My grandpa is not who he used to be. I remember him always laughing, always pestering or pinching. I remember how hard he would try and to what lengths he would go out of his way to help someone. That seemed to be what he lived on: helping others. Over the past several years his health and memory were fading gradually enough, but suddenly in January he had a heart attack that put him in a nursing home. Now, at age 89, it is hard to recognize him as the same man sitting slumped in his wheel chair or fighting sleep in his recliner. It’s been difficult for me to watch this once strong, proud man deteriorate. I tend to distance myself rather than watch up close. I would rather remember him as I did as a kid, riding in his horse drawn buggy or helping me to feed the neighbor’s pigs.
Grandpa loved horses. Anyone entering his nursing home room could guess as much by the yellow plaid blanket inlaid with the heads of horses folded over the back of his chair and the multitude of horse posters covering the walls. He spent so much of his life caring for other people as well as his horses. Now he struggles to have enough strength to do simple tasks like shaving. He has to rely on others to take care of everyday needs. I know this is hard for him since he wouldn’t let others help him if he could do it himself. I feel like it was yesterday my mother yelled at him for climbing into the attic to open the air ducts or trying to till his vegetable garden. No one could do it like he could.
I was unsure about going to see him. I did not know whether he would recognize me; grandma had warned me he may not. When I found my mom pushing him through the home in the wheel chair suddenly became a bit more alert. “What’s with all that fuzz?” he asked in his typical jovial tone referring to my recently grown long hair. But that was the only coherent thing he said the entire time I was there. The nurses moved him into his recliner and he spent the rest of our time there moving in and out of sleep.
I am leaving again for India in a few weeks. I do not know whether I will see Grandpa again before he moves on. I do not know what the next few months hold for him or myself. His existence here is limited. It’s no doubt hardest on my grandma. Living by herself is lonely. Separated from her love, she is unsure of her own existence or what to do next.
All of us have limited time. I’m ok with that.