Sunday, June 22, 2014

End Days

He sits staring at his plate, which is piled with food. An apple fritter from his favorite bakery brought by his son stares balefully back at him, daring him to take a bite. He just looks around the room, points at windows, the bulletin board, the other people and asks, "Where did they come up with this?"

It's new every morning with Grampie now. There's no telling what or who he'll know. A few days ago, he pulled the fire alarm and emptied out the entire two-story building. As soon as they heard it go off, the second-floor staff looked at each other and asked, "Where's [Grampie]?" When they told us, I didn't want to point out the obvious--that he's the only patient tall enough (even sitting in a wheelchair) to reach a fire-alarm. He's also the only patient with the exact combination of reading skills, curiosity and dementia that would make him do such a thing, like a mischievous little kid who doesn't quite know what it means but can't resist a lever.

Two days ago when Beve and I were there, he ate his dinner so quickly, we thought we might have to send out for a pizza or something. He seemed like the 'hay-burner' he'd always called his sons when they were teenagers and putting away food faster than their mother could keep it on the table. I've never met people who could eat as much as those three sons could when they were young and still playing basketball all hours of the day and night. Grab fast, think about whether you liked it later, that was my motto in the early days. Fortunately, Beve's mom was a very good cook; she cooked for quantity but aimed for quality. Fortunately, I discovered I actually DID like cabbage rolls, and seafood lasagne and lentil soup and all kinds of other things my family had never eaten.

But that's all ancient history now.
Now Grampie stares at his plate, not quite knowing what food is.
At least for today. But in a few moments, he'll be put back into bed.
"It's a good bed," he told me just the other day. "I tuck in and say, 'Ah.'"
He's pretty funny, our Grampie. I love these little nuggets from him. I KNOW he does exactly that every time he gets tucked into bed. I've seen it. He doesn't remember my name, he loves to laugh at me, he doesn't remember we live right across town or that we were just with him two days ago. He doesn't even remember where he lives, but he knows exactly how it feels to 'tuck in' to bed. It's the best moment of his day.

That's what the end is like. He enjoys the smallest moments.
He makes everyone around him smile and remember his name.
You can hardly imagine how much love there is for this big man at the place were he lives.

I want my end days to be like his. No matter when they come, I want my end days to find me being cheerful, unfailingly friendly, caring for others, appreciative of the small things, forgetful of what doesn't matter. Grampie teaches me how to let go of life well. He's doing it the best way you can imagine. You'd be proud to know him. Proud to call him Grampie--I know you would. He makes the world a better place by being in it. Even that confined, end place where he lives is a better place for his presence.

Beve, J and E with Grampie 
on Father's Day


M said...

And that's a true story.

jeskmom said...

Amen to that, M!

Pamela M. Steiner said...

Believe it or not, the things Grampie is saying and doing reminds me of the way Matthew was those last few days of communication. We never knew just what was going to come out of his mouth next, but it was always funny and interesting. It made a difficult time more tolerable because he could still make us smile. Cherish those a lot...let him know how much you love him even though he may not be able to reciprocate or fully comprehend what you are talking about. I know it is a bittersweet time. But it is still an important time to be together as much as possible. You will never regret that. Your memories will be much sweeter. Sending hugs your way (((hugs))).