I've never liked hospitals. Never. No real reason for this dislike I suppose. My earliest experience with them was obviously my birth, which is generally a good thing to have happen at some stage in your life. My earliest memory of them was when I had my tonsils taken out. Neither event made me look kindly on the Buildings of Medicine that we rely so much on. From my tonsils operation all I can remember is the smell, the strange sounds. The sight of my mammy sleeping in an armchair bed by my side. The darkness of the ward at night time. It hammered home a desire to avoid hospitals as much as possible.

I think it's because, at the end of the day, my main experience with these places has always revolved around a 'final visit'. You only ever go to a hospital if you are sick or seeing someone else who is.

Yesterday I was in hospital visiting my grandfather and it took a huge mental self-bashing to actually go through the front doors.

See his health has been deteriorating as of late in the last few years. The Goliath of my Youth has well and truly fallen to the David of Time. Such is life.

Nobody expects their grandparents to live forever and those of us that get the chance to meet even one of the four in our lifetime always feel privileged to have had the chance. So when I would visit him in his home it was not a shock to the system to see him a little smaller, a little hunched over, and not as active as he sat in the chair by the fire and talked away.

But to see him in the hospital...well that is a different story entirely.

At this stage a visit to a hospital for somebody in his condition might not be a visit in the literal sense of 'in and out again'. It's not a pleasant thought but one that you have to face up to. To paraphrase one of my favourite authors: 'Reality sucks!'.

In I went to see him, keep him company for a couple of hours. Not that this is a chore, or something to get credit for. Family is family after all, some things you just do without question. He slept most of the time I was there, the years finally catching up on him it would seem. We talked a little in disjointed and broken ways. His mind wanders easily now and sometimes he has to be reminded who you are. He knows you are family, just can't remember which one. Then again that might have nothing to do with age and everything to do with the number of children and grandchildren he has. Even I don't know the names of all my cousins these days.

In a way it was lucky/good that I was there when I was, as the nurses wanted to help him by changing the mattress he was lying on. In his current state his marbles, while still rolling, get stuck the odd time. The mind that could quote Shakespeare after reading the book once four decades before is now easily confused. I think the reassuring face of a family member helped him what was being said. In the end his response to the nurse was "Sure do whatever the young lad thinks is best."

Life is full of surprises, they say. To be honest we all, as a large extended family, thought he would not be around this long. So this current hospital stay might wind up being a visit in the end. He may still sit on his 'throne' by the fire once more with Sky News on the telly twenty hours of the day. That's the annoying thing about has a tendency to lie most of the time as well.

But I still hate hospitals.


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