I try to avoid sad posts (especially since the blog is called My Happy Dance) but sometimes it is unavoidable. This is one of those unavoidable times. I have something in my mind and on my heart and since this is my 100th post it has to be special. This is very special.
I was cleaning out my mother’s scrapbooking / craft room yesterday to help her out and in one of the drawers there were a whole bunch of loose photos. Being the emotional, romantic and nostalgic person that I am I put a halt to my cleaning and pulled out the pictures. Before I knew it (it was about 10 seconds) I was sitting on the floor with pictures all around me and one in particular stood out to me. It was this one…
That is my grandfather. He’s awesome! Do you see that hat? It reads “Old Age Combat Hat and Survival Kit” and the hat has all sorts of little things stuck to it but I can’t tell what they are. On the rim above his glasses it says “I Refuse to Surrender!”
That was given to him on his 70th birthday. I don’t know why he is wearing a Hawaiian lei around his neck, he was a bit odd even then. It was a funny picture when it was taken. It makes me sad now. It makes me sad because that was taken five years ago and he was healthy. He was tall and he still had weight on him and he was still funny (ha!ha! funny not weird funny) and still told stories (that were true) and still told jokes (that were funny) and still recognized you and knew who you were and was able to get up and walk around and feed himself and use the bathroom and basically live. He was able to live and do things and be coherent…but that was five years ago.
Today it’s a completely different story. He can’t walk, actually, he can barely get out of bed. He is very thin. He tells stories but they aren’t true. He makes up the people and the places and the events because he wants to talk but he can’t remember anything that actually happened. The majority of the time he can’t even finish the whole story. He can say about four or five sentences but then it turns in to mumbling and then he goes quiet because he has such a hard time talking. He tries to tell his old jokes, the ones that used to make us laugh, but he can’t remember the punchlines anymore. We tend to finish the jokes for him, that sometimes at least makes him smile. He doesn’t always recognize you when you walk in the room or when he looks at a picture of you. He will recognize people he’s never met and think they are someone he knew and then he will think he has never met his own son or granddaughter. Sometimes he will know who you are but you just never know until it happens. It’s hard. It’s really, really, really hard. He can’t feed himself or use the bathroom by himself. He rarely gets out of bed. He tends to stay in bed in the nursing home and watch t.v. He has pictures of all of us but he doesn’t recognize the faces he sees in them. We all visit him regularly but he doesn’t know who we are or when we were last there. Sometimes he thinks it has been weeks since he has had a visitor and it’s only been a few hours. Other times he thinks he has had company all day long when it’s been a whole day. It’s heartbreaking.
I see a picture like that and it makes me cry and I can’t help it. Inside I find myself thinking, “Surrender Grandpa. It’s ok. Sometimes the bravest thing is to give in” but then I think of how horrible that makes me sound and I cry again. I don’t know what to do. I lost my grandmother in July of 2010 and to this day he asks about her and how she is and says to tell her he loves her. He knows she passed away. We took him to her funeral service and he kissed her good-bye but he doesn’t remember. He thinks she is at home and he has said so many times that he wants to go home too. I hear that and I think, “Grandpa, you can go home. Just surrender and go ‘home.’ Go to Heaven, be with Grandma again and we will all come and join you one day.” but I don’t say that. I just tell him I love him and that Grandma is ok. I send him Christmas cards and pictures now and then but I know he doesn’t know who the cards are from or recognize my face in the photos. I sent him a letter telling him I was getting married with a picture of me and my now-husband. I sent him a letter after the wedding, told him we were married, and sent him a picture of me and my husband. I was told when he got the pictures he recognized my husband (who he’s never met) but didn’t know who “that pretty girl” was that he was standing beside. :,( I try to just smile and be happy that he was able to see the pictures and at least he thinks that guy he knows (who he’s never met) is with a “pretty girl.” I try to just hope to myself that one day, in a moment of lucidity, he might look at the pictures and recognize me and realize how happy I am in my life and how much I love him. I keep hoping that one day he’s going to wake up and he’s going to be ok but I know that he won’t. I know that he’s going to keep getting sicker and sicker until he finally surrenders.