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Aaron Waite Aaron Waite
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Bottom of the ninth at St. Joe's

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Gaming through grief

Six floors. Six floors to the top of St. Joseph Hospital and the temporary home of close to a dozen of my family members for the past four weeks. Days like this, the weight on my shoulders told me I was carrying the elevator instead of the other way around. Since my grandmother had been admitted with weakness, things had steadily progressed into a spiral of unknown maladies until she was reduced to a mere shadow of her former self. I sat next to her bed as her eyes flickered back and forth, microseconds of wakefulness that were immediately dragged into what appeared to be nightmarish minutes of restless sleep.

Quite honestly, I'd never gone through anything like this. I had been lucky enough to have no one incredibly close to me pass away as I was growing up. These past few weeks, it seemed as if the Grim Reaper himself sat outside my door. A former coworker of mine, a former bandmate, and now it seemed old Grim sat with my family in that hospital room, as if he were waiting patiently for the right moment.

After a shift of holding her hand while recounting the events of my day (even getting a tiny smile out of her), I needed something to reset me, something to not make me forget, but perhaps dull the present pain. Not being a drinker, I reached for the digital equivalent of a bottle of Jack: my faithful Macbook Pro, Wheatley. I delved into a game of 'MLB 2K11,' much to the bemusement of my family. I figured that it probably made me look like an uncaring thug, playing games while my grandmother faded from this world just a room away, but I was pleasantly surprised by the support of my family. They understood that everyone has their coping mechanism, and this was mine.

It became a cycle over the next week: I'd drive in from work, take a shift at Gram's bedside, wait until someone else took my place, sit outside with my laptop and pretend that Justin Verlander actually pitched for the Red Sox, then take another shift inside. I'd go home, and my friends would be waiting for me online in 'Halo 4.' I didn't really tell them much of anything, but they were there and waiting, and that deviation from my current mess helped me more than they'll ever know.

It wasn't an escape. I wasn't throwing my head into the sand and saying that it wasn't true, that my world wasn't actually falling apart. I just needed a few moments to focus on something trivial and fun so I could go back to being strong for my family.

It turns out, the Grim Reaper is a gentleman with a knack for dramatic timing. At 1:30 on Thanksgiving, just after everyone had a chance to say their goodbyes, my grandmother passed from this world into the next. All I could think of was her letting me play 'Super Mario Bros. 3' on her old NES, how it captured my mind and threw me headfirst into the world of gaming. She, along with my friends growing up, provided me with the means to deal with her death.

We all have our vices. We all have those things that tie us down and keep us functioning in this ever-maddening world.

Mine is video games. I'm not ashamed of that. I'm not ashamed of these arranged pixels and polygons that offer a step away from reality so as to be better prepared to step back into it. Without this, the support of my beautiful wife and the love of my family, I doubt I could have made it through the past few weeks.

Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. I'm not carrying the elevator this time.

Aaron Waite would like to thank the incredible staff at St. Joe's for the fantastic care they gave not only his grandmother, but his entire family as well.


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