realize the little caramel candies he has on the table, the inappropriate picture he kept on the refrigerator behind the calendar, the disgusting chocolate covered marshmallows you fed to your dog that he sent you for Easter, the threat of the yardstick, or the constant offers to cut your hair are gone. Whoever Sarah was or is, she is right. You never know how much you love someone until you watch them die.