The Palace Park

The Palace Park

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Jinx effect


 I remember sitting next to my grandfather on a dinghy as we zipped across the Chespeake Bay to Annapolis harbour for dinner one balmy July evening.  I remember sneaking sips of his gin and tonic whilst we watched 'Law and Order' marathons. I remember learning to dance on his feet at a cousin's  wedding. I remember his look of reluctant amusement as a sombrero was thumped on his head for his 68th birthday.
An example of just what you've missed in not knowing Jinx: when I came back from Basic Training, reaking of heartbreak, bruises and failure, at a loss as to what and where came next, he found me crying on the veranda. He never said a word, just came over and draped his arm around me whilst I sobbed. And in that moment, everyone around us asleep, the crickets rustling and the last of the lightening bugs droning hazily on in the background, he was my dearest friend and my staunchest ally.
Looking back on girlhood daydreaming when I used to think about the kind of man I wanted to end up with, I realize now just how much of a influence my grandfather had in my choice of husband.  He loved smooch music - Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore. He was rangy and lean in his youth, handsome and dapper in a 1950s chic way in middle age, and relaxed, beautific and scruffy in his twilight. He loved the sea and adventure. He loved a good sappy romance movie and he taught me to appreciate the finer points of B-movies. His influence, his approval, his support, and his guidance...these are part and parcel of the woman I have become and to the man I chose. It is one of the more heartbreaking aspects of my life that my husband and my grandfather did not meet. 

I wish there was a way that I could stress and convey what amazing person Jinx was, how fiercely he loved and protected - even when we were not aware.  I grew up moving around and my maternal grandparents have been a fundamental support. There are very few memories that I have in which my grandfather does not play a significant role.  He taught me so much: about music, film, economics, how to sail, how to mix a perfect martini...how to admit when I was wrong and how to fight for what I believe in.
He taught me the burden of having too much pride, in worshipping false idols and he stood by me and up for me through some of my less than stellar moments. I had hoped that - as he and my grandmother got older - I would be able to be a support and buffer for them in the same way that they had - and in the my grandmother continues to - protected and cherished me. But that chance, that passing of the torch, well...that was taken from us. From me. And what was left of a vibrant, irreverant, dashing figure of a man was a shell...unable to do anything other than just lie in a hospital bed, drooling and messing himself, unaware that his 'do not ressucitate' request, had been flagrantly ignored out of fear of one doctor's ego. He was one of my closest and dearest friends and there was no moment to say goodbye.
But we learn lessons in loss, in the things we don't get to say out loud and in person.
Jinx lingered on for three months. A month in ICU, a month and change at the ICU ward of an assisted living facilty, then hospice.  He never regained consciousness. In the end, it was his heart that refused to give up, one of the quirky ironies of life: the organ that made him so ill is the organ that wouldn't let go.  Did I mention he never liked to give up without a fight?

My grandfather was a dreamer and a pragmatist. He left very clear instructions, signed all the forms, ticked all the boxes and in the end he died unnecessarily.  We tried to keep his dignity about him as best we could but it still - 10 years later - feels cheap and brittle.

The thing about this kind of lawsuit is that it isn't about money or greed.  It is about loss and love and holding people accountable for their actions. There was no apology, no acknowledgement on the record, no owning of wrongs.  I don't expect people - even doctors - to infallible. But I do expect that they won't lie when a mistake is made. And I do expect that they won't allow their mistakes to cause a man to suffer and waste away needlessly.  And I know that there is little that can take the sting out of that kind of failure - when you can't protect and care for the people you love. And if there is one tribute I can pay to Jinx, to that dashingly cut figure of a human being, it is to insure that his end serves as an example of how a person's wishes should not be ignored.

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