The Elephant Upstairs and Death's Quandry

The Elephant Upstairs and Death's Quandry

A Story by Ajay Kaakarni

                "Unless you want to see two generations in this house go, I suggest you leave." And that was all I heard.
                It had been two years earlier, 2008, in that same basement. Chris and I were having our usual late night conversations. Deep thought, stressful realizations, and existential words passed between us, two early-twenties guys, shooting the s**t to pass the time and expand our horizons. It was then that the topic of the elephant upstairs came to light.
                Chris's grandmother had been staying in the house ever since I'd known him, going between being completely cogniscient and functional to devastatingly sick and in denial. Dementia soon got her, and she was placed in Hospice. Hospice for her was interesting, because you were put in Hospice when you only had a few months to live. Chris's grandmother had, "died," many times in the five years she was in it, always bouncing back with a remarkable recovery, and slipping back into watching reruns of Matlock thinking they were new episodes.
                "When I was young and she first got here 'cause she was sick, I hated her. She was cramping my space, I thought. She was interrupting my whole life, just showing up sick and taking all the attention. How was it her place to do that?"
                Of course, I told brief stories of my Great Grandmother, whom I love dearly, and her death. He explained that his grandmother's death was imminent, they just didn't know when. She had passed the threshold of functional long ago.
                "I just wanted her to die. I don't anymore, now I'm used to her. But back then, I just wanted her gone, out of the picture, you know?"
                Just then, we heard footsteps nearing the staircase. It was 6 A.M. The sound descended, and his mother turned the corner, distraught, shaken, and on the verge of tears. Her yellow bathrobe was woven tightly around her, and she stood between us.
                "Chris, Ajay needs to go home. Your grandmother passed away a couple of minutes ago." And that was that.
                I walked upstairs, passing his grandmother's room, which was full of crying people. Out the door I went, getting into my car, shaken by the whole situation. Even the McDonald's breakfast I got afterward didn't taste as good. I started thinking about death quite a bit. It was at every turn, staring me in the face. Not beckoning me to it's whims, but asking me questions. When will I go? How will I go? How does it end? What happens?
                2010. The basement was as cold as it always was, and Chris's mom had been getting more and more sick from a very aggressive cancer. We spoke of it on a regular basis, as expected, it being my best friend's mother potentially passing. She had been alright for years, attending Chemotherapy and having a complete recovery, and very quickly falling back into her illness, developing more tumors, worse than before. She had recovered so many times that the idea of her getting sick was not uncommon or strange to Chris - he began to shrug it off, something to be expected, dealth with, and forgotten about.
                Her last episode, however, was different. She had been rushed to the hospital, and though the details weren't conveyed, she had been placed on Hospice herself. It was scary, though Chris seemed to be holding up fine. He had us over the previous night for Philly Cheese Steaks, french fries, and bad nineties movies. I spent the night.
                I woke up around noon, and waited for him. He was my ride home. The time flew. First one, then two, until around 5PM, Chris comes downstairs.
                "Unless you want to see two generations go, I suggest you leave." He wasn't being mean. He was warning me.
                In the night, her tumors had became more aggressive and grew to preposterous sizes in such a short amount of time, that they were convinced she was passing. I quickly gathered my belongings and made some phone calls.
                Death tapped my shoulder, and I was scared. He was asking me all the same questions I never answered. I shooed him away years ago, refusing to face him so young, and here I was, twenty-two years old, feeling him hang as heavily in the air as he did those years ago.
                I turned the corner in the basement, to walk to the stairway. I stood at the foot of the stairs, not turning the light on.
                The staircase was long and pitch black, with only a small, fine line of glimmering light at the base of the door to upstairs. And that's when I felt it. This was exactly what death was like. My journey up those long steps in the dark was life slipping away and time passing me by. As I got closer and closer to that doorway and that light, I knew I would be alright. This was it. This is death, and I was living it. I opened that door and was splashed with the mid day sun in a house completely silent.
                As I walked down his driveway to meet my ride, watching all of the relatives show up suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, I felt a bit relieved. My questions had answers, and I left Death at the bottom of that stairway, only able to grab at my ankles as I ascended.

© 2010 Ajay Kaakarni

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Added on July 31, 2010
Last Updated on July 31, 2010


Ajay Kaakarni
Ajay Kaakarni

Fenton, MI

I aspire to be a screen writer. I want, more than anything in the world, to be able to make a living off of what I love to do. more..