Between the electronic murmurs of medicinal apparatuses, Sandy heard the sound of her own heartbeat. It was not in sync with any of the other noises, nor did it seem to belong to her, but she felt it vibrate across her chest, deeply and firmly like longing. Her grandfather’s heart seemed so shallow in comparison, shrill and underfoot, announcing its presence as a U-boat might announce an enemy ship. He would not die until he wanted to. He would lie here beeping forever out of spite.
She felt that maybe she should grab his hand. She had never touched her grandfather before, but now, when he wasn’t conscious, she thought that maybe she could steal this last bit of life for herself if she gave it a vessel. “You kids have it easy these days,” he had said at every opportunity. “With your social media and your video games, you don’t even have to talk to people anymore.” This could be the first time in ten years he hadn’t lambasted her in a tone of envy and resentment for existing in the modern age.
As her hand brushed against his, his eyes opened widely. He stared up at her without recognition. In a moment, after he had taken in his surroundings and his grandchild, he scowled, choosing one of his ready-made conversations. He had paid his way through college waiting tables. “Why don’t you pay your way through college waiting tables?” He had gotten married at twenty-two to a women he’d talked to twice. “Why don’t you get married? What are you waiting for?” He had beaten and shamed his wife and children at every opportunity. “I want to be a great grandfather.”
Sandy held her grandfather’s hand in her own, as he was too weak to pull away. She let her heart pulse against his circuitry, hoping the vibration would knock something loose, and she would get the apology she and the rest of the family deserved.
“I forgive you,” he said in his final breath. She continued to hold on.