Long time readers of GF know how much I idolize my grandfather. Whether I'm talking about his life as a mad man, or the stories he's told me of his youth, or even when he used to take me to Tank Park, you all probably know a surprising amount about him, even though he probably doesn't know it. He doesn't understand the internet, much less blogs, etc.
We hit a rough patch recently. For a while, he's been getting cataracts, but he doesn't want to remove them because he figures he'll be dead soon. Why waste the money? He feels the same way about his hearing loss, refusing to get an aid. It irritated me because he was still strong. I knew he had quite some time left, and I was annoyed that I had to yell at him just so he could hear what I was saying. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I sometimes took out my anger on him. I shouted at him, telling him that he should have some consideration for those around him. For all he knew, he'd still be around for another 10-15 years. 88 isn't the end of the world.
God, I'm such an asshole. I hate myself for doing that.
A few months ago, my grandfather started doing weird things. At first I thought it was because he couldn't hear or see us very well, but before long, I started realizing that it might be due to something else. Something deeper.
He started imagining people who weren't there. He lost control of his bowels often. I was once called upon to help him because he'd fallen, but that just happened to be the day after I learned I'd broken my tailbone in a recent accident. I was in too much pain to help him up. When I saw that he'd left a trail of shit from my grandmother's bedroom to the upstairs bathroom, I was in shock. He'd fallen in a pile of his own feces, and I simply didn't have the strength to help him. The best I could do was drag him to a table so he could use its leverage to get to his feet.
Oddly, the whole time I was trying to help him, he was yelling at me to leave him alone so I could answer the door. The problem was, no one was at the door. He kept saying the bell was ringing, but it just wasn't.
Have you ever seen THE JUDGE? There's a scene in which Robert Downey, Jr., has to help his father, Robert Duvall, in the shower. The problem is, Duvall has lost control over his bowels, and I couldn't help but think of this devastating scene. Later, when I read Christopher Eccleston's account of his father's illness, it struck me in the heart and drove me to tears.
My grandmother simply couldn't take care of him, especially since I couldn't help due to my broken tailbone. My aunt came by to take my grandfather to the VA, where they kept him for a few weeks. I visited as often as I could, and something odd came over me. It's hard to describe.
While my grandfather seemed to be in better shape, his mind was still . . . off. At first, it made me feel sorry for him, but then another thought came over me: he might be in a better frame of mind than he was when he was healthy. You see, he didn't know where he was. He recognized me, my grandmother, my aunt and my cousin, but his time reference was completely off. He thought he was on a family vacation in California that he took back in the 'Sixties. Or another day, he thought he was on a business trip to Oregon back in the 'Fifties.
I knew he'd become dissatisfied with the current world, and to know that he was time traveling, almost like Billy Pilgrim, was a comfort to me. He was in a world he could be happy with. He always grinned for us, even though I could never have fit into his time traveling vacation (me, having been born in 1978, that is).
Goddammit. He was in a world where my mom--his daughter--was still alive.
Her death hit him even harder than it hit me. He set up a shrine in the living room, in the chair she used to sit in every day and night while her sickness ate her alive. Every year on her birthday, he buys a bunch of flowers for her. He makes sure that all of her sons, me and three of my brothers (I have a sister and brother from my father's side, but they've never met Mom), sign cards for her on that day. There is still a shrine to her (complete with our birthday messages on her portrait, a picture taken when she graduated high school in 1975), but now it's on my grandmother's china cabinet, complete with the container of her ashes.
To my grandfather, she was still alive, and that must have been a wonderful feeling.
After the VA, he was sent to rehab to build up his strength. It took him a while, but now he's stronger and his mind is back in the present. He just recently came home, and he's getting back into his groove. He gets around with a cane now--which he would have despised mere months ago, as he sees it as a sign of weakness--but he's healthy again. I'm forever grateful for that.
For a while, it looked like he might not have that 10-15 years I thought he had in him, but now that he's in better spirits, I have hope that I'll have him in my life for years to come. That sounds a bit selfish, and I recognize that. I idolize him so much that I was selfish enough to have said, more than once, that I want to die before he does. I can't imagine a world without him.
But that would fucking cripple him.
I've been giving a lot of thought to my own mortality of late, especially considering how I almost died a year and a half ago. My grandfather is the only one who visited me every day, even though it was highly inconvenient for him to do so. The pain I saw on his face as I suffered . . . I knew I couldn't ever put him through that again.
I'm glad he's home. I'm glad that he's getting better. I'm even glad that he's back to watching Bill O'Reilly at top volumes, even though I can't stand that asshole.
I'm glad I have more time with him. I was deathly afraid that every time I saw him in the hospital would be the last, so I made certain to tell him before I left every day that I loved him.
I'm just glad, that's all. Even if he says he's going to vote for Donald Trump in 2016. (Even though his own grandson is running for president next year!!!)