*This is an old myspace (does anyone remember myspace?) blog post from February 28, 2008 that I wanted to re-post on this blog because I was just thinking about my dear old Grandad, who passed in February 2007*
I visited my Grandma today. My Grandad passed away a year ago the 18th. He was the love of my life until Ivan came along, and more recently, Abigail.
I left my Grandma's house feeling overwhelmed.
My brothers & I grew up there. After Grandad had retired from the DSCC, he did a bunch of impressive home projects. He built a gorgeous 2-tiered back patio, almost the full length of the house. He converted the basement to a sweet hang-out spot with billiards, ping-pong, darts, a bar, a tv room, and a bedroom with a 3/4 bath & kitchenette. My brothers & I had our friends over there all the time. Everyone would dip their hands into the cookie jar, and from time to time, Grandma would bitch about "feeding the whole damn neighborhood," although I think she secretly enjoyed it. As we grew up and went to college, the basement became more of a holiday place, where we would all go to play pool after eating turkey. I don't really remember the last time we actually played pool down there, but there was a last time.
Today my Grandma and I were talking about all the stuff in the basement and garage. Tools, building materials, all kinds of stuff. SHe wants us all to come over & take what we want. I am sure this is a common ritual in families, it's just weird now that it is actually happening to us.
Grandma & I decided to go to the basement together to have a look. It really struck me to find, that in my Grandad's twilight years, he had taken apart everything that he built. Seriously, everything was disassembled and rearranged- for no reason- except maybe to give him something to do. The game room was nothing but a storage room, the pool table was hoisted up on wheels and had become just a table, with all kinds of tools and hardware stored on it. The bathroom light switch had been removed, as well as the medicine cabinet- for no reason. The antique grandmother clock had been completely disassembled- the casing was hanging up, empty, but then I found its pendulum hanging on another wall, and the weights hanging on a nail a few feet away. He removed an entire wall that had stood between the game room and his work space, and he gathered like items and put them on shelves. I opened a drawer & found a box full of old batteries. Grandma said that at one point, she caught him taking up some of the floorboards of the back patio. She said "Oh, no you don't..." and made him stop.
Why did he feel compelled to disassemble what was once such a place full of happy memories? Grandma said that in the end he would spend all day down there & just come up for lunch and dinner. Then he would spend the evening watching tv with her and then they'd go to bed. We knew what he was doing in the basement, but I guess we never really thought anything of it. We just figured he was working on some other big handyman project & he would eventually clean it back up.
I thought that until today. Ivan said that it might have been a side effect of some of the medications- that the tendency to disassemble things is a strange side effect of crystal meth. Maybe his medicines were interacting with each other and this was a side effect.
He was definitely losing his mind. He was beginning to have hallucinations, like he would wake up in the middle of the night and look out the front window and see people dancing in the yard across the street. I witnessed him picking at his clothes and removing little tiny imaginary bugs and throwing them on the floor. Once he asked me if Ivan was sitting across from him, and Ivan wasn't even there that day. I could tell he was a little embarrassed when he realized it was his imagination. He wasn't always like this.
Grandad liked Ivan. I think he saw himself in him and approved of him. He walked me down the aisle at our wedding. As I said, he was the love of my life. He was a funny man. Jolly, happy, witty, smart, politically interested, a veteran of the 2nd World & Korean wars. He was a humble great man, proud of his family.
Grandad died after falling backwards when he reached the top of the basement stairs after a normal day of disassembling. He went quickly -within 12 hours- so we are thankful that he didn't suffer. Funny-I found out 2 weeks later that I was pregnant.
The last time I saw him was at my mom's a week earlier. She made a special dinner for my Grandparents and me and just wanted to get them out of the house for something different to do. He was in good spirits, lucid, and seemed to be feeling well. I am so thankful to have that memory.
My Grandma has had a rough year. She still cries a little almost every day, and she talks to him. She's lonely and that makes me sad. But she is strong and sharp as a tack, and still goes to the gym 3 days a week to walk around the track & do the machines without the weights. She has a laugh with the few friends she has there and then goes home to an empty house. She can still drive, thankfully, but she's afraid they'll take her license away when she turns 89 this April & goes in to get it renewed. She has her 1 mile radius that she drives- Kohl's, the library, the Post office, Kroger, Carfagna's, the "spa" (gym), and her doctors. I hope they don't take her license.
Funny- the thing that keeps her going is a doorbell that Grandad installed a few years ago. It seems to have a short in it or something and goes off several times a day. She is convinced that it is Grandad, saying hello. It didn't start doing it until we got back from Washington DC after taking Grandad's ashes to Arlington National Cemetery for a beautiful 21-gun salute ceremony in June. My cousin thought the doorbell might be picking up a signal from someone's garage door opener in the vicinity, but I think for Grandma's sake, nobody wants to know if that's true. She even took it down & took it to Home Depot to have someone look at it & they said there was nothing wrong with it. It's funny, though, it seems to go off at the darnedest times. It always goes off when someone visits, as if he's saying hi. Today, it didn't go off right away & Grandma took note of it. "Your Grandad hasn't called yet to say hello to you. I wonder why?" After a while, Abigail woke up from her car-induced slumber, and after I took her out of her car seat & gave her to Grandma to hold her, the dorbell rang. Grandad didn't want to wake the baby, so he waited to say hello.