I got to see Gramps shortly before Thanksgiving… we had breakfast together again. I love my times with him in the morning. He seems more alert and talkative. Most of the time he isn’t making any meaningful conversation – but I love that he feels content in talking, without judgment or ridicule. THAT’s what it’s about!
So we talk… he talks, I ask follow-up questions. Most of the time he shows emotion: surprise, sadness, concern. I wish I knew what he was trying to say.
On the Saturday morning before Thanksgiving we talked about Gramma. She passed away November 25, 1997. I think a lot about Gramma the week of Thanksgiving. So we talked about her a little at breakfast. He did more of the listening… I did more of the talking.
I told him I missed her. He simply looked at me with wide eyes. I told him it was ok to talk about her… she was a good wife, mother, friend and cook. He just kept looking at me. I called her by name…
I wondered what he was thinking… I said I missed her more this year than ever before. He just looked at me. He never spoke her name or said anything about her.
Then I moved to a more light-hearted conversation. I told him it was Thanksgiving in a few days. His eyes got even bigger. I reminded him that it was nearly time for turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy and yams. He got excited… he took a deep breath, turned and looked at me… and said “YIIIIPPEE!” with a raised voice! And laughed… we had a good laugh together. The caregivers turned and looked at us, smiling. It was a moment and level of emotion I hadn’t seen in a long time… I relished the moment with my Grampa.
Some of our family saw Gramps again a day or two after Thanksgiving… we did family pictures together at his home. He had just woken from an afternoon nap and was somewhat alert, and talkative during the pictures. But I think the sheer number of people there was a bit overwhelming for him. In fact, I’m sure it was confusing… we try not to overwhelm him too much. We would prefer he be happy and content and calm. We would prefer to see him alert and talkative and present… and when he’s feeling pressure I think he clams up. So we limit our large family visits… for his benefit.
I saw Gramps again the morning after Christmas. And I wonder if this is our last Christmas with him. What a bittersweet visit… I cried all the way home.
His home was still decorated… with “icicles” hanging from the ceiling, a Christmas tree in the corner and a Hanukkah display on top of the piano. There was a board displaying the holiday celebration they had earlier in the month… with Hawaiian dancers and all.
He seemed extra “out of it” this morning. He was hallucinating a bit: waving to someone in the corner, talking to someone sitting across the table from him, etc. I was there… but I wasn’t there in his world. In his world he saw a co-worker from 40+ years ago walk into the room. In his world he was talking to his sister across the table. In his world he was still in the army.
In my world I hurt … for he is already leaving us. Every time I see him he has slipped farther away.
My biggest concern is that he is content and peaceful and happy. It breaks my heart when I see him clam up under certain circumstances. It breaks my heart to know that he doesn’t feel he can talk about Gramma. It breaks my heart to see him hold himself back from certain emotions. It breaks my heart to see our family members hurt because he is slipping away.
I do believe some of our family members are already grieving his passing. Every now and then some of his personality will shine through… but for the most part the Grampa I knew growing up is… gone. I can’t pinpoint the moment he was gone… it’s been a slow digression over the past 6 months. But he’s leaving us more every day… what a painful goodbye, for me.
My Uncle or Aunts or Mom may have a different take on this… but the Grampa I knew is mostly gone at this point. He is a shell of the man he was… holding onto this earth for some unknown reason.
This I know, God’s timing is perfect…
Lord I know you will take him in your perfect timing. You have a master plan… and while I don’t understand or even have the ability to comprehend it, I know you’re in control.