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My Treasure (Part VII)
“Three months passed, the air grew colder, and Grandpa didn’t get any better. His doctor said he had been suffering a series of mild strokes, which led to speech that wasn’t understandable. To Grandpa his world was slowly slipping away. His home life was gone, and the things he used to do like, trapping beaver, mowing the lawn, walking in the woods, and family hotdog roasts, seemed a world away. I knew the Lord was getting ready to call him to his heavenly home, when he had his final stroke.
Mom and dad tried to tell me how Grandpa’s stroke happened, but I wouldn’t listen. I didn’t want to hear that Grandpa, my immortal treasure, was almost gone. All I wanted was to see him again.
A week before Christmas my dad drove me up north, so I could be with Grandpa. I wished I had listened, when mom and dad tried to tell me about what happened to Grandpa when he had his stroke. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. As I walked into the nursing home, I still noticed the odor of antiseptic. The atmosphere had changed somewhat. Everything looked as though it wore a grey shroud. When I got to Grandpa’s room, the whole family stood along the perimeter of the wall surrounding the bed. I stopped at the door, and everyone looked at me with solemn faces. Thinking I could help make my sad feelings go away, I smiled nervously. I sauntered into the room, passed the curtain that shielded Grandpa’s bed on the right, and turned around to face him. The small and shrunken man in the bed was just a shell of the man that had once been. His body had deflated, as though his soul had left and took everything with it. His right eye was black and blue, but his nose still stood strong. His mouth was open, as if he were about to sing. Both eyes were closed. A feeling of sorrow and sadness overwhelmed me, and my stomach sat in knots. Grandma walked over and stood on my right.
I started to cry, as she hugged me. “It’ll be alright. He’ll be going to a better place soon, a place where his pain will be over, and he’ll be at home again,” she said.
“I know, but I’ll miss him,” I said.
“We all will.”
I went back to Grandma’s and stayed the night. The next morning I was awakened by my mom.
“Wake up, Jill. Jill, come on sweetie. Wake up.”
“Jill, Grandma just called from the nursing home and said that Grandpa just passed away a few minutes ago. We’re all going down there to have a small devotion in his room. Do you want to go?”
“Yes, I do.”
After the devotion, Grandpa’s body was taken away, but his memories were left behind. In the corner of the room stood his cane. I walked over and picked it up. At that moment, I realized his cane was not a sad reminder of what used to be. Instead, it reminded me of what still remained of Grandpa in the treasured memories of my mind.
My Treasure (Part VI)
A week later Grandpa was settled into his new room at Fairbanks Nursing Home in Tawas City. Grandma and mom took me to see him for the first since he’d been there. The electronic door opened its mouth to welcome our arrival. After I entered, the door shut behind me with a strong force, like a door of a prison. The whole building was in the shape of the letter X. The halls were painted sickly pink, and an odor of antiseptic danced about. Grandpa’s room bragged pictures of all his grand kids, get well cards, and pictures hung on the wall that were drawn by some of his great grandchildren. In one corner was his cane, a sad reminder of what once had been only last week. Outside his door other tenants lurked. Some of them didn’t know where they were, and others knew all too well and wanted to leave. I couldn’t blame them. Their lives had come to a halt the moment they stepped in the door. I watched my mom as she knelt in front of her father.
Taking his hands in hers, she asked, “Are you okay, dad?”
“I want to go home. This isn’t home. Will I ever go home?”
She hung her heat and tears started to run down her cheeks. A few moments later she picked up her head, faced her dad and said, “I’m so sorry dad, but you have to stay here until you can walk again. It’s very important that you do as they say, so you can walk again. Then you can come home.”
His eyes moved from hers to his frail hands in his lap. His head nodded. When he looked back up at her again, he had the same sad expression on his face that he did last week when he had been on his riding lawn mower. The sadness on his face spoke its silent feelings. Deep within him he knew he wasn’t going home.
“Jill, could you stay here with Grandpa while your Grandma and I quick run and take care of some business?” mom asked me.
I looked nervously at my mom, and then at my Grandma. Both of their faces expressed concern. As I turned and looked at Grandpa, I felt a sharp pang of grief. Turning on my heel, I ran out of the room. Tears gushed from my eyes, and I began to sob. I couldn’t stand seeing him like that. I felt his pain, I felt his dismay. Grandpa would never be the same again, and that was hard to accept.
