We got a call last week saying that my almost 88 year old Grandfather was sick. Really sick. So sick that we had a suitcase packed with a full set of clothing for every occassion. All last week we were on hold, worrying and waiting for each update. Grampa had pneumonia a month ago and was hospitalized during the worst of that. It seems like his systems are still recovering from that and he recently began to struggle with heart and kidney functions. The strain of pneumonia was so potent that four people in his nursing home died from it. Amazingly Grandpa has pulled through the immediate crisis and was released back to his home yesterday. He's strong and always has been. Even though he is a stroke victim (almost 10 years ago) paralyzed on one side, I still remember him as the person who was capable of doing or fixing anything. It's hard for me to think that my children will never know the strong, hard-headed man I grew up knowing. But I am thankful that they treasure their relationship with their Great Grandfather and that he has gotten some pleasure in watching them grow. Jordan named him "Great Pa" (Great Grandfather plus Grandpa) when she was two and the name has stuck for all six great grandchildren to use.
It's funny, this may not be an award winning photo, but it is truly priceless to me. Knowing that my Grandfather can interact with William is special. (One day I'll post a photo of him before the stroke -- he was so handsome.) Technically the stroke took his speech capabilities, but somehow he utters each child's name while they are visiting. The brain is perplexing. Apparently the part which allows him to sing is intact so he can sing every word of a song clearly. He will burst into music to show his happiness during a visit. Grace was taken aback by the bravado of Grandpa's singing last time and it seemed she didn't like it at all. Two weeks later during one of her little nighttime prayers she stopped and said, " Thank you Lord for Great Pa. Mama, hey Mama -- you know Great Pa can sing sooo good! I like it!" and then she went right back to the rest of her prayer.
I've begun preparing myself for the inevitable goodbye that will happen one day. In reality I've been preparing for this since he had his stroke. I make sure to say a true "I love you" each time we visit and I've made sure the kids appreciate him. Still, it will never be easy to watch a loved one struggle to the end. Only God knows the true ending I suppose.