Well, my grandfather is dying. My other grandfather, not the one who died just about this time a couple of years ago. THIS grandfather had a stroke a long time ago, and hasn’t known who any of us are for a while. Sometimes he knows my dad, and his other kids. Usually he just seems annoyed with the company unless we have cigars. I cringe to admit I haven’t seen him much since we moved back here. He’s in a nursing home, and I’ve been to see him some, but not a lot. His kids, my dad and his siblings, visit him. My dad, bless the man please never let me speak ill of him again, feels like grandkids and great grandkids shouldn’t have to have this scene in their memory banks. He realizes that as an offspring, he has a duty to go, and take the paper, and read, and just generally be there. I’ll extend him that courtesy when it’s time. (dad, please go to sleep one night and never wake up! And please wait till after I’m already dead because I can’t live without you.)
So. Do we go? Do I go? There’s no we in this story, I would never ask my child or husband to do this kind of thing. With my other grandfather, who knew us, it was different. Pappy (don’t laugh, did you not realize we were from the south?) is back in the nursing home from his visit to the hospital where he perked up a bit when being fed IV fluids. But now he’s back ‘home’ and won’t eat. Which as I understand it, is fairly common and kind of what people do at the end, especially stroke victims with Alzheimer’s. His living will dictates that they simply let him go, and they’re doing that. I don’t know how long it will take.
He was a farm dad, a truck driver, and then a produce broker. There was never much emotional discussion with Pappy, no hugging or wasted sentiment. He took us places, bribed us to sneak him sugar (he is diabetic), and peeled money of a huge roll of bills when we went shopping. He smoked cigars and read Clive Cussler books, which we would often discuss when I came down to visit. I still read Cussler, and still think of him every time I crack one open, even though every damn book has exactly the same formulaic plot. I read them all anyway, I can’t help it. I also credit my love of the aroma of cigars to my grandfather, who smoked the real ones and would have slapped my puny flavored cigars from my hand had I ever had the balls to light one up in front of him.
Once, about 10 years ago I lived with him for a while, a mutually beneficial arrangement where he pretended he was doing me a favor and I pretended I was there to help him out and not because I was homeless. He’d fallen down the front steps and as it turns out torn a groin muscle. He laid in the yard for around 4 hours before someone passing by happened to see him there, and when he came home from the hospital he was in a wheelchair and needed help getting in and out of it. So I came to ‘stay’ with him, so that I could be that help. Except the man was so stubborn that he didn’t call me when he had to pee, because eww, then his granddaughter would be helping him get to the bathroom, and so the first night I was in the house I heard an awful crash and found him on the floor of his room, covered in urine and finally convinced for real that he could not get into and out of the chair alone. What a bummer for my grandfather. I ached for him that night, cleaning him up and getting him back to bed. I ached for the freedom he was losing, even temporarily, because I knew soon enough he’d lose that freedom for real.
I ache for him now, too, and I take the only solace I can in the fact that he’s largely unaware of what’s happened to him. I ache for my dad, watching his father deteriorate this way, with nothing to do but wait, for all these years.
And now finally the tears are coming. I thought for a few hours here today that I had simply lost all ability to feel anything but my own dissatisfaction with life. Phew!
Whether it’s ‘time’, whether it’s ‘expected’, whether it’s ‘the right thing’… it’s still sad when someone dies. He hasn’t been Pappy for years and years, but the finality of it is still sad.