“Uh, I need your help in here.”
My grandpa was standing at the door of his bedroom in his threadbare wife beater and dress slacks, holding onto the door frame.
I jumped up from the couch and he led me into the bathroom.
“I can’t do it. I need to piss so badly but I can’t do it.” He held out the catheter tube and plastic beaker. “I am so sorry. I need help.” The look on his face was a mixture of embarrassment, resignation, and frustration such that I had never seen before.
“Do you want me to take you to the ER?” Please want to go to the ER. Please, please, please.
“I am NOT going back to that damn hospital!” he said through gritted teeth. He took a deep breath. “You know how to do this, right? You can help me?”
“Are you sure, grandpa?”
I used my bright cheery doctor voice and said, “Sure thing!” Inside I was thinking: Oh, God. I am going to handle my grandfather’s penis…
He dropped his pants and I lubed up the rubber tubing, sliding it in until we got over a liter of urine and relief.
I pulled the catheter out and rinsed it in the sink.
“I am so sorry,” he said meekly.
“I don’t mind, grandpa.” And I really didn’t. Surprisingly, you can find that place of clinical detachment even with your grandfather’s penis. What bothered me more was the humiliation I knew he was feeling.
I gave him a hug.
“Did they teach you how to do this at the hospital, have you try a few times?” I was curious.
He had been hospitalized for dehydration. He had not been drinking liquids much prior because of the fact that it made him pee all the dang time. Prostate. He had not wanted anyone to address his prostate. So, with a significant fluid deficit, a little stomach bug put him down. While hospitalized, he had gotten to where he could not urinate without a catheter. He was told that he could go home with one that stayed in his bladder and drained into a bag strapped to his leg, or he could do intermittent self catheterizing every 4 hrs or so.
He sure as hell was not going to walk around with a bag of piss strapped to his leg.
So intermittent cath-ing was the thing. Except that he really didn’t know how to do the deed. He had gone 16 hours without telling me until he just could not take it anymore.
“It would probably be better for me to just go on and die. I don’t want to be a burden.”
“Nonsense, Grandpa! You are not a burden.” I dried the catheter and the beaker and left them laying out on a towel on the counter next to his shaving supplies.
My 87 year old grandpa had spent the fifteen years since my grandmother’s death smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. He would freely admit to anyone that asked, particularly snotty grandkids like me that didn’t like his smoking, that he was trying to kill himself with it.
“Oh, grandpa, don’t be silly! You don’t really want to die. You love ME, don’t you? You want to be around for me, right?” In retrospect, it was an incredibly stupid, selfish, naive thing for a twenty something girl to say. But I loved my grandpa.
I spent the next day and a half teaching him how to self cath and he got it down like a pro.
He was dead in a week.
I had peace knowing he was ready to go. Oh, so ready.