Laughter Through the Tears

My Grandpa is in the hospital again.
I went to see him and wasn’t allowed to get close to him due to a staph infection. That’s not the reason for his hospitalization, retention of fluid and difficulty breathing are.
It was painful to see him so swollen, barely able to talk. It was more painful to have to stand at the foot of his bed and not be able to hug him or hold his hand.
No matter how sick he gets, he never loses his sense of humor. He could barely talk, barely catch his breath, barely keep his eyes open and yet he managed to still make me laugh with his wicked, kind of perverted sense of humor.
That’s probably what I love about him the most. He’s always been funny. Always. And he continues to be funny even though his body is failing him ever so slowly.
As much as he made me laugh when I went to visit, he also broke my heart in a way that I’ve never experience before.
I had brought my children with me so that they could see him, but when we got to the Veterans Hospital, they told me that he had just been put in the isolation unit due to the staph infection and that the children would not be allowed to see him. Each one of them was upset because they love him and wanted to see him. Tony went to see him first. I waited downstairs with the kids. As we waited, Gabbers took out her spiral notebook and began to draw. When she was finished, she handed it to me and said “Give this to Opa from me, ok?” I folded it up, put it in my pocket and promised to give it to him.
I had every intention on giving him the picture as soon as I walked into his room, but when I saw him for the first time, I was stunned by his size (he’s gained over almost 30 pounds recently due to fluid retention) and forgot about the picture. However, as soon as he asked about the kids, I remembered and pulled it out of my pocket.
“They’re doing really good, Grandpa. They love you very much and are really sad that they couldn’t come up to see you. Gabby wanted me to give you this picture so you know she’s thinking of you!”
I handed it to my Grandma so that she could give it to him.
“He won’t be able to see it, Y.” She said. “He can’t see things anymore.”
I know he’s been losing his eyesight gradually, but this is the first time that it was presented to me in such a real way. This is the first time that I’ve given my grandparents a picture of (or from) one of my children and my grandmother didn’t pass the picture to him and say “look, Ray!”
I can’t put into words how deeply this affected me.
My Grandpa can no longer see.
I saw a sadness come over his face. I thought of how awful he must have felt in that moment. To know that his great granddaughter had made a picture for him and he couldn’t see it. I thought of the pictures that I send in the mail of the kids and how he can’t see them anymore. I thought of how much he loved to play cards and how he can’t play anymore because he can’t see.
Every time I think back to that moment, I want to cry.
And sometimes? I do cry.
But then… then I think of the way he laughed while I was there with him. How, in spite of how sick he is, he was still smiling. Still trying to make me laugh. I take comfort in that because even though his physical body is failing him, at the core of his being he’s still happy. Happy because he’s had a good life
And I’ve been blessed beyond measure to have been a part of that life.
I just received a comment that is so beautiful and expresses exactly how I feel so wonderfully, that I wanted to put it here with my post so that no one who reads this misses it. Thank you, Bridge

My great grandmother has lost her sight…and she’s a little forgetful.
But there is something so reassuring and inspiring about a well-lived life,
even housed in an imperfect and aging body. I want to be like her when I’m
a hundred…to have a soul so wise and beautiful that falling apart on the
outside is just secondary to who I am.


40 thoughts on “Laughter Through the Tears

  1. maggie, dammit

    Oh, dear.
    Going through some similar things on my end and I know just what you’re talking about. It’s so sad, and so inevitable, and so unfair.
    Peace to you.

  2. Kyla

    Oh Y. I’m so sorry. You’re right, you have been both been blessed to have each other…but this part still hurts, I know.

  3. Bridge

    My great grandmother has lost her sight…and she’s a little forgetful. But there is something so reassuring and inspiring about a well-lived life, even housed in an imperfect and aging body. I want to be like her when I’m a hundred…to have a soul so wise and beautiful that falling apart on the outside is just secondary to who I am.

  4. Angel

    What a strong man. The world could learn a lot from a man with character like that. This entry touched me as so many of yours have over the years, thank you for sharing. God bless you and your family, and Opa.

  5. Jamie AZ

    That quote from Bridge is so perfect! My husband’s grandmother is 93 and has alzheimers. We saw her a few weeks ago, a couple days before her birthday and she told us fantastic stories about the birthday parties that have been thrown for her hundredth birthday and how fabulous it was when she arrived home a day or two before that when she got off of the airplane, everyone was standing and clapping for her and all of her friends and neighbors were there. She said it made her feel like a princess – so special and warm inside. Really fantastic stories that anyone would love to experience. Except she hasn’t left the assisted living facility for more than day trips with her daughter in many years, so none of the stories she told actually happened. But… I thought to myself that if she’s so darned happy thinking that these things did happen, then who are we to tell her they didn’t?! If she’s having such amazing dreams that are making her days happy, then that’s how I’d like to spend my later life years, too.
    Sorry your grandpa is suffering and has lost his vision, but it sounds like he’s still got lots of heart and mind, which is great. Can you take a recording of the kids saying “hi” to him the next time you go so he can hear them?

  6. Mrs. Who

    That is SO TRUE about a well-lived life. My dad passed away a couple of years ago and, although I was sad, I also thought he had a well-lived life.
    He and my mom were married for over 60 years. He was a Marine for over 20 years and fought bravely for his country. He loved his children, his grand-children and his great grand-children. We all went to the beach this summer for the first time without him and we all reflected on the many, many summers we had spent there with him.
    Those are good memories.

  7. Overflowing Brain (Katie)

    It’s been 6 years and 1 week since I stood at my grandfather’s hospital bed and watched him take his last breath; since I watched him succumb to the cancers and the Parkinson’s.
    Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could go back in time and have just one more day to say all the things that I should’ve said before he died. Or all the thank yous I owed him. Or about how I hope to someday become half the person he was. Or how incredibly grateful I am that I got to be a part of his life and he, of mine.
    Instead, I get up each day and live my life in a way that would make my grandpa proud. It’s the least I can do for him.

  8. lani

    I’m sorry, Y. I was here earlier and saw the pictures of the ducks at the hospital your Grandpa was at and suspected something was up. Hugs to you. This is hard. My Grandpa had Parkinson’s disease, and instead of watching him gain weight, we watched him shrink into a skeleton. He kept his sense of humor, too, though, and that made it a little easier somehow. Thanks for highlighting the comment from Bridge. It was beautiful and perfect.

  9. Jill (CDJ)

    I only hope I have that kind of spirit as I age. My grandpa was a parapalegic, confined to a hospital bed or wheel chair (at home) and my grandma took such meticulous care of him that he never even had a bedsore for nearly 35 years. The first one he had was bad, though, and his body was so compromised that infection set in fast and they had to take his leg from the knee down. I wasn’t here for this, but when my brother went to visit him in the hospital, my grandpa said “M, what are you doing this weekend? You have to come by the house. We’re having a barbecue. Leg of Raymer.” (his last name) It is mortifying to me that he would joke about that and I am so glad he didn’t tell me that joke. But it shows that after 35 years of paralysis, cancer and an amputation, his sense of humor was in tact…. so was his common sense. He knew better than to tell that joke to me 🙂
    I hope your grandpa is as well as his conditions allow him to be and that you and your kids both get to spend more time with him… even if he can’t see you, he knows you’re there and obviously enjoys every minute of it.

  10. gorillabuns

    I’m so sorry about your Grandpa and your pain. When my Grandfather had a massive stroke, the most horrifying event was the fact he had lost his eyesight. I cried after looking at the x-rays. This was the man that was my surrogate father, who taught me to drive, and then, at that moment, he was a shell of person. I truly understand the feeling of sadness and grief over a loved one.

  11. Kim

    I went through this with my grandpa when he was on hospice at home. The nurses all said to keep talking to him that maybe he could hear and if he could it would be a shame to sit their in silence. Maybe if you get a chance to visit again you can describe the pictures to your grandpa. I’m sure he has a vivid memory and that way he could imagine the pictures and the kids for himself.
    I’m sorry you are going through this at a time when your own life is hectic. I wish you and your grandpa the best.

  12. Dawn

    This post brought tears to my eyes, Y. It speaks volumes of your Grandpa that he has such a great sense of humor even in his most trying times. He may not “see” you or your children when you are in front of him but believe me……..he “sees” all of you in his hearts eye. A perfect picture of a beautiful family that he will always carry with him. He is blessed to have you, and you him.
    I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  13. Melody

    I’ll just have you know, Y, that you have made this poor woman weep. I have had one of the roughest weeks ever and today was probably the worst yet, and here I sit just bawling. I’ve lost 3 of my 4 grandparents and I miss them so much. I am so happy that you still have these days with him (even when they do have their moments of sadness), and I am so glad that you seem like you’ve never really taken him for granted. You seem like you’ve always been close to him and those memories can never be taken from you. ((hugs)) I hope he gets home soon so your kids can see him.

