Here’s another excerpt from my ongoing work in progress about my aging grandfather. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to share their experiences and well wishes. You helped me feel less lonely, and that’s a great gift. For the first excerpt, click here.
I take him to doctors appointments and throw away medicine he shouldn’t be taking. I hold his hand during echocardiograms and translate his pulmonologist’s directions to breathe, stop breathing, hold, inhale sharply. He tries hard, and his Santa Claus belly expands and contracts. When he’s done, he shakes a little, but still rejects my hand when he gets off the exam table with difficulty. He always rejects my hand, getting out of the car, stepping off the curb, getting up from a deep couch. He’s a man, and he’s got it.
I take him to get his pacemaker checked and lose him in Beverly Hills. After parking in an underground lot and leaving him by the entrance, I emerge to find him gone. I run around, ducking into buildings, talking to receptionists, doormen, salespeople. I peer into the faces of Asian tourists, Mexican valets, white businessmen waiting for their cars by the round tables covered by blinding white tablecloths. Everything about the street I’m on screams wealth, opulence, health, youth, optimism, and nothing about it screams ‘lost old Russian man’ so I start feeling like what’s happening to me is a not real, but a movie with predetermined plot points.
As if on cue, it begins to rain. My running around block after block seems absurd and futile; I know he can’t walk too far with a cane, at his pace, but reason stops being reassuring when I don’t see him anywhere. I imagine him dodging the rain in a random jewelry store, or inside a fancy car dealership, drawn in by the cars. The options multiply in my head like mosquitos in twilight hour. Inside the medical building we’re supposed to end up in I describe the captain’s hat he’s wearing to two adorable and sympathetic receptionists, and they promise to keep an eye out. I run back into the street, burst into a bistro, almost knocking over the crisp waiter in a black vest, and stop dead in front of a yellow Lamborghini, so impossibly yellow in the colorless wet LA afternoon it shocks me out of my panicked trotting. I remember that my grandfather sometimes has his cell phone on him. I call his cell phone over and over with no result as the wet wind whips my hair in my face and I start to freak out. I run back into the medical building and the sympathetic receptionists frantically wave their hands at me.
“We think he just went up!”
I yelp with excitement as they keep talking.
“Very tall, with a camel coat?”
My heart falls.
“No, he’s short, shorter than me, in a blue jacket. Thank you so much though!”
I run back outside and start talking to myself as I peer into restaurants and fancy jewelry stores. Where could he possibly be and how could I possibly lose an adult person? I call my aunt and tell her the situation in a panicked voice. “Calm down,” she says. “Try walking in the opposite direction from where you would think he would go. I’m gonna call him right now.” This is the dumbest advice I’ve ever heard, I think as I take it, running. I finally see him, on a corner, opposite direction from where I thought he would be, slowly opening his ringing cell phone. I scream “Dedushka!” and sprint to him, grabbing him hard. I’m so relieved and so angry. He looks up, his big ears sticking out of his child’s face, under a captain’s hat, his eyes large and questioning.
“Where did you go, I told you to wait right there!” I can’t help exploding. “Let’s go, we’re already late.”
I offer my arm, expecting him to reject it like he always does, but he grabs it tight, and leans on me the entire way as we slowly walk to the doctor’s office. I don’t know if it’s because he’s scared or tired but my eyes well up.
When we walk into the doctor’s building, the receptionists scream and clap their hands as I dramatically gesture to him, like Vanna White, and we all laugh. He looks at me with a raised eyebrow, confused. “They’re just happy I found you,” I say.
“Oh, I’m used to women clapping when I enter a room,” he deadpans. He’s hilarious and infuriating and I love him so much I could choke him to death with my bare hands.