Saturday, January 23
I woke up this morning thinking about my grandparents. Perhaps this was because I was talking to my mom about my uncle possibly having Parkinson's, like my grandma did. But anyway.
I dreamed of them.
My grandma's name was Rose. I never knew her. She is the person my middle name is named after. She became crippled by Parkinson's by the time I was old enough to remember her. My first memory of her disease is when their car broke down. I was perhaps 7 or 8 and she had to drive. She was nervous because already her brain was not firing as quickly as it should have been and she was worried about her response time while driving.
My grandpa's name was Harold. I loved him more than he or I or anyone will ever know. So often I try to write about him but the words sounds hollow and artificial; contrived somehow. I guess this is just one of the weaknesses of human language. He had strong hands. He was in the army during WWII and those events made up the most interesting part of his life, I think. As he grew older he talked a lot about what happened in the war. It was the only time he ventured out of the country. He loved to go camping. And he loved me.
I awoke thinking about both of them. Was I dreaming about them? Was my mind just wandering in the early hours of sleep? I'm not sure. All I know is that I woke up surrounded by my memories of them. How well does a grandchild ever know their grandparents? If lucky, perhaps a little. I knew mine only in the basest of senses; grandchild to grandparent. I never knew them well, as adults, as their true selves. But maybe that's the best. You never know each others' flaws. You just love and love and love.
They used to take me camping. I mean, the whole family would go, but they would sometimes steal me away a couple days early.
I remember Grandma making breakfast in the trailer. The mountain sunshine seeped through the window across the table. She used the countertops as makeshift crutches. Grandpa would come in and we would share a cup of Pero. He liked his with milk and sugar. They had a blue plastic sugar bowl.
I remember singing the oldies with Grandpa. He had a leather briefcase that was made to hold cassettes, and his collection was extensive. I would pick out a tape and we would sing all the songs we knew. Sometimes he would fall asleep in the lazy chair and Grandma would point at him and laugh in her gentle way.
I remember how strong his hands were. He would lift Grandma from sitting. He would pick her up when she fell. He could wring out almost every drop of water from a washrag.
I remember driving with them in the cab of the truck. Grandma called him Pa. She kept a bag of hard candy in the glovebox; root beer barrels, cinnamon rounds, butterscotch. Every couple of hours she would pass him one -- to keep him awake.
I remember Grandma used to do word searches. I still love them, probably because of her.
I don't know if they had a happy marriage. I only know they were happy. There is a picture of the two of them, I don't know who took it. They are in the mountains, no doubt camping. Grandpa is driving a dirt bike with Grandma, her arm raised in greeting behind him on the seat. Did they love each other? I only know that Grandpa took care of her, as her speech left, as her hands shook, as she lost the ability to walk and bathe and could barely eat. He kept her close to him for as long as possible. Beside her open casket he said, "I wish I could pick her up and take her home." Are they in heaven? The only heaven I know is in my heart. And they are there. And we are together.
I miss them every year. Maybe more, maybe less. When my grandfather became ill, I cried every night he was in the hospital. I lie awake, my hand on my aching heart, grateful for my husband's warm body next to mine, tears streaming down the sides of my face. Splashing onto the pillow. I remember him lying in the hospital bed, dying. He whispers to me and to Tom, individually, that he loves us -- lucid to the very end. His last words to us. His strong hands holding ours. I will never see him again. I will never hear his voice again. But I am so lucky to have been loved so perfectly.