My grandfather died last week; he was 98 years old and living in a nursing home in a room with my grandma, who is 95.
He was practically deaf for as long as I’ve been alive, and I’m sad to say that made it a little difficult to get to know him. From what I remember, he was always upbeat and pleasant, always humming. I never saw him lose his temper. He loved crossword puzzles and many have speculated that his habit of doing at least one every day helped keep him so sharp at such an old age.
I wrote about visiting my grandparents at their nursing home last Christmas and I saw them once more after then. My grandma was losing her memory, but my grandfather seemed the same as always, although maybe a little quieter. I wrote more about her, and my fascination with her ability to still play Christmas carols from memory on the piano with ease, yet her struggle to remember who I was. I felt a new connection to her, my last direct, female blood relation to my mother, and I was comforted by the time I spent with her.
My grandfather didn’t say much, but he seemed pleased to have company. He was a World War II veteran, an accomplished musician and a bicycle enthusiast. He met my grandmother through a bike club and they were married for 67 years. When I read “Cat’s Cradle” in high school, I immediately thought of the two of them when I read about the Bokononism term “duprass;” it means two people who are so intertwined in doing God’s work together and who will almost certainly die within a week of each other because of their love. I can’t picture my grandmother going long without her husband.
As I mentioned, he was hard of hearing for as long as I can remember. At some point, after I got hearing aids in high school and was thrilled by my success with them, my mom asked me to write a letter to him to let him know how well I liked them, and to ask him to consider them. He eventually did, although he never grew to like them.
It’s weird to me, as it always has been, that two people so old outlived their daughter. This death also stirs up all these thoughts about where he is now, and where my mom is. I don’t think about this often and I still have no idea what to make of it, but this loss makes it hard not to speculate. My mom is gone; now, so is her dad. They have crossed somewhere we can’t go, and I have no idea what or where that is, if anything or anywhere. I guess, no matter what, they’re together. And someday I’ll be with them and have all the answers, for whatever that’s worth.
My grandfather lived a long and interesting life, and sadly this entry doesn’t begin describe it. I wish I had asked him more about his experiences, although he never would talk about the war. I’ll have to ask my dad to tell me more, since he took it upon himself to learn my mom’s family’s history perhaps better than she even did. I am going to send my grandmother a letter, since I couldn’t go to the memorial service. I also feel for my uncle, my mom’s only sibling, who has been taking care of their parents for years and years. I heard he did a great job making arrangements.
Here’s my uncle with my grandparents last winter: