The Watch: Based on a True Story
They say that the birthing process is something truly amazing, always calling it "The Miracle of Birth". Well, that's what my mom keeps saying after seeing my baby cousin born last month. In my eyes, it isn't exactly beautiful after seeing a close up of that area in a movie in health class. But when I really think about it now, it is kind of magical. Life is a gift. And when I look at the golden yellow watch on my wrist, I believe it even more.
My grandfather, God bless him, would've begged to differ. When I was born in '95, he went to the hospital while my mom was giving birth. Of course, when it's your favourite child slash only daughter giving birth to her first child-who just so happens to be you first grandchild-it's a big thing. So there he was, witnessing my birth. And it petrified him, seeing his daughter in pain. And, to boot, I had a big head and the cord 'round my neck. So, a C-Section was scheduled.
He never went to the hospital for my sister, brother, or cousin after that.
Growing up, I spent my summers with him and my grandmother. I was always excited when Vavo or Vovo would call, telling me they'd be going up to the trailer. I'd squeal, and be packed in under fifteen minutes. The endless days on the beach and the golf cart rides, the nights spent sleeping on the makeshift bed on the floor with my cousin, beside my grandfather's pull out bed, laughing when he'd fart and say it was the springs in the bed. Or, how he'd often talk about having just the right amount of "juice" in your swing to get that hole-in-one in mini golf. Every year, once I turned twelve, he'd ask the same thing-how old are you, how old are you going to be-and he'd tell me that the next year I'd be able to drive the golf cart. And the day, when I was nearing thirteen, when my Vovo thought I wouldn't want to come up to the trailer anymore, I reassured him-I'd never stop coming to the place I where was practically raised.
It all seemed perfect.
Like it'd never end.
But of course, life is a gift.
A gift that sadly, doesn't last forever.
I remember the cold November day like it was yesterday. I was getting ready for Confirmation that night- my hair was tightly curled, my dress laid out. But tragedy struck, and my Vovo was rushed to the hospital. His diabetes was out of control, and my mom rushed me over to see him that evening, just before I had to get ready. I hugged him, as he apologized for missing tonight. I looked at him, smiled, held back my tears.
"Don't worry Vovo, just get better soon."
I cried on the way out. My big, strong grandfather, biking in the morning and walking in the afternoon, so healthy and strong, in a hospital.
And I hoped and prayed that it wouldn't get worse.
But sometimes, fate isn't that fair. And after heart attacks and days in and out of the hospital, we found out he had cancer. It was a type of cancer called multiple myeloma, and from what I understood, it was in a late stage and didn't look too good. He was given three to five years.
Convinced he'd die that first year, he became very upset. He started to prepare. Gave my mom instructions, telling her to take care of Vavo, and watch out for my money hungry, greedy uncle. There was one day my mom and I went to go visit him. My mom and Vavo left the room, and I sat with my Vovo on his small hospital bed.
He grabbed my hand and just held it. And then he went to his wrist and took off his watch. Golden yellow in colour, it was a much worn watch. A square face ticked away merrily, telling the time, day, and date. The elastic band was worn out, silver in places where they golden yellow had been scratched off. He always wore it; I had often asked him for the time. He'd show me the watch, tell me to guess, and I'd sit there forever, trying to guess the time.
"Here, Danyela," he said, turning the "I" into a long "y" and drawing out the "a", like all my older Portuguese relatives, "Take this, something for you to remember me by."
He slid the watch over my wrist, and I held back tears. "Vovo, no, don't-don't think like that. You'll be out of here in no time!" I hugged him, and he patted my back. I felt his chest shaking with sobs. No, don't cry, then I'll cry, I kept thinking. My Vavo and mom came back in the room, and as they fussed over Vovo, I looked at my wrist. The watch slid down to my elbow.
The watch was what convinced me that somehow, I had managed to become his favourite grandkid.
When we left, my mom looked at me.
"What did your Vovo tell you while we were outside?" She asked, curiously.
I pulled the too big watch out of my pocket. "He gave me his watch."
We got home that evening, and my mom told me to put on the watch. I slipped it back onto my arm, and once more, it feel down to my elbow.
"We'll have to get it adjusted; we'll take your Vavo to Sears with us sometime soon," she murmured. I remember that my Vavo had known he gave me the watch already. I looked at its worn surface, and breathed in deeply. My dad looked up from where he was working in the kitchen.
"You know you're his favourite, right?" he said.
"Yeah," I replied.
