Stepping out of the car, we slowly filed in. I’ve never walked so slowly in my life. I didn’t know what to expect, but dread filled the air. This wasn’t going to be fun. Grandpa hasn’t been doing so well. We were visiting him at the rest home–he’s only been there for a month or so. A car accident last year told us thing were getting worse. Finally it got to the point where he couldn’t stay at home anymore.
I hadn’t seen him in six years. The last time I’d seen him, he was himself, sitting in a lawn chair in front of the house, smoking a Marlboro. Now the house is quiet, the lawn chair is empty, and the weeds are growing up around the porch and in the gravel driveway.
But a lot can change in six years. The man lying half asleep on that rest home bed was hardly my Grandpa. He was more like a tiny child. He never woke up enough to actually talk to us, and he barely even recognized us. I was dreading having to talk really loud and repeat everything I said five times–I’m a notorious mumbler. Phone conversations the past few years have never been fun.
But I would have loved to shout and speak slowly and clearly–anything would have been better than this. The man who once held me in his arms, the man who first let me drive a car–even if it was only on the country roads of Kansas. A weary old man as long as I’ve known him, with rough, work-worn skin and an old wrinkled face–like it had been stretched out over the years. The man who always told me my interest in writing came from my great-great uncle who was an author. The man who would have poked fun at the goatee I grew at college and hassled me about the girlfriend I brought back with me to Kansas.
Here that man was, barely able to keep his eyes open. He wasn’t eating well and was continually falling. He had lost the will to live. The tears welled up in my eyes, and all I could do was squeeze my girlfriend’s hand.