I Haven’t Much Time Left

It is almost a cliche, but as I began writing this post about my grandparents the theme to Schindler’s List began playing on my iTunes. Just a few years ago I had four grandparents, or should I