Thursday, September 8, 2011

Days with Grampie

It's been a while since I wrote about adventures with Grampie, but let me just say, the fun never ends.  Last week I took both elders to the eye doctor, and, like with most things involving two elderly, unsteady-on-their-feet people and two walkers, it took four hours.  I'm not sure how exactly.  Grampie, who likes to show off by pushing his walker to the back of our Highlander and walking to the front of the car by himself managed two things: he almost instantly fell, and, my Kindle, which had been sitting on his walker, ended up in the bushes.  It took me about ten minutes to find it, with Grampie and Thyrza helpfully showing me little notebooks, paperback books, and even plastic bags, because they couldn't quite understand what I was talking about.  "It's about this big," I said, holding up my hands. "And it has a red cover. I retraced my steps, practically accused the employees of having stolen it, and was tearing my hair out, when I saw it poking out of a laurel hedge. Where it must have slid when he pushed off that walker.
On the way home, Grampie commented about how I'd "almost lost my cool when you lost that red thing."
 "Yep," I answered.  "And you know what?  You and Beve gave me that red thing."
"I did?" he screwed up his mouth in its familiar twist. "Why did I do that?"

That afternoon we had to pick out a new pair of glass-frames for Grampie while Thyrza was having her eyes tested.  I was doing my best to steer him toward some even slightly stylish glasses.  And I have to tell you, he looked mighty fine in a few of them.  But he kept saying, "I want bigger ones."  Finally, I gave in and reached for the largest pair of frames on the rack.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  They take up about half his face, need an extra brace across the front just to help hold all the metal in place. These exact frames were once worn as protective gear for fighter pilots.  I was a little horrified.  But Grampie was pleased as punch (a saying he uses all the time), Thyrza thought he looked dapper in them, and even the optician agreed with the paying customer, rather than his daughter-in-law.

So I took him in to pick them up today.  And he was thrilled with them.  Thrilled too, because he'd asked if they could be monogrammed, and, what'd ya know, they had been. Right there on one of the stems, his whole name.  So if he happens to lose those big, bulky frames among all the other big, bulky frames at the Retirement Center where he lives, he'll just need his pocket magnifying glass to find out which pair is his (because he wouldn't be able to tell by putting them on his face, after all!). Along with the frames, he got clip-on sun-glasses, and three cases (one for the clip-ons, one soft and one hard case for the frames). Grampie thought he'd won the jackpot, getting all this free stuff.

Then, while I was paying his bill (see, it really wasn't free, he just doesn't quite understand money anymore), he pulled out an old pair of glasses and was asking the technician to size and clean them for him.  I turned around to see her carefully measuring him in a pair of old tri-focals that I'm almost positive were women's glasses.  At the very least, they weren't his.  "No," I said, probably a little sharper than I should have. "You don't need those glasses, Grampie. Why don't we put them in the box for people who need glasses?"  Fortunately he's quite compliant.  As I put the glasses in the box, he pulled out another pair of glasses, an EXACT replica of the new ones, except that the gold is slightly tarnished on the old pair.  This is an unfortunate situation because these are his reading glasses.  So his new glasses and his old reading glasses look identical--or will to him.   This has disaster written all over it.

I spent the whole drive home trying to figure out how to help him keep them straight.  Five minutes after leaving the eye clinic, he couldn't remember what the new glasses were for.  "I wear these only for reading?" (He doesn't actually even need glasses for reading, he just thinks he does because he used to.)
"No, Grampie. You wear them all the time, for watching TV, seeing across the room, looking out the car window."

Five minutes later, "I wear these for reading, right?"

And so it goes.

Adventures with Grampie.  Beve and I often say that the time we spend with him is the most precious time we have.  We know it's fleeting.  Just the other day, when he wasn't feeling very well, he told me, "I'm just winding down, you know."  And that's the truth.  Grampie's winding down.  The end of his life isn't what he expected it to be when he was at the heighth of his...well, of his heighth, for one thing. (That reminds me, he's been talking for the last couple of months about what a big woman M is (his Finnish granddaughter who was here this summer).  He just told me the other day, "I'm 6'8", and she's a lot taller than me, so she must be almost 7 feet tall."  Oh Grampie.  He doesn't realize that he's not even close to 6'8" anymore. His legs are still long, but he's bent almost in half, so his head is just about even with mine now.)  But beyond that, no one ever imagines their mind will go as his has gone.  How could we imagine such a thing?  And what good would it do to imagine it?
But whatever comes, may it come with the grace and ease of spirit it has come to my dear father-in-law.  He has accepted his limitations with such equanimity.  It does me good to be with him, just to drive places and listen to him read signs.  It's a ministry of being--him to me as much as me to him. Some days when I see him, see the frailty of his movements, the gauntness of his frame, I am struck with how soon these days might be over.  I will miss the joy of these last gifts with Grampie, these days of being.