(To Be Continued)
The best compliment I ever received was from a review of my novel The Cross’s Key.
It read like this:
“I applaud the author for creating one of the most complex and ambitious plots I have read in a long time…”
The Eyes of Heaven by L. M. Montes
The eyes of heaven
shine like winking, blinking stars
Love shoots arrows straight
into hearts of human souls,
ebbing and flowing.
My Treasure (Part V)
Grandpa’s downcast face and gentle eyes looked troubled. In a small voice he said, “I’m 87 years old, and I have nothing to show for it.”
“Sure you do,” replied Grandma.
“No, I don’t. I don’t have a lot of money, and I’m not able to buy you everything you want.”
“Ben,” said Grandma. “You have five healthy children, sixteen grandchildren, and twenty great grandchildren who love you. You have a wife who loves you, a house you own outright, and no outstanding debts. Ben, you’re the richest man in the world.”
Later that afternoon, I watched Grandpa mowing the lawn on his riding mower. His cheeks drooped with an expression of sadness. His eyes reflected melancholy. It was as though he knew something upsetting about himself. Around in circles he went, sometimes mowing the same patch of grass twice. This can’t be the same man that used to be so strong long ago. I felt his sadness, but there was nothing I could do to change the fact that he was getting worse.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, inhaling the smoky, rich scent of the pine trees along the edge of the lawn. This smell I knew all too well. The different campgrounds Grandma and Grandpa used to take us to when we were kids boasted the same fragrance. But the camping stopped as we all grew older, and soon Grandpa sold his trailer. It’s hard to bear the thought that all things are forever changing, and that nothing gets stuck in time. When I opened my eyes, Grandpa was still sitting on his mower. He had a smile on his gentle face. I smiled back and took in the memory of his smiling sweet face. I would always remember this moment.
On my way home that evening, I had an uneasy feeling I couldn’t shake. I needed someone to talk to so I decided to stop off at mom’s instead of going directly home. When I walked in my parents’ house, I noticed my mom’s red eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Apparently, after you left, Grandpa fell,” she said.
“But he was fine when I walked out the door. How did it happen?”
“He was making his usual rounds between the kitchen and the living room, when his knees gave out.”
“So what’s going to happen now?”
“Well, he can’t walk now, which means your Grandmother can’t take care of him. After all, it’s too much for her to handle. The only thing I can think of is to put him in a nursing home.”
“I thought you were against that.”
“I was, but that’s the only option we have.”
My Treasure (Part IV)
I arrived at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s early in the evening Thursday just in time to join them for dinner. I felt a little awkward and on edge because I didn’t know if I would be able to handle helping to take care of Grandpa. It was my first time, and I didn’t want to get anything wrong.
After supper, we went for a drive near Tawas Lake. It wasn’t a very large lake. In fact, it was very peaceful and quiet. Grandpa always liked driving out there. It was part of where he would do his trapping in the winter. But even now that he was too old to trap, he still liked going there because it was pretty, and he was able to be among God’s beauty. I could see it in his pale blue eyes and the pleasant smile on his sweet face. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for him if he couldn’t have that beautiful lake or his sense of home.
When we arrived back at the house, Grandpa appeared to be more restless than usual. Grandma said he had slept well the last few nights, so his unrest surprised me. It was 11:00 pm, when we finally got him to bed. Two hours later my Grandma knocked on my bedroom door.
“Grandpa wants to tell you something, sweetie.”
“Okay. I’m up. I’m coming,” I relied.
I got out of bed and followed her to their room. When I got there, Grandpa was sitting up in bed, with a concerned look on his toothless face. He said something to me, but I found it hard to understand because he was mumbling. I felt tense at the moment, and I didn’t quite know what to say because I didn’t know what he’d said. Grandma knew I felt uneasy. She looked at me with understanding and said, “You can go back to bed, Jill, it’s okay.”
“Good night, Gram.”
At 3:00 in the morning, the clomp, clomp, clomp of my Grandpa’s footsteps outside my bedroom door woke me. I had to chuckle because, whenever my sisters and I would stay at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house, he used to threaten to pour water on us in the morning if we didn’t get up.
“Jill, Lynn, Gale, get up or I’ll get the water,” Grandpa said.
“No, no, no. We’re up,” I replied.
We could hear him coming, because the clomp of his shoes gave him away. Exactly like I heard it just now. Only now, I knew he wasn’t going to throw water on me.
