I went to see my Grandpa today in his nursing home. My mum and I always go on a Thursday in the late afternoon. We were first attracted to this particular time slot by the promise of an open bar (it’s the “activity” for Thursday afternoon for the residents, and we thought it funny to go to a nursing home for a glass of wine), but over the past couple of months it’s turned into a tradition to go there and ask Grandpa if he wants anything to drink. In the first couple of weeks he asked for a beer (he hadn’t had a beer for over a decade), and we saw it as a good sign that he was in better spirits after his hospital visit back in September had prompted the move to the home. He quickly decided, though, that also putting a bit of lemonade in the glass was much better.
The last time I saw him before I went on holiday in November he seemed fine, but after I got back, it was clear that he had taken a turn for the worse. My visit to the home today was with my mum and my two brothers. Grandpa was asleep in his bed – apparently he hadn’t moved all day – but after we came in, he woke up and said hello, even though it was obvious that he was in some pain. My brother Steve had printed out photos of his baby son David for Grandpa to see, and while he looked at them my mum and I enjoyed our glasses of wine. My other brother Dave (not the baby – this is why it’s confusing) chose water like he always does. Free booze fail.
We then chatted amongst ourselves while Grandpa listened, but soon he started looking really tired again and said, “Bye bye.” It was our cue to leave, but even at that moment I couldn’t help feeling that his words meant more – like he himself thought it was our final goodbye. I made sure that I touched him on the shoulder and told him I loved him before I left. I don’t know if I’m ever going to see him again.
Now I’m just waiting for the call that I know is coming. It may not be tonight, or tomorrow, or even the next day. But it’s on its way. Then, and only then, will it properly sink in. I really don’t want to think about it, but sooner or later I’m going to have to face it. My feelings flip between not wanting him to leave us, and not wanting him to be in pain. Ninety-one is a good innings, though, and he’s played it well. I’m really going to miss him when it happens.