  14. Suburban Turmoil

    So sorry, Y. I lost my favorite grandfather a few years ago and it still stings to this day. I have a peace plant from his funeral and I sort of love that it reminds me of him. I dream about him too, and in my dreams, he’s always smiling and happy to have moved on. 🙂

  15. Kristina

    Y, I’m so sorry that this is going on. I will pray for you, your family for his safe recovery and I hope that he gets out very soon. My Uncle is going through the same situation. He has completely lost his eyesight and his kidney’s shut down on him awhile back but thank God he was careflighted to another hospital and they were able to get his blood pressure back normal and his kidney’s functioning again. The eyesight will never return though. I just continue to pray and do not waiver in my faith. I’m going through some medical issues right now myself. I love you and hope that you are well.

  16. Kathy from NJ

    My 87 year old father died of CHF in Nov ’07 in his own bed in his own home with my mother in the bed beside him. He had hospice for the last month and it was wonderful. The end was so easy and painless. He saw all of his children & grandchildren on Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday, then he died peacefully early Saturday morning.

  17. heather

    Oh, I am so sorry he’s back in the hospital. I am glad you got to see him while he was there, and I love that he is still smiling despite his physical issues. I will be thinking of you and your family.

  18. heather

    if you think your kids can emotionally handle it i would fight for them to see him. we brought our kids (toddler and baby) to see their great grandfather who had a staph infection and were reassured by the doctor and nurses that as long as they did not touch him they would be fine…just strip them down and wash clothes and give a bath right away when you get home. they were both perfectly fine after seeing him.

  19. JenniferB

    I didn’t get to see my grandfather before he passed away, as we lived too far away to get there before it happened, but I do remember the loving presence he always was in my life. I know your memories will comfort you, and I hope you will have more time with him before you have to rely on memories. We did tape record conversations with my grandmother before she passed, with us asking her questions about her life and I love to listen to that.

  20. b.q.

    Just blogging through the recession, & stopped to show some support. Sorry about your Grandpa. I’m sending good thoughts & strength to you both. Take care.

  21. Eileen

    I am so very sorry to hear about your Grandfather. I was very, very close to my Grandmother and loosing her was one of the most difficult things in my life. What is good is that he knew you were there and he knew there was a beautiful piece of art waiting for him. He know how much he is loved, has been loved and most importantly know he will never be along.

  22. Willow

    I wish I had some words to comfort you but all I can do is tell you that I’m thinking of you and your family.

  23. Loralee

    When I was eight and my grandmother died at 91, I was sad, but I was also a kid. I was mystified that my mom was so sad. My mom was old, her mom was really old! Grown ups should know how to deal with loss, right? They know everything…don’t they?
    I was a kid.
    I didn’t understand then that no matter how old you get you are never ready to lose someone you love. Never.

  24. Amy

    Hang in there Y. They told us two weeks ago that my 19 yr. Nephew has 3 to 5 days to live. It’s going on three weeks and he still with us.

  25. patois

    You should cry. And you should laugh. And you should rejoice. And then you should cry again.
    Be strong. Be weak. Be you.
    I will put your Opa on my prayer list tonight. And I’ll include a little one for his lovely granddaughter.

  26. A

    I’ll never forget how my grandpa hugged me and sobbed with me when I lost my other grandfather 18 years ago this week. And now, we’re about to move him & my grandma out of their home to a retirement community. My mom worries that he won’t survive the impact of the change that’s about to occur. He’s lost most of his hearing and, just as important, his sense of humor when his son died three years ago. Wow, I miss his laughter. Thanks for sharing, Y. I’m sending you a word of comfort your way because I know exactly how you feel.

  27. Jodi

    Thank you for sharing with us your story and that beautiful comment from Bridge.
    I will echo someone else’s suggestion of recording the kids, speaking a message, laughing, singing a song, anything…he will hear it a see them and will mean the world to him!

  28. baseballmom

    Aw, Y, I know. My grandpa is 94, and has prostate cancer and leukemia. They’re saying he has about 2 weeks left, or so. It’s so hard to think of losing someone who’s always been a part of your life. I got to spend a couple of hours one on one with him the other day, and as he was coughing, he kept reassuring ME that he was okay…grandpas are strong guys, and definitely irreplaceable ones.

  29. The Aitch

    I’m so sorry Y. My Grampa meant the world to me and I think of him quite frequently. Wishing him and you peace.

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