I wrote yesterday about the visit to my Grandpa. Two things really distressed me about that visit:
- I just felt so helpless. Unable to understand what he tried to say, unable to help, unable to do anything to make it better.
- 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.