“Jill, get up and come out in the kitchen and talk to me,” said Grandpa.
When I got to the kitchen, Grandma was standing there. She said, “Go ahead and lay down on the couch. He really doesn’t need anyone to be up with him. He’ll be okay.”
At 5:00 am I was awakened again by Grandpa. He was in the middle of getting dressed and needed some help.
“Jill, Jill, wake up will ya.”
“Yes, Grandpa. What do you need?” I asked.
“Help me with my shirt.”
When we finished, he sat down in his recliner and looked at me as I lay on the couch.
“I love you, Jill,” said Grandpa.
“I love you, too, Grandpa.”
“Do you really?” he asked.
“Yes, Grandpa. I do.”
I woke up at 7:00 am and found my grandparents sitting at the table. Grandpa looked sad.
(To Be Continued)
Train, definitely a train.
My Treasure (Part III)
The next evening, I sat on the couch in my small two bedroom apartment watching TV. Since I had just moved in, I hadn’t had time to decorate yet, so the place was bare with nothing on the walls. For the time being the couch, chair, TV, and small kitchen table with chairs would do. As I walked across the tiny living room to the kitchen to grab a snack, I thought about my mom and dad. They had put up enough money for the first six months rent on my apartment, so I could find a decent job. I lived alone, so I didn’t have anyone else to provide for. Just then the phone rang. It was my mom.
“Jill, I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”
“Sure, what is it?”
She hesitated and sniffled as though crying. I waited quietly. After another moment, she said, “Could you possibly stay with Grandma and Grandpa over night next Thursday? I can’t because I’m on call at the hospital.”
“Yes, I’ll do it. Not a problem. What’s wrong? It sounds like you’ve been crying.”
“Oh, it’s just so sad. It’s hard to see my dad with the knowledge that he isn’t what he used to be. I don’t want him to grow old.”
“I understand, mom. I feel the same way. I wish I could go back in time and relive all those memories with him all over again.”
After a few more minutes of talking, we hung up. I sat on the couch and wondered where mom’s energy came from. Somehow she managed to work long hours at St. Vincent’s Hospital as a home care coordinator, and then go up north every night to take care of her dad. Not to mention she always found the time to keep herself looking nice. Her brown shoulder length hair was always groomed, her make-up neat, and her clothes washed and ironed. I had to smile because she had displayed the same kind of energy her dad always had.
My Treasure (Part II)
My grandparents’ cottage was simple. The back door opened into a small utility room with a soft yellow carpet, bare walls, and a washer and dryer. To the left a door led to the cozy kitchen/dining room that bragged soft brownish hues. Off the kitchen was a tiny pink bathroom and two smaller rooms. One of them was used for storage, while the other was used as a sewing room. At the front of the house the living room sat next to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s bedroom.
When I arrived at their house, I found them sitting at the dining room table grinning widely and looking out the large window next to them. I was surprised to find my Grandma’s hair still black after 78 years. Of course, she was part Canadian Indian. Grandpa still looked the same. He had all of his hair, which was a light sandy blond with flex of gray, and his kind, gentle eyes were a baby blue. The only difference was his cane, but that made him look more distinguished.
“Hello, sweetie. It’s so good to see you again. You look great. Have you been working out?”
I gave them both a kiss on the cheek and a hug and said, “Yeah, some.”
“Oh no. You cut your hair. It used to be so full and long,” said Grandma. “Why did you cut it?”
“It was in the way, and I got tired of putting it up every day for the army, so I decided to cut it short. It’ll grow back,” I replied.
Grandma smiled and said, “I know, love. Say, would you like to play a game of Scrabble with me?”
“Sure, I’d love to.”
As we sat and played, I noticed that Grandpa got up from his chair at the kitchen table, walked to his recliner in the living room, sat down, then got up a few minutes later and made a return trip to his chair in the kitchen.
At one point, while Grandpa was sitting his recliner, I asked, “Grandma? I noticed Grandpa keeps making trips back and forth from his chair in the kitchen to his chair in the living room. How come?”
“I’m not sure,” she answered. “I think he’s trying to reassure himself that he is still able to walk without falling over. He’s so afraid of falling. It seems like he’s getting weaker every day.”
The rest of the day we watched television, talked, and enjoyed each other’s company. That’s all I really wanted anyway. That evening, as my mom arrived to spend the night, I left and drove home knowing I had just made some of the best memories of my life.
On a scale of 1 to 10, it depends.