just plain rambling

An Open Letter

I wrote yesterday about the visit to my Grandpa. Two things really distressed me about that visit:

  1. I just felt so helpless. Unable to understand what he tried to say, unable to help, unable to do anything to make it better.
  2. Grandpa looked like an Old Man. I’ve seen that Old Man before; in the mall, on the bus, in a wheelchair abandoned in a hospital hallway. It really bothered me that anyone who walked in the room would see nothing but an Old Man.

In the process of writing yesterday’s post, I found something that helped on both counts: I wrote a letter. It now hangs on the wall of Grandpa’s hospital room. Dad agreed to put it there after I took out the word “assholes”. He suggested “jerks”, but I didn’t want to use “jerk” and “punk” so close together.

To the Staff at G— R— Hospital,

This is my Grandpa. Thank you so much for taking care of him. Here are a few things I thought you might like to know:

His hospital bracelet says William but he actually goes by Bill. His bracelet also says he was born in 1925. Even I didn’t know that.

His picture hangs in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Manitoba, class of 1949. I think he may be the only Electrical Engineer on the face of the planet who has never owned a computer.

In the 1980s, he quit smoking. Cold turkey. He kept an open pack of Du Mauriers in his bedside table for over 20 years – to remind himself that he was not a smoker – until some ignorant cretins broke in one Civic Holiday weekend and stole them. My god I hope those punks got sick smoking those things.

Grandpa retired from Canada Packers at 61, but instead of slowing down, he volunteered for the Canadian Cancer Society, driving patients to their treatments. He enrolled in German and Creative Writing classes, and took up windsurfing.

A few weeks ago Grandpa had to do some sort of competency test. He struggled with most of it. When asked to write something, he wrote, “this test makes me look foolish.” Touché, Grandpa. Touché.

My Grandpa is a smart, educated professional. Like you. Like me. I can’t begin to imagine what it is like for him not being able to express himself, much less take care of himself. And so thank you again: Thank you for your care, for your patience, and for the time you take with him in what I know is a busy, busy day.

Sincerely,

Sasha Rambles

8 Comments

    1. Thank you Jaqcueline. So lovely to hear from you, thank you for your good wishes. He has just been moved out of the hospital and into a hospice, where he is much more comfortable, which brings us comfort too. xo

  1. This is a perfectly splendid idea. I was confused about the fact that it was going to say ‘assholes’, but now I get it. ‘Cretins’ is good, but not quite perfect, am I right?

    1. Yeah. I was a bit preoccupied with emphasizing that. Lame attempt at humour (“I wrote a nice letter to the hospital staff that included the word “asshole”. Tee. Hee.) Although when Dad asked me to change it, that was a source of frustration. Took a long time to come up with an alternative that I could be happy with. And “ignorant cretin” at least is a little more… intelligent. No matter what you call them, though, I really do hope they got sick as dogs. Assuming the damn things didn’t blow up in their vile little faces.

  2. When my grampa was still living in Saskatchewan I would see those old men and sometimes they would bring me to tears, just missing MY old man.

    Great letter.

    1. Thanks Amy. *hugs* I’ve always been touched by your writing about your Grandpa. One thing I regret is that I’ve never talked to mine about his time in the service. All I know is that he was in comms, and then when I was in cadets and joined the drill team, I learned he’d been part of an elite drill team. I don’t know why I never asked, any time I thought about it it felt weird to ask since he never talked about it himself.

  3. Awww… wonderful. When I went to see my now 97 year old grandmother, 2 years ago, for the first time after her health deteriorated, I barely recognized her. It was emotional. But I hid it, and decided to focus on the connection we have always had, and what I remember of her. Instead of having long conversations, we held hands and looked at each other. It felt right.

    1. What a lovely memory. Thank you so much for sharing that. I think it’s hard to reconcile the changes we see on the outside with the person we know on the inside. I’m so glad you had that time with your grandmother.

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