"We love your grandpa!" the nurses called after us. Of course they loved him. He is a flirt. He likes to shine his crooked smile for the ladies.
Grandpa navigated the way to the dining room, circled our choices on the little menus, ate silently next to his buddy who is also a John. Fish, jello, cottage cheese, chocolate pie, all of it into his 6'3" frame. In a wheelchair, just like his mother.
She had spent her final years in a nursing home after suffering a massive stroke that robbed her of English and left her with Slovak. He, now, was in a physical rehab center, having fallen into a period of weakness. Whether he would return home remained to be seen.
As we wheeled back from dinner, the sun was starting to set. The hospital grew rooms. There was a beer for me in the fridge. His mother was in the kitchen. I was his daughter and his granddaughter and his daughter.
"You sure you'll be all right?" he asked about my leaving. "I guess it's about a half a mile from here."
"I'll be fine," I said.
"Let me call Grandma. I'll let her know you're coming."
"That's okay, Poppa. I already gave her a call."
It is a fifteen-minute drive to their house. I arrived just after sunset. My grandma sat in her chair watching TV; I took a seat on the couch to her right.
"Poppa called to say you were coming," she told me.
We chatted. A few minutes later, the phone rang. My grandma picked it up. I heard my grandpa's voice on the other end. After an English "hello," they spoke in Slovak.
Whenever they speak Slovak, it means they are telling each other to give us money. I braced myself for the tussle that would follow.
Grandma hung up. "I told him you made it okay."
She stared quietly at the TV. Then she said, "I know why he was speaking Slovak. He thought he was calling his mother." We laughed.
"Dialed the same number both times. Didn't notice that." This she said a little self-consciously. Then, "That's sweet, calling his mother to say 'I love you' before he goes to bed."
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