I went up to my room, and grabbed my little pink jewellery box. Inside it, I had a few mementos that I had picked up over the years, along with my poppy. I put the watch in there.
I didn't really remember it afterwards. That phrase, out of sight, out of mind, is actually very accurate. Every so often, Vovo would mention that I didn't have it on. "It needs to be resized," I'd say. "It's too big for me!" Occasionally, I'd open up the box and notice it, still ticking away, not a care in the world.
I wish I could say the same for myself.
Once I got into high school, my family life went from the picture perfect life to a flat out war on both sides overnight. My uncle on my dad's side was getting married, and his sisters and mother were giving him a hard time. We tried to host a wedding shower, only to have it destroyed by my stuck up aunt on my mother's side, which triggered the aunts on my dad's side to act. It got to a point where he moved out of their house and lived with us until the wedding.
Meanwhile, my Vovo was worsening. Despite his strong will (I remember when we put up the tree, he'd always ask us why we made him put up the star), the three years were almost up, and he knew it. Christmas day came in 2010, and in the evening-after getting yelled at by my mother for going downtown to see my dad's side, despite all the crap they caused-he was bawling his eyes out at home, watching the videos from his trips to Portugal with my Vavo.
And we all figured it without saying it out loud-he wouldn't be with us next Christmas.
For a little while, things looked okay for him. But in the beginning of March break in 2011, he was brought back into the hospital. His bowels were failing, he was throwing up blood, and there was something wrong with his kidneys. When my mom rushed out the door, my siblings decided not to fight. My dad gave us leeway-he let us stay up late and stay on electronics for a longer time. But I couldn't concentrate, couldn't do anything else. For three long years, I had to guess at what was wrong with Vovo. Uncle Jerk Face, as I do enjoy calling him secretly, never gave us a full report. It bothered my dad to no end-I knew he cared more for Vovo more than Vovo's own son. I figured he'd have asked the doctors what was happening. So, I went downstairs, and sat right beside him and asked all my questions.
My dad sighed, and thought for a moment. Then, he looked at me, and he explained.
"Well, for starters, your grandfather has cancer," he stated.
"Yeah, I know. But what kind? How long does he have? How does this cancer he has work? What stage was it in?"
My dad Googled the type of cancer, and explained to me that, in non doctor terms, it was a kind of bone cancer that ate away at your insides, and caused you to throw up blood, among other symptoms that I much rather not attempt to describe. I looked at my dad, when it hit me-
"He's not coming back this time."
A nod. A nod that changed everything.
From March to April, his condition seemed to become slightly better. But he wasn't able to leave. Doctors gave him three months, and from hospital room to hospital room he went, good days and bad days. He had been reduced to such a week state, and then brought to a better state. And the roller coaster ride continued with much vigour. Then, the dreadful news came.
"The doctor wants to arrange a meeting with us," my mom said one day in mid March.
I should've seen it. The doctor would probably want to discuss care and how much longer he had left, and finally give us a full report. When she came back that evening, she told us that he only had two weeks left, and the doctor was discussing putting Vovo in a nursing home. I was shocked. They couldn't do that, nursing homes are horrible. And then it hit me. In two weeks, I was going to Chicago with the school.
I brought my concern to my parents, and told them how I was worried that he'd pass while I was away. I wanted to be at his funeral, when the time came, and I told them. My parents said I should still go on my trip, and that if it did happen, they'd wait for me. He'd probably want that anyway. Even my stuck-up Uncle and Aunt both agreed to waiting if it did happen, and they said I should go on my trip and enjoy myself. And so, I did.
When I came back from Chicago, he was still alive. According to my mom, he missed me very much. The next day we went to visit him. He was having a good day-alert and awake, he wanted to hear all about my trip. "Tell me about what's going on outside this place," he said, his voice weak, his hand grabbing mine oh so tight. And so, I did. It was my gift to him. I painted the images of the radically different buildings in his head, told him all about the history, the beautiful architecture, the church we went to with the amazing ceiling, the lake ways and water fronts, the mob history...He was so happy to hear all about it, and see me.
That conversation is so clear in my head.
Because it's the last full conversation I ever had with him.
He got worse, after that. He wasn't coherent, if that's the proper word. He couldn't talk, he could barley move. He was moved to a nursing home, despite what we thought. But when Uncle Jerk Face wants something, he gets it, even if that means convincing Vavo otherwise-although, he's good at that, since she listens to her precious son. I hated seeing him there, a wonderful man, who went from being so strong, so healthy and fit, never sick, to so weak, so frail, barely moving or talking.
