Day 14: Healing happens slowly. Too slowly.

Two years ago, I wanted to hire someone to plow my grandparents’ driveway during the winter. My grandpa had slipped and fallen on the ice and I didn’t want him to take that risk anymore. Well into his 80s, there was no need for him to be shoveling his own driveway – but he insisted: I was not to hire a plow service. He would do it himself.

He has not been one to rest on his laurels. Ever. He has always been an active man, a busy man.

That is why seeing him like this has been so devastating, not just for me but for the entire family. We’ve seen him in the hospital before, but this time feels different, this time he seems different. This time there is an air of helplessness coupled with intense frustration in his demeanor. This is not a man who does helpless well.

The dietary department walked in with his dinner last night, a plastic bottle of strawberry Ensure. He didn’t want it. “Maybe you can get him to drink some,” my aunt told me.

Grandpa started asking me about Pumpkin – am I able to keep up with her, is she adapting well to stuff – he’s clearly enamored by my youngest daughter. Thinks she’s the bee’s knees.

“Here grandpa,” I said, holding out the straw, “let’s have a sip.”

“No,” he replied. “You don’t work up an appetite doing nothing.”

“Oh grandpa, if I can handle Pumpkin, I can surely handle you. Just a sip.” I held out the straw again. He took a small sip. Victory.

“I could eat a cheeseburger!”

“You have to start somewhere. Keep drinking this and you can work your way up to cheeseburgers.” Another sip.

I was able to get him to take four sips of that awful smelling strawberry flavored garbage. As I drove home, I could still smell that artificial strawberry on my hands. I don’t blame him for not wanting it.

After I left, he didn’t drink any more of the pink goo.

I worry.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” he said, “I just had a stroke so I don’t remember, did we have sex last night? … Last year?” My grandpa said this to my grandmother shortly after I walked into his hospital room. I thought I might need to bleach my brain. It was precisely the goofy kind of thing grandpa would say and it was precisely the reminder (albeit a tremendously disturbing one) that although his body looks weak and he looks fragile, the man we love is still there. His mind is sharp, for the most part, save for some brief bouts of confusion. He can still make a crowded room laugh.


I deliberately left my camera bag in the car when I got to the hospital. I thought it’d be weird. I take my camera every where but I didn’t know, would he feel like a spectacle if I were to take pictures? I didn’t want to make him feel anything negative.

“Where’s your camera, Sarah? Don’t you want to capture these moments for prosperity…pos-posterity?” And so I followed his lead and I took my iPhone out of my pocket and I said, “Okay! I’m taking your picture now!” and he smiled, only the left side of his face barely moved.


I stood by the side of his hospital bed, on his right side. He hears better on that side. His eye had been filling with goop and he had been blinking furiously. I asked my mom to get a warm wet cloth and once she brought it to me, I slid his glasses off his face and gently wiped his right eye clean. “Theeeeeerrreeeee…” he said. “That’s so much better. Thank you. I love you.”

He grasped my left hand in his right and held it to his face. My heart cracked in half.


The plan is to move him to a different facility for rehabilitation today. Nothing happens quickly, but that is the plan as of last night and so we’ll see. I am hoping that wherever he goes next feels less sterile hospital zone and more “let’s get you on your feet, healed and sent back home!” I’m sure the atmosphere matters. I hope they let me smuggle in a cheeseburger. I wonder if that’d help.


I put my hat back on, buttoned up my coat, slipped my phone back in my pocket. I said my goodbyes for the night – to my grandpa, my mom, her husband, my aunt and lastly my grandmother. As I leaned in for a hug she said, “Thank you for getting him to eat.”

I walked back into the cold night air and navigated back to my car. I climbed in, started the engine and sat in the dark, devastated.




About sarah

Sarah is a book nerd, a music lover, an endorphin junkie, a coffee addict. Oh, and a goof ball. She writes, she tweets, and she sings off key.


  1. Beautiful post! Sitting here crying, remembering when my mom had her stroke! Both of us helpless to make things better, and trying not to imagine what might be next. Treasure every moment, and all the memories. Thank you for putting your pain and experience into words that we all feel at one time or another!

  2. Amazing post. My final living grandparent died about 10 years ago, but not before he got hit by a car while walking home from the pub one night (he survived it). While sat in hospital, he told us all to wind the handle that sat him up the other way, because it played “God Save the Queen” backwards…

  3. Beautiful. Praying for your grandpa. I still have both of mine and dread the day I have to let go. So glad you’re getting more time with yours.

  4. Glad you were there to get him to drink 4 sips. Hope the new environment lifts his spirits. Hugs!!

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