It used to be, at family gatherings, no one spoke more than Grandpa. He told endless stories—stories of how books, and minerals, and southwestern paintings had come into his possession. He got a good deal on each one of them, and one day they would make him a lot of money, and each one had a story. He would punctuate his stories with demands of Grandma.
She was always obliging, getting his sweater for him, or a new fork, or the wallet from his jacket, while always the hostess to everyone around her: offering large portions of mashed potatoes and peanut butter loaf, offering seconds, even thirds, and moving around the room making sure everyone had been handed a plate of pie with whipped cream.
Things are different now. Now, at family gatherings, Grandma and Grandpa are set up in chairs with blankets, and rarely move.
Grandpa is blind and his heart is failing and now he rarely speaks. He just listens to the sounds in the room: his son telling his daughter a story; the sound of dirty dishes being placed in the sink, the TV babbling in the background, and his grandchildren making jokes, and his great-grandchildren playing, especially them.
Grandma has slipped into dementia. She has forgotten how to cook, forgets to eat, forgets to take her medicine. No longer required to do Grandpa’s errands, and not quite sure of where she is, she just sits and watches all the people in the room. But she is ever the hostess, ever gracious, making sure the people in front of her have eaten, even if she can’t serve them or recognize who they are.
And now Grandma and Grandpa do something that they never did before. Amid the babies crying, the competing conversations, the children yelling and chasing each other around the sofa—amid all this noise and confusion, they turn their faces toward each other—him with no vision, her with no clarity—and they hold each other’s hand.Share on Facebook