In my 17th summer my Grandpa Golden had a stroke that took away his health and ability to walk or speak, but worst of all, his pride. Grandma called to say, “If Carol would come and take care of him for me, I’ll let him stay home; otherwise, I’ll have to put him in a nursing home. That’s all it took. I had a great affection and respect for Grandpa. I agreed to go.
I didn’t think he was the same grandpa from all the summers past. His clear blue eyes were cloudy. He had been tall and straight, a proud man that was neat, clean and a sharp dresser. Now wrinkled and stained, drooling, he was weak and bent over. His mischievous twinkle was gone.
I had never taken care of an adult before and had no idea how this was to be done. I never did get over my embarrassment at doing all grandpa’s personal care. I’m afraid I didn’t do a good job of it because of this, and because I knew he was also embarrassed. He smelled of old skin, urine, and oily hair. I had no idea how to shave a person and so he had patches of whiskers and nicks from my efforts. Neither he nor Grandma complained, and I didn’t realize until many years later just how poor a job I had done.
But I managed to walk him many times a day by using my body as a walker, and patiently listened as he worked at talking to me. I changed his pants whenever he dribbled urine, fed him his meals and changed his shirt when he dribbled food. Grandma went to her Lodge and garden meetings and had her hair done while we spent daily time on the front porch, just as we had done for years. In the evenings the three of us listened to the evening sounds of crickets and hoot-owls and watched the lightning bugs. We sucked on homemade popsicles from Kool-Aid frozen in cups with spoon handles. This man that used to take me for ice-cream cones was now delighted with this treat from me.
By the end of the summer, Grandpa had gained enough strength to hold up most of his own weight. The speech had also improved so much that we were able to have simple conversations. One evening though, as I sat on the porch swing, he shared a story I had never heard before. It was the most he said at one time all that summer and I could tell it was important to him.
When he was a young man he worked for Railway Express, sorting mail in the train car. One day the train he was working in derailed and crashed turning many cars over. He rushed out of the Railway Express car to help the passengers. One was a lovely young woman who was also the daughter of the train engineer. She hurt her ankle and was crying. He got her out of the mess and gave her comfort. That was the day he fell in love. A few days later he came to her house to check on her recovery, bringing a gift. It was a pair of hand blown glass vases shaped like morning glories. They were damaged goods from the wreck. That was the beginning of their life together. Now I have one of those vases, about 90 years later. Wow! I thought. They were once my age … and in love.
Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software