By Carolena Lapierre
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, ďIf Carol would come and take care of him for
me, Iíll let him stay home; otherwise Iíll have to put him in a
nursing home. Thatís all it took. I had a great affection and
respect for Grandpa. I agreed to go.
I didnít 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
grandpaís personal care. Iím afraid I didnít 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 didnít 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 lightening 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. 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 Ö and in love.