January 2, 2007

JB’s grandmother isn’t expected to live much longer. She’s in an assisted care facility and has been on hospice care for a while, she’s mostly stopped eating and drinking in the last several days. They are pretty much just keeping her comfortable with morphine at this point, although she’s been remarkably healthy until now (she’s 94).

JB has talked about how sad it is that for all the happy memories he has of being a child and spending time with his grandparents, now at the end of her life he feels so distant from her. His grandfather, too, was once a cherished part of JB’s childhood, but as JB grew older and his grandfather began to diminish with Alzheimer’s, their relationship changed.

I know how he feels. I loved my grandparents when I was a kid and my best memories of being young revolve around being with them at their house in Michigan. Yet by the time they died my feelings for them were totally different — it wasn’t that I loved them less, it was just that they had grown old and sick and I was an adult and that sweet childhood time was so long ago.

It is sad, but natural. If things happen that way it means long lives were lived and there’s probably no ending that would be perfect, but at least the ending didn’t come too soon.

Riley will never know his great-grandparents, but maybe someday he’ll hear stories about their lives and the happiness they brought his own parents when they were young.


I remember: a pink plastic elephant named Pinky that had four rickety wheels and could be ridden, slowly, if you pushed your way along with both feet. One magical summer a Big Wheel showed up, and with that Pinky was left in the dust. I would pedal the Big Wheel on the wooden deck that surrounded my grandparents’ house, leaving a rhythmic, satisfying ca-clunk ca-clunk ca-clunk in my wake as I clattered over the boards.

I remember: riding around the front of the house and past the side yard, a picture-perfect square of fresh-mowed green flanked by woods, then around to the back where the wind from the lake would ruffle my hair. Pedaling around the picnic tables (with the attached umbrellas I would watch my grandfather open for the first time each summer and use a broom to shoo out the sleepy bats clinging to the folded-up cloth), then past the screened-in porch where I would lie with my grandmother in the dusky evenings and watch the night descend (listening to the forest rustle and twitter with nocturnal life, whippoorwills and loons sounding their lonely cries), and onto the walkway. The Big Wheel’s noise changing with the smaller boards, coming in faster clatters now, and my eyes shaded against grasshoppers flying every which way in the beach grass. The creepy, papery sounds of snakes hurriedly slithering away from my echoing approach, and the way the grass bent and swayed with their unseen movements.

I remember: the cook house where my grandmother had summer meals for a giant table of relatives, where my plastic beach toys were stored in dusty, cobwebbed corners. The smell of gasoline in the garage, a smell I can’t get enough of to this day. The Tote Gote scooter my grandfather let me ride on the gravel road leading to their house. The slippery, dry feel of plunging my hands into the metal can of sunflower seeds we used to feed the chipmunks and birds. Butterfinger bars my grandmother hid before drawing up treasure hunts for me with X’s marking the candy’s location. My toy ranch with hundreds of now-politically incorrect figurines: cowboys, Indians, men wielding rifles, tiny mess pots, cattle. The taste of wild blueberries, each fruit smaller than a pencil eraser. Pink Ladyslippers, white Queen Anne’s Lace, Brown-Eyed Susans. The jewel-like green chrysalis of a monarch butterfly. The cold splutter of Lake Michigan, calm on a summer day, unrecognizable from its wild white winter froth.

All that and more.


If only we could go back and visit those days, see our grandparents with healthy faces again. Their eyes full of joy for us. That unconditional love. We’d bring our little boy, sneak him across the years. Imagine that, my grandfather holding Riley on his knee. JB’s grandmother, her hands unknotted, her body unconfined by the ravages of age, laughing with her grand-grandson.

I guess that’s what people talk about, when they talk about heaven.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Hey Vinz,Unfortunately the list is still more of a (optimistic) plan. Some interviews are still in the making, some are finished, for several I’m waiting for a response — We will see!I’ll keep you updated :)