Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Sweetest Strawberry

"Gotta go someday," my grandpa said last night.  "Any time now!"

This is a sad statement if you don't know that when my grandpa's deep-as-a-whale's voice rises to a tenor's pitch, he is telling his best jokes.

I've been waiting for my grandpa to die for years.  In 2004 he suffered a pair of small strokes, and that's when I first felt the rupture of realization that yes, someday he will die.  But it's probably been my whole life that I've been waiting.

He's been more and more immobile ever since I was a kid.  The earliest I remember, he would fall asleep reclined all the way in his plaid chair while us kids continued to watch TV.  Then, awakened eventually by the television, he would rock his chair forward and back, still reclined, before launching himself to standing.  There he would pause, steadying, before shuffling through the kitchen and off to bed.

Last night, he sat in his wheelchair at the end of the table, the end that is proud in any household.  He sat with his "Don't Forget My Senior Citizen Discount" sweatshirt on, dinner's crumbs and some salad dressing dribbled all over it.  He eats like a baby, singularly focused on the event.

"Dad, you've got some dressing there on your chin," my uncle said.  My grandpa picked up his napkin and wiped away half of the ranch dressing that had run down the side of his mouth.  He used to do this more self-consciously.  These days, he does it absently, perfunctorily, so he can get back to eating.

After dinner, he launched into his act for his audience.  Sometimes his jokes can still kill, like when he came back from senior citizen's daycare a couple months ago and told us that all the ladies had been after him.

"They are all so old!" he said then.  "I kept telling them I'm married!"

Last night, his jokes weren't so lucid.  Our laughter was nervous.  At one point he was aghast when he thought my grandma said they had to pay to use the downstairs bathroom.  My grandparents don't have a downstairs bathroom.

Usually, as dinner ends, the others run to the kitchen to clean up while he and I are still eating.  Then I take our plates, give them to the dish washers, and return to the table so he's not alone.

One dinner -- it may have even been for the birthday I share with my grandma -- our dessert consisted of everything I was avoiding.  I had decided that eating as purely as I could would cure my vulvodynia, and dessert was never pure.  But there were strawberries that dessert.  Someone set the strawberries out before the other things, and my grandpa and I each took one.

Suddenly, I felt like my life was being stripped from me.  First it was chronic pain and now I had so little left to eat.  I turned my eyes down so my grandpa couldn't see them.  No matter his degree of presence, he still picks up on others' emotions.

Then I remembered the Buddhist fable about a monk who falls off a cliff and grabs a branch on the way down.  Above is the tiger that chased him off the cliff.  Below, waiting for him to fall, is another tiger.  He knows he is going to die.  Then he sees a strawberry on the branch.  He plucks it and eats it, and it is the sweetest strawberry he's ever tasted.

Sitting there eating strawberries with my grandpa, whose death I had been awaiting forever, that was the sweetest strawberry I had ever tasted.

Last night we had pound cake, which I again abstained from.  My uncle -- the birthday honoree -- was dishing out the cake with a smattering of berries and whipped cream.  Grandpa got the first plate, which he started into immediately.  The other plates came one at a time, mine with blueberries and strawberries alone topped with whipped cream.  They were delicious, perfect.  They made me think twice about whether it is winter.

After dessert is when grandpa told us he is going "any time now."  And he is.  It is a luxury to have been waiting all this time.  It makes every moment with him sweet.


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48 comments:

  1. I can't log into my account, never can! But I wanted to tell you this is really one of the most beautiful things you have written. I am used to you posting about V, and to see you post something outside of yourself, so loving, so sweet and both well and emotively written, was a pleasure. Thanks-and I hope you have more sweet moments. When he goes, I hope they are sweet moments of remembrance.

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  2. Thank you! And thanks for the thoughts about my grandpa :)

    I have been linking up with Yeah Write the past few weeks to encourage myself to write with more direction (http://yeahwrite.me). I very much appreciate your feedback on it. It is giving me more purpose here on the blog than updating it when something v-like happens.

    I wonder why you can't sign in! If you know why you're having a problem, let me know and I'll see if I can change it.

    Thanks again!

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  3. I'm happy you are focusing on your writing - keep doing that! The group sounds interesting. I will check it out though I'm no writer!

    I can't sign in because I whenever I sign in with my email address, it changes my original You Tube account and I have to change that right away because it shows my full name. And I can never, ever remember the passwords or where I've put them;-). So having tried to just have one account doesn't seem to work. I actually do need to find my passwords to everything, as I may have to transfer all onto a new computer. Google has always given me trouble-I avoid it!