I saw him a few more times before he hit the worst part of his illness. I remember how he'd sit on his bed weakly, and I'd sit beside him. He'd reach over and hug me, hold my hand, not being able to speak. But I was so afraid he'd break if I touched him...
This part, he'd probably yell at me for writing. But I've already started, and I can't just stop, no matter how much I love him. He got to a point, in late May, where he couldn't eat or drink or move. He was a skeleton, and wasn't there, emotionally. He was far gone, I think, into the borderline of another realm. His eyes were foggy. Three days before he passed, I went to visit him with my dad. We walked in, and sat at his side. I was so sad, seeing him there, trying to stretch, his hand hitting the wall repeatedly, a purple bruise forming. My dad and I left later, and I went up to his bedside and said, "Goodbye Vovo. I love you." He couldn't respond, but he looked at my dad and me.
"Hug him," my dad urged. But I couldn't, he was so fragile looking. I looked at my dad, and I guess he knew what I felt. We walked through the hallways and I turned to my dad, and I asked him, "Daddy, why isn't God calling Vovo home?"
You may laugh at how childish it seems, or how mean it is. Aren't you happy he's still around? Why would you ever say that? Yeah, I know, and you're right. But I loved him, and I just wanted his pain and suffering to stop.
My dad brought up this old belief that people don't pass away until they've seen everyone that they need to see. He said that maybe there was someone he needed to see one last time before he could move on. I told him, that maybe, we could find this person, and then he could finally rest. But my dad said it could be anyone. It could've even been us. I sipped my chocolate milk as we sat there in Tim Horton's, knowing it wouldn't be too long.
I was right. I woke up on Tuesday that week in June, after a particularly bad nightmare where every one of my grandparents was dying, but not really being dead. The house was still and silent and the sounds of my dad getting ready for work weren't ringing through the house, as usual. I got up to get my uniform, when my dad entered my room, in his pyjamas. And he told me right there that my Vovo had passed away.
I went to my parent's room and hugged my mom for a while, silently crying. I had just seen him two days ago. It's amazing, really, how everything crashes down on you-I thought that I wouldn't have any regrets when he passed on, but I did. I kept wishing I had hugged him that one last time, thinking of the golf cart, how I wish that they hadn't sold the trailer, how he'd never see me turn 16, graduate, learn to drive...
I went to school that day to arrange for my absence for the next three days. My friends swarmed towards me and gave me soo much support. But I went through the day numb, and mindlessly. I guess I had accepted it, maybe. Or maybe I needed to stay strong throughout the school day, to reassure my friends. I didn't speak of it much, only when friends asked questions. When I look back at it now, I guess I seemed like a zombie and that they must have been concerned since my usually bubbly, happy self was missing. My French teacher was supper supportive, dedicating a prayer to him and talking to me for a good fifteen minutes.
The next two days were a blur of tears, hugs from various people I knew, were related to, or had never met in my life. Laughter joined the tears, but I couldn't stop myself from balling every ten minutes.
And on the day of the burial, I grabbed my pink jewellery box, looking for my earrings, when I noticed the faded yellow gold band and the watch-inside the box for three years-still ticking away. I sat on my bed, on that particularly chilly June day, and stared at the watch.
"Here Danyela, something to remember me by..."
A tear ran down my face, splashing on my pants.
I slid the watch on.
It slid down to just below my wrist.
Not a day goes by where I don't wear it.
It's grown to mean so much to me, that I feel practically naked without it. When I look at it, I'm reminded of my grandfather, and how he was in the past-how he'd want us to remember him. It still upsets me, knowing he's gone-I just wish I could've hugged him, one last time. But when I look at the watch on my wrist, its faded band and square face, still ticking away half a year later, I smile.
When I have kids of my own, I'll pass it down, and tell them about my amazing grandfather, and how he gave me that watch. How it'll represent strength, and faith-and most importantly, how it will always have that one important message.
Life is a gift.
And don't ever forget that.
A/N: So, I come onto FictionPress today after a long absence to see if things aren't firetruck-ed up anymore, and they weren't. So I'm back! This piece was much different than what I usually write, and yes, it is based on a true story. excuse my Portuguese spelling, I was never actually really good at it anyway xD
Anyway, expect updates spariodically (sp?) this week! Leave me feedback, I always enjoy hearing from people! :D