I remember my dad’s dad, my grandfather, holding me in his lap on a night when I was five… or six, or seven. My parents had gone away for a vacation and I had been whimpering in my bed. Homesick, momsick, dadsick… I had just wanted my. people. back. My grandfather had heard my quiet cries. The floorboards creaked as I heard him get up from his chair and make his way he across the room, slowly, so as not to wake my brother and sister. He bent down and easily scooped me right up. He brought me back to his favorite rocking chair and held me tight as I squished my favorite stuffed dog right into my chest. Even then, he smelled like old spice and coffee, aftershave and peppermint. He softly sang in my ear, my favorite song of his. A hilarious rendition of “Ain’t it Fun to Be Crazy.” Normally he did it with gusto, but that night, he sang it slow and sweet, almost whispering. He rocked and rocked, he made small circles on my back, he sang, and, eventually, my whimpers faded. And I slept.
That was over 20 years ago now. I took my grandfather to an appointment the other day and I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since. He’s had a hard time these last few months. A hard time figuring things out, a hard time remembering. He has dementia. I didn’t know what to expect when I first heard those words, uttered not too many weeks ago. But I see the signs of it now, I understand just a little bit more every time I see him. “It’s a really hard thing when the mind goes first… This disease is so tough.” That’s what I had overheard the therapist say to my grandmother. And my grandmother, my Nana, when Grpa was in his appointment, had turned to me and told me that she feels like no one understands, unless they’d been through it. None could understand what it’s like to caregive for someone who is horribly ill. “It’s like watching someone disappear.” Her eyes fill with tears. All I can do is nod and wish. Oh, how I wished I didn’t know. How I wished I could unsee some of the things I’ve seen. How I wished I could unhear the things I’ve heard. But then, my grandmother might not see me as she does now, see me as someone who just might get it. So I stop wishing. And I just listen.
January 7th marked two years since my husband, Nick, passed from this earth. But October 4th has actually been the real tough day for me as far as remembering goes. For October 4th 2012, was the day that I realized I would watch my sweet Nick disappear from my world. Nick reminded me of a star on so many occasions those last few years. Like one of those stars that you hear about that shines so bright and pure that it just can’t possibly go on forever. So it ebbs and it flows, it shimmers, shines, darkens and then it gives one last hurrah. You hold your breath as you wait for it to light up again, but for all the times you’ve seen it before, this time… it never does. It forever fades from the sky.
I don’t know how to comfort those that hurt anymore than I used to. I still don’t know what to say. But, if the years and my grandfather’s generosity with me as a young girl have taught me anything… It’s that sometimes all a hurting person needs is someone who is willing to scoop up the sadness and quietly sit with it until it too finally starts to fade.