In my 17th summer my Grandpa Golden had a stroke that
took away his health and ability to walk or speak, but
worst of all, his pride. Grandma called to say, ďIf
Carol would come and take care of him for me, Iíll let
him stay home; otherwise Iíll have to put him in a
nursing home. Thatís all it took. I had a great
affection and respect for Grandpa. I agreed to go.
I didnít think he was the same grandpa from all the
summers past. His clear blue eyes were cloudy. He had
been tall and straight, a proud man that was neat, clean
and a sharp dresser. Now wrinkled and stained,
drooling, he was weak and bent over. His mischievous
twinkle was gone.
I had never taken care of an adult before and had no
idea how this was to be done. I never did get over my
embarrassment at doing all grandpaís personal care. Iím
afraid I didnít do a good job of it because of this, and
because I knew he was also embarrassed. He smelled of
old skin, urine and oily hair. I had no idea how to
shave a person and so he had patches of whiskers and
nicks from my efforts. Neither he nor Grandma
complained, and I didnít realize until many years later
just how poor a job I had done.
But I managed to walk him many times a day by using my
body as a walker, and patiently listened as he worked at
talking to me. I changed his pants whenever he dribbled
urine, fed him his meals and changed his shirt when he
dribbled food. Grandma went to her Lodge and garden
meetings, and had her hair done while we spent daily
time on the front porch, just as we had done for years.
In the evenings the three of us listened to the evening
sounds of crickets and hoot-owls and watched the
lightening bugs. We sucked on homemade popsicles from
Kool-Aid frozen in cups with spoon handles. This man
that used to take me for ice-cream cones was now
delighted with this treat from me.
By the end of the summer Grandpa had gained enough
strength to hold up most of his own weight. Speech had
also improved so much that we were able to have simple
conversations. One evening though, as I sat on the porch
swing, he shared a story I had never heard before. It
was the most he said at one time all that summer and I
could tell it was important to him.
When he was a young man he worked for Railway Express,
sorting mail in the train car. One day the train he was
working in derailed and crashed turning many cars over.
He rushed out of the Railway Express car to help the
passengers. One was a lovely young woman who was also
the daughter of the train engineer. She hurt her ankle
and was crying. He got her out of the mess and gave her
comfort. That was the day he fell in love. A few days
later he came to her house to check on her recovery,
bringing a gift. It was a pair of hand blown glass vases
shaped like morning glories. They were damaged goods
from the wreck. That was the beginning of their life
together. Now I have one of those vases, about 90 years
later. Wow! I thought. They were once my age Ö and in
Carolena Lapierre is a 61
year old retired nurse/surgical scrub tech. She is a
mother of three natural and four adopted children plus
past foster mom of over 150 special needs kids.
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