Friday, September 16, 2011

The parting fog

Just warning you--for the foreseeable future, my blog will feature Grampie.  Of course.  I write about what is real in my life on a daily basis, and  Grampie is all that and more right now.  He's always been larger than life, this giant who lived across the street, fathered my Beve and cast a long shadow across the University and community where I spent my childhood.  Everyone knew his name, that was just the nature of the man I call Grampie.

In the last week, while we've sat in hospital rooms, surgical waiting rooms, recovery rooms, rehab centers, I've seen a facsimile of that man.  A shadow of him, I suppose you might say.  This man sleeps far more than he's awake, is listless and deeply confused. Keeps wanting to get up and go home, and never knows why he is where he is.  He thought he was at the Olive Garden the other day, which, as a good friend put it, sounds a whole lot better than the hospital any day of the week.

But he's not complaining.  Not Grampie. The nurses, doctors, and everyone who walk into his room have the same report, "He's a perfect gentleman.  He doesn't complain of pain, is always kind and exceedingly polite."  Unfailingly good humored.  That's cell-deep to Grampie.  "How are you doing, Grampie?" I ask. "Just fine," he'll say. "No complaints, whatsoever."  And that's a true story.  Stoic on his best days, the dementia has taken away even the slightest feeling of pain, so he has no need to complain, really.  But he wouldn't anyway.  It's just not in him.

That's the way he was tonight when we visited. Then he asked, "How's J getting along?" So I called up my son and held for Grampie during their conversation.  Grampie was so dear, volunteered to do whatever he could to help J find a new job, even write a letter of recommendation for him (I think he was remembering all such letters he wrote as Department Chair of  Men's Physical Education at WSU during his 27 year career in that position).  After I ended the call (which also included Grampie telling J there was a birthday card in the mail for him, which J was very gracious about and didn't laugh, even though his birthday is in March), I put my phone back in my purse then walked back over to Grampie, who seemed a bit...well, down, I guess.
"What's wrong, Grampie?" I asked.
"I'm in a bad mood."
"I just hate that this is happening to Jonathan. And I can't do anything to help him."
Oh Grampie!  I was suddenly fighting (okay, not fighting at all!) tears.  There he is lying in a bed, barely coherent when he isn't sleeping, and that doesn't bother him.  What brings him back to himself is his love for his grandson. The love in him for J--for all of those nine beloved grandchildren--is the real him.

Two seconds later, while tears were still streaming down my cheeks, he tried to turn off the Comcast box ("That green light is on!") with the buttons controlling his bed.  His head, then his legs, then the entire bed went up and down as he pressed various buttons but that dang green light didn't disappear until I hid the box behind the TV.  It was like the moment of clarity was gone.  He'd disappeared back behind the fog that he's been in this week.

But I'm glad I was there when the fog parted for a moment.  I'm glad I was there to see in stark pain, how much he loves and hurts for my child.  He usually masks that hurt behind a strong wall of reserve. We know it's there, but to see it on his face that way, and to hear it in his voice. Wow.  What great love he has.

It reminds me of the way the Father loves His children.  We don't always see it--because WE live in a fog, not because HE does, but the result is the same. We know it because we know His character. But every now and then, the fog clears and we get a real glimpse of how great His love is.  Not in an academic way but because our pain hurts Him, our joys thrill Him, what happens to us matters to Him. Yes, it reminds me of this, Grampie does.  The lovely, true love Grampie has is much like that love.

But I'll tell you the truth, tonight I'm mostly just thinking of Grampie.  I'm thinking of how glad I am for him, how much I love him, and how glad I am he loves as deeply as he does.  That's enough.

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