Conversations with Granddad
One Saturday in late October, I had driven to see my grandfather, then 92 years old, who was not at home.
My grandfather has been a walker as long as I can remember. Over the years, his walks have shortened and his pace has slowed just a little, but he still makes a loop around the neighborhood just about daily. I figured he was out walking, but honestly I can never be sure because he likes to get in his car and make trips about the town, which for anyone but himself he would call “road running,” his description for any driving that he deems frivolous.
I got back in my car and drove along his normal route, until I spotted him just a block away from the house. We chatted for a minute through the window.
Then I asked, “Want me to give you a ride back?”
He glanced up at the house. “Not hardly.”
“Ok,” I laughed.
As I steered back to the driveway, he was in the rearview mirror, making his way on his own two feet.
Weekend, late February.
“I give them away.”
“This is hundreds of dollars here in the paper! Ten off fifty at Shopper’s. I clip them from the paper and go in for a donut. If I see someone with a full basket … ‘Here you go, ma’am.’” He gestures with an imaginary coupon. “They’re very grateful. They don’t read the paper. Hundreds of dollars going to waste.”
“How’s the iPad?”
“I figured out how to look up famous people to see if they’re still alive.”
“I asked your mother the other night how to look up someone and she showed me, so now I can do it.”
My grandfather is an information hub for the family’s comings and goings. He’s always keeping everyone apprised of everyone else’s location, schedule, and plans, or wondering about someone’s whereabouts if he doesn’t know.
Late March, I was on the phone with him after work one day when he said in the same conversation both “Guess Jess is working late doing comp hours; she can never get here on time” and “Last time I talked to your parents they didn’t know if they were heading north or south so I have no idea where they are.”
When I set up the iPad for him, I never really showed him how to use the Find My Friends feature. He seemed to have enough to do with Facebook and I didn’t want to overwhelm him. But now that he’d begun looking up celebrities to see if they’re dead, it seemed the time to add the locations app to his repertoire.
“Got your iPad?” I asked.
“Yeah, got it right here. When you called, I was just looking up Carroll O’Connor. I wasn’t sure if he had died yet or not.” He paused and then added, “But he died way back in 2001!”
“Hmmm, didn’t realize it was that long ago.”
“Listen to this!” He must have hit play on something on the iPad and held it up to the phone. All of a sudden, a female voice eulogizing Archie Bunker was streaming out of my phone.
About 30 seconds later, he got back on. “Isn’t that neat?”
After he talked about In the Heat of the Night for a few minutes, I guided him through getting into the app but discovered the accounts needed to be set up again. I told him either my sister Jess or I would do it soon, and we hung up.
Immediately, my phone rang again with his Facetime.
“Granddaddy? Are you just testing things out?”
“What? No, it’s me. It’s Jennifer.”
“Well, I got you and Jess both at the same time.”
Then I could hear my sister’s muffled voice. I don’t know whether she was on his phone, somehow also on his iPad, physically present, something else, or some combination. I didn’t ask.
That evening my sister, who was with him, and I were texting back and forth to get his contacts straight. When we finally got him set up, these were the last messages: