Conversations with my Grandfather: Hospital Edition
Working together on his personal history, October 2014
“I rewrote it. Don’t worry. It makes sense now.”
Some unremarkable evening
We occasionally FaceTime on his iPad. One time, he kept moving the iPad over and over, turning it this way and that, which caused the screen on my end to constantly flip around and change shapes. When the screen finally settled, I said, “You’re giving me seasisckness.”
“I’m looking at the screen. I’m looking at myself. I get a little corner. You get the whole thing.”
He was trying to get the screen to switch so it would show the image of himself bigger.
“I guess they figure you’d rather look at the person you’re talking to than yourself.”
On the phone on a summer day
Me: “What’s going on?”
“I was tracking you,” he said. “I told Mel you’d be here in 5 minutes.”
I was getting out of my car at my grandfather’s, and this explained why he and his friend Mel were waiting for me on the carport: he had been following me through Find My Friends on his iPad.
I was picking them up on the way to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. Although we had plenty of time to spare before our designated arrival time, and no one would have cared if we had been late, my grandfather and Mel were waiting outside.
“You don’t need to come in do you?” he said, shutting the door.
“I was going to go to the bathroom … but that’s ok.”
“You could have gone. We’re in absolutely no hurry,” he said as he was locking the door.
“No, I can wait.”
“Ok,” he said, walking down to my car.
On the drive down, which is about 30 minutes, I brought up the bathroom and he again insisted I could have gone.
“But you were locking the door and coming to the car! You didn’t seem to be wanting to unlock it.”
“No use running in and out. Just make one exit.”
Whenever we’re on the phone and he’s done talking about whatever we’re talking about
Rehab center, after hip replacement surgery
The sun was starting to shine in on his face, so I tried to close the blinds. They got stuck.
“Let’s call the nurse,” I said, as I could see it was irritating him.
“No, the sun will be down in 10 minutes.”
He was stuck in his hospital bed as the setting sun got more and more intense, so I went to stand in its path at the window, which he did not like. A lot of back and forth ensued, and he did a 180: he was now passionately in favor of calling the nurse to fix the blinds.
“It’s fine, don’t worry about it,” I said. “The sun will be down in 10 minutes; you said so yourself. We’ll tell them later.”
“They should know.”
“We can tell them later. I’ll have to move to go get them.”
“It’s like ISIS. You have to say something. These people know about ISIS and they never speak up.”
He ended up pressing the red button on the hospital bed and calling the nurse. He is reluctant to push that button for anything actually important, but now that I was standing in place of the blinds, it was urgent for the nurse to come.
“Can you come to fix the blind?” he said into the red button. “When you pull it, it’s broken.”
The nurse came in and shook the blind loose, but about 90 seconds after she was gone, it began slinking down the window toward the floor.
“Just pull on it,” my grandfather instructed.
“I can’t, it’s broken.”
“I’d go over there and fix it myself if I could.”
We decided that I would alert the nurse at the next opportunity but there was no need for the red button this time.
Later that evening, he hesitantly started another conversation by saying, “I hate to tell you something that will upset you.”
I braced myself for a conversation about death or money or wills or any number of other things related to his mortality that I did not want to think about.
“I don’t mean to make fun of you or anything, but you need to get a permanent or something for your hair. I’ll give you money to do it.”
Imagine my relief that this was the unpleasant topic he wanted to discuss. Also, let me remind everyone that when I got my hair cut several months ago, he seemed not to notice at all.
“You need to pretty it up. You’ve got a pretty face, but your hair doesn’t do anything for it.”
“A perm isn’t really in fashion now.”
“Something can be done, I’m sure.”
A pause, while I took all this in.
“So, did the nurse put in the maintenance request for the blinds?”
“I don’t mean to embarrass you, but you’re a pretty girl and it doesn’t do you justice. It’s too stringy or … something.”
“My haircut is the latest in fashion.”
“I’ll say it’s different.”
When my uncle later came to visit, the subject came up again. My uncle said, “Well, it’s windy out.”
“It’s not windy in here,” my grandfather replied. “You told me you got it cut a short time ago,” he said to me.
“About 6 months ago.”
“Hell, I could have done a better job.”
On my finally successfully operating the handle on his hospital bed, which always got stuck
“I knew it was so simple you’d get it eventually.”
Photo: Selfie with Granddad, late 2004