Today’s blog challenge is: Day 18, Saturday: Tell a story from your childhood. Dig deep and try to be descriptive about what you remember and how you felt.
When I saw this was today’s challenge I thought long and hard about what memory is most vivid for me. The one I am going to tell you isn’t easy for me, but it’s my most vivid.
When I was 13 my paternal Grandfather died. I had to actually do the calculations on this one because I thought I was much younger than 13, but that would have been my age when he died in 1987. I guess maybe it’s because I felt so much smaller then. I felt like he and I had a special bond. He was a gruff kind of guy and not prone to much open love and affection, but I always got hugs and smiles from him. When we would be leaving his home he would always expect a hug from me. He would be upset if he didn’t get one. It made me feel special. (I’m sure he did this with many, if not all, the grandchildren, but I’m in denial that it was only me.)
He had gotten ill – I don’t remember from what – and was in the intensive care unit at the hospital. All the kids and most of the grandkids had all been there, hanging out in the waiting room for hours. I couldn’t go back to see him because of the unit he was in. Finally my parents, obviously knowing the gravity of the situation, pushed for us younger ones to be able to see him “perhaps one last time.”
I had heard whispering among the family saying that he wasn’t well and that they didn’t expect him to live much longer, but I wasn’t about to let that happen. My hug would make him feel better – I just had to get back there. So I was glad when we went back the long, dark hallway to his room.
To this day – I almost wished they hadn’t pushed for us to see him.
My Grandfather was never a frail man to me. He always used a wheelchair to get around their home, but he was robust and loud, he cursed, he chomped a cigar all day – this was not a frail person. But the man in the hospital bed was. He certainly was NOT my Grandfather. He looked disoriented and afraid. It scared me.
I vaguely remembering hugging him, trying to cheer him up, but it was like he didn’t know me. He looked mean – I think he may have been slightly belligerent to Grandma. As we were ushered out of the room I turned back to wave to him and he suddenly sat up in bed and looked at me with a wild stare. He looked frightened – almost like he was pleading us not to go. I hesitated, but my Mom’s grip on my hand led me forward and away from his stare.
This look lingers in my mind to this very day.
We all left the hospital at that point – it was getting very late and Grandma needed some rest. We drove the six miles back to her home. We were not in her house more than two minutes before the hospital called to tell us he had died.
To this day I think about that look. Was he trying to reach out to me? Did he suddenly remember me? Was he trying to get one last look of his family? Or was he struggling with the unknown – heaven or hell? (This particular thought really bothers me today.) I have no idea. I may never know. It haunts me when I think about him. I hope someday I will see him in heaven and he will be able to tell me what he was thinking in that moment. Until then – this is my most vivid memory of my childhood.