The VA Dialogue
The day after my final grandfather died,
I was in Palo Alto, California, at the VA,
on a business meeting with a doctor in Pulmonary and
Critical Care. We were there to talk about his
upcoming 25th Reunion, not about how my grandfather,
born in Maine, who when I was in grade school
built things larger than himself, in the years before he
died, couldn’t walk three steps without a wheeze.
We talked about how the doctor was doubtful he’d be
able to attend his reunion next year, despite his volition,
but that he wanted to be involved in any way possible,
not about how we could not convince my grandfather
to put the tubes in his nose and not in his mouth.
And there we were, talking at a table amid
an assortment of wandering veterans
talking about college endowments,
and the role of philanthropy in a down economy, all the while,
me wanting to ask if he’d seen many shipyard electricians with
lung failure, or anyone working at a printing press in the 70s,
and how on earth you got them to listen to
any advice other than, ‘Take these pills.’
Do they just get tired of not dying? I almost asked.
In a manner of speaking, I suppose,
he, as a result, did not quite say.
And I imagine myself, as we walk towards the parking lot,
saying, not out of the blue, “He passed out on the toilet a lot;
and that is how he died,” and the doctor replying,
with his medical smile, “I’d love to have a look at that file.”