This morning, the girls and I went to visit my grandparents in their new home. This is the fourth place my grandfather has moved since his stroke, and it is what should be their permanent home. It’s an assisted living facility – but my grandparents have their own space. They were able to bring their own furniture – my grandfather can sit in his own chair, they get to sleep in their own bed, my grandmother has her same old card table tucked near the window so she can put her jigsaw puzzles together.
“It was lovely of you to move all my stuff here,” my grandfather said to my aunt last week, “but you know you’re just going to have to move it again in another few weeks when they send me home.”
He’s not going home. He’s nowhere near ready. He may never be ready.
He has an appointment with his doctor soon. An appointment with a neurologist to see how the old noggin is doing (has the brain swelling gone down? And man, I hope someone asks about the wonkiness with his short term memory). There’s a pain in his heel that is keeping him up at night, pain he is sure is the only thing holding him back from walking again.
He has a picture of Pumpkin that he apparently cut out of a calendar I had printed for them. He calls her “the funny one” – in the picture, she is making a funny face and has her fingers posed like antlers by her head. “It’s my favorite picture,” he told me today. “That girl. That’s some good photography there, Sarah.”
We posed for a picture, grandpa in his easy chair resting against a latched hook rug depicting Jesus. Jesus’s eyes staring, as yarn eyes might, over grandpa’s shoulders. My daughters hover near him, I lean my head in towards his. “Sarah, you’re blocking the Jesus eyes,” said my mom.
“Being old is no fun,” my grandmother said. “Getting old, that’s not so bad – the places you go, the things you see, the stuff you learn. That’s the good stuff. Being old? I hate this.” She paused. She sat perched at the edge of her seat, necessary with her short legs. Her slippered feet surrounded by a tangled pile of tubes from her oxygen machine. “I always thought we’d perish in an accident,” she told me.
That was her word… perish.
“The kids always say dad isn’t a good driver, but he’s a good driver. It’s not like I thought he’d get us into an accident, but that’s how I figured we’d go. Together, in a car accident.” My grandfather is an awful driver. He really is. That he’s unable to drive now is probably a good thing for motorists in West Michigan. “There weren’t even any near misses,” grandma said. “He’s a good driver.” Inside, I’m twisting around in my head the fact that the only requirement for being a good driver is avoidance of “almost” accidents. “Speeding tickets on the other hand…” she said.
When my aunts and uncles moved my grandparents’ belongings, my aunt wrapped my grandmother’s puzzle table with plastic wrap to hold all the pieces down and to not disturb her work in progress. Somehow I don’t think that I would have thought of that. I know my grandma would have been pissed to have had to start over.
I grabbed grandpa by the toe of his shoe, propped up on his recliner. I take the toe of his shoe and I shake it – it gets his attention, and his hearing is awful. I take the toe of his shoe and I lightly squeeze his toes in his white leather shoes and he looks up at me. “You like my new kicks?” he said. “I am going to walk all over in these!”
“I love them,” I said. I lift my foot and waggle a navy blue Chuck in the air. “Like mine?”
“I do! I do like them!”
We posed for our picture and without seeing the result he said, “Now that will be a good picture. You girls will always be my favorite.”
And he’ll always be mine.