It’s been a long time since I’ve had an honest to goodness conversation with you. In fact, I am not even all that sure that I’ve ever had a real conversation with you while I’ve been an adult. That’s sort of a harsh reality to come to terms with. You were put in a nursing home around the time I turned 21 years-old. In that time, you went from a semi-competant man, to just about a complete invalid.
You spend your days in bed. You haven’t spoken a word in at least 2 years. You haven’t walked on your own two feet in that long of a time either. You used to wear glasses but sometime during your time in nursing homes, falling deeper and deeper into an Alzheimer’s/Dementia coma, they were lost. I often wonder if you can even see?
We came to visit you in February of 2009. It was the first time in a year that any of us had seen you. It was also the first time I ever wondered if you’d really forget me. As we all walked in, me along with your son, his wife, and your granddaughter; we saw you in a bed with wheels. They had to roll you down to the cafeteria to eat.
It was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever seen.
They rolled you over to us so we could spend time with you. You couldn’t move too much, except to bring your hand up to your mouth to chew on. Since they were afraid that you’d bite a hole in your hand, they gave you a rubber chew toy, like a dog. I had a hard time trying to figure out what all the point of that was. What sort of life is that to live? Such a hard-working, honest, funny, and caring man… to spend the last remaining years alone to himself, with no real apparent memory of anything.
I wonder what you think about in there; in that head of yours. What is going on in there.
I want to apologize for not coming to visit you for yet another year. We got a phone call that your health is failing. They say that they are trying to feed you but you simply aren’t swallowing it. They told us the end was near. I had to go see you one more time. So I did. Your granddaughter and I came. I am not sure you remember.
Your days now are spent in your room in your bed. Words still do not flow from your mouth. When we walked in the room, it took everything I had to hold back the tears. Seeing you like that — confined to a bed without the ability to communicate or remember — is harder than I ever could have imagined. We arrived at your dinner time and we had to watch them feed you some substance that looked like baby food. Do you even have the ability to complain about it’s taste? Even the milk had some sort of substance in it because you’d choke if they gave you straight liquids.
But you didn’t swallow. Someone said it maybe because your body simply forgot how to swallow. Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that you’d live long enough to forget how the most basic of functions? I just don’t understand it.
So Long Old Friend! (4/2010)
The next day, your son came to visit. Do you remember? It’s like we were all there to say our goodbyes. Do you remember what I told you? I was the last one in the room with you. I looked at you for a few minutes, trying to search for any bit of recognition in your eyes, but failed to see it. I was trying to figure out what to say.
“Hey Grandpa. We’re all here for you. Me, your son, your granddaughter – everyone. We’re all here for you and we love you very much. I love you… and I miss you so much Grandpa. I wish you could be out there with us and see what I am doing. I teach now, you know. I don’t think you even knew I ever wanted to do that… and I hate that I couldn’t share that with you. I’m sorry I haven’t been around. I know you have had trouble eating… but perhaps it’s time now Grandpa. We’re here for you. And everything is going to be fine Grandpa. But it’s time… it’s time for you to let go. Just let go Grandpa. We’ll all understand. I love you so much.”
I couldn’t help but cry. It’s all I could really do. As I stood up to walk away, you were no longer looking at me. You often cry now, uncontrollably. You’ve been doing that for a while actually. But I couldn’t leave you that way, so I stopped dead in my tracks.
“Grandpa… Grandpa, it’s okay. Everything is fine. Everything. I’ll see you soon.”
I hope someday you can read this letter and understand it. I am not sure how that will happen, or when, but it’ll be here. I miss you Grandpa. And I love you.