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    1. What a pain! I have to fiddle around with my accounts too to comment with the right ones. I'm glad you comment anyway!! Thanks! :)

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  4. I'm so glad you're getting to enjoy him while he's still with you. And there's humor in his thinking grandma said he had to pay to use a nonexistent toilet.

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    1. There is humor in dementia, though you don't laugh about it the way you do about other things. It's interesting to see how the brain works. I think his mind skips back in time, maybe to a house with a downstairs bathroom. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I'm glad that you enjoyed your strawberry -- sometimes we all need little gifts like that.

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    1. It's true! :) Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. I'm absolutely sobbing. I needed to read this today to know I'm not alone, because I'm going through a similar situation. God bless you and your grandfather.

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    1. Oh, I'm so sorry! I cried when I wrote this. Happy/sad cry. I'm glad I can be here to let you know you're not alone! My thoughts are with you and your loved ones!!

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  7. Oh this is beautiful. My grandpa lived with me growing up. I can see all of this. Thanks for reminding me of some of my own memories.

    xo

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  8. The smallest things -- like the strawberry -- can mean so much. I loved how you wove the Buddhist tale into your piece.

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  9. This was so very beautifully told. The pacing and emotion were spot on. I love how you used the tale of the strawberry to weave everything together. This was very, very well crafted.

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    1. Thank you so much for the feedback, Angela!!

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  10. I've heard the Zen strawberry story before and really liked it, and I loved how you tied it in with the story of your grandfather.

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    1. Thank you, Marcy! That story is a powerful one.

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  11. I really enjoyed this post. You painted the picture of your grandpa really well. I feel like I can picture him, his jokes, his eating habits, all of it. I especially liked the Buddhist fable - indeed, living in the moment. We have to, right? Again, great piece!

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    1. Thank you, Jared! Yes, living in the moment -- missing what's right in front of us because we're worried about tigers that may or may not be real :)

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  12. It makes me think of always eat dessert first! Your Grandpa sounds like a real keeper and great guy!

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  13. This made me tear up! What a beautifully sad, yet happy, story. I'm so glad to hear you're enjoying every last moment with your grandpa.

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    1. Aww! Well, I'm glad they were happy/sad tears. Thank you.

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  14. To have the time to appreciate him, his humor is a priceless gift. I felt like I got to know him here even if only a little. You told a very lovely story.

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    1. It is a gift. Thank you. It is a good feeling to "introduce" him to you!

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  15. I loved the analogy to the story about the strawberry. Sweet and well told.

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    1. Thank you! It is a great little fable.

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  16. I love how you weaved the Buddhist story into yours. Here's to lovable grandpas and more strawberries!

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  17. Grandpa's are memorable, that is for sure. Thank you for sharing yours with us and for bringing pleasant thoughts of mine (one living, one passed) to me. As my grandfather used to say, "See ya round like a doughnut, so long like a hot dog!"

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    1. Ha ha! Sounds like your grandfather was a funny guy as well :)

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  18. Brilliantly woven words, with the strawberry and the story and your time with Grandpa. Nicely done, my fellow Peach!

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  19. I'm so happy for you that you have all these great memories with your grandpa. Grandparents and our moments with them are precious gifts to savor, just like plump, delicious strawberries. Sweet story.

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    1. Thank you, Kathleen. They really are precious.

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  20. I hope you wait with him for a long time to come.

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  21. You're so lucky to still have him in your life, and even more so to realize how important every moment is. Great writing. I love how the Buddhist tale is parallel to your own. I wish you many more moments with him.

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    1. Thank you, Dana! Yes, it's lucky to know when you're lucky.

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  22. How precious, the ability to enjoy that time with your grandpa. Memories like that last a lifetime.

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  23. An older man in my life would show everyone the suit that he was being buried in, all pressed. He talked about seeing his wife again. Kinda sweet and kinda sad.

    WG

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    1. I think there is an acceptance that comes in old age...I see it in my grandparents. I think it's hard to comprehend earlier in life.

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  24. Such a bittersweet time. The part where your Grandfather can still pick up on emotions, and you were trying to hid yours...just so poignant.

    I'm so glad I found your blog through Yeah Write! My sister has vulvodynia too, and she has been struggling with ways to handle the pain, including diet. I'm going to send her your link!

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    1. Wow! That is amazing. I hope your sister is finding treatment that helps her. Diet is a big struggle for me to this day...it takes a lot of willpower that I don't always have. I'm right there with her.

      And thanks about the post :)

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  25. Congratulations on being selected for the invitational grid. I was too lazy to read all the posts and vote this week, but I made sure to check out yours. You did a great job of painting a picture of your grandfather.

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    1. Thank you Cynthia!! I hope to see you back on the grid next week! :)

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