My grandpa’s life interwove with mine for a total of 26 years. I wish I could weave a story that makes the last half as magical as the first half, but I can’t. Right at the midpoint, the summer of my 13th year, my grandpa developed a rare form of polio. One morning while trying to get out of bed, my grandpa fell to the floor. My dad and great uncle tried to lift him without success. An ambulance came to the house and took him to the hospital where he spent the next couple of months learning how to move again. It was a scary place to go as a child. I saw many people struggling to make simple body movements. The scariest was a teen boy who became paralyzed after a deer went through the windshield of his car.
After a couple of months, my grandpa came home in a wheelchair. He no longer drove. He didn’t walk and he didn’t leave the house. He spent the early years making Christmas ornaments and clocks. He also carved fish and ducks. His carvings were so life like that people mistook them for a taxidermists work. Then one day, my grandpa became so frustrated that he told my grandma to put all of his carvings in a box and burn them. She didn’t. I think at this time his arthritis was making it painful for him to continue. It bothered him to not be able to do anything anymore. He would sit in his wheelchair and instruct others how to do their work properly.
To make matters worse, he needed surgery for prostate cancer, lost his vision due to cataracts, and developed diabetes. My grandma never once complained about being his caregiver. He was very demanding. At times, I would sit with him so grandma could get a ride to the grocery store. He was very panicky if she was not back right away. He wanted me to call the police to see if something happened to her.
After time, most of my grandpa’s friends and family passed away. The only visitors he got were the Jehovah witnesses. They were kind to him and shared fishing stories. I visited at least once a week. Many times I would sit with my grandpa in silence. After I had kids, he loved to visit with them. He would smile, hold their little hands, and cry. He loved visits with my dog too.
After 13 years of sickness and struggle, my grandpa went to his final home. He was ready. A few years after that, I was waiting to sing my first solo in church. I saw a man who looked exactly like my grandpa sitting in the back. For a few minutes, I imagined that he was still alive right there with me. I miss our time together.