Bending red tubes sprouted from Grandpa’s neck like licorice. Black, white, and brown wires rand from electrodes on his chest. He fumbled with the March 26th, 2014 edition of the New York Times, falling in and out of sleep between telling me I didn’t seem very informed about career options.
The bright green Beverly Hills out the window contrasted with the hard, white linoleum floor inside Cedars-Sinai hospital. The walls were mounted with illuminated blue panels illustrated with rows of twigs in silhouette. Televisions on extending arms 10 feet long loomed over deathbeds that dotted the perimeter of the room like giant alien eggs. The T.V.’s made noise. The dialysis boxes whirred.
My grandpa’s stood at his bedside. His blood ran through a synthetic kidney that looked like a purple jellyfish in a tube and span like film reels in two vials on the face of the machine—one with dirty blood, the other clean and ready to return to his neck. All the blood looked the same.
Our nephrologist, Dr. Cheng, parted the wandering nurses, donning one of their yellow smocks, and was among us. She smiled and rested her hands on her pregnant belly. She was beautiful. How Grandpa was doing?
“Never bee’ bettir.” Grandpa asked why he sounded drunk. She thought it was because his mouth was dry. A nurse appeared with a lollypop in the shape of a pink star cylinder, dipped it in a cup of water, and slid it along the edges of his mouth.
“Why are you so thirsty?” Dr. Cheng playfully asked.
Looking confused at first, Grandpa answered, “I get thirsty when I’m talking to you.”
As he spoke more, we agreed he was still slurring.
I imagine to check muscles or nerves, the Doc asked Grandpa to smile. He stared blankly across the room, probably unsure if it was a medical test. “Show your teeth,” she said. Grandpa was amused, looking across the room. I started to laugh; a nurse had tried to make him look happy before. The corners of his mouth tilted up, the grey prickly hairs on his cheeks shook under the weight of the impending smile, and then it all collapsed like a tent.
“That’s the best I can do.”
I tell this story to prove that I can tell it. In every story I’ve told this semester, I’ve pondered time and place, because time and place is the foundation of every story. Grandpa is compelling because of the scene in which he is placed: a sanitary and foreign dialysis room. How does the environment define him, how does he fight against it? This is an element of entertainment we’ve indirectly explored in this class.