He came out of surgery in a haze. A deep haze. He didn’t know why he was in the hospital. All he needed was a knee replacement.
Now he couldn’t remember why he was here. At first he didn’t remember my name. He couldn’t remember the name of his second wife… he called her my Grandmother’s name instead. But even as he spoke Grandmother’s name I could tell he knew that wasn’t right. He had the look in his eye… “Why am I confused?”
Day after day I sat with him in the hospital. He would sleep. He would wake up. Sometimes he would remember my name. Sometimes he wouldn’t. Sometimes he remembered my cousins’ names… and not mine. Sometimes he called me “Jim”. (I’m his oldest granddaughter and do not resemble a “Jim” of any sort.)
And then he would have a few moments of flashback. It was presumedly 65 years ago, in his world.
I sat with him as he assembled hats. (This was his job 65 years ago.) Assembling hats for the other men in his troop. He folded imaginary fabric in his lap. Layer after layer. Hat after hat. He folded, and folded … and folded.
And then, as if he snapped back into reality, he looked right at me and asked “Did you kill anyone in the war?”
Just a glimpse of his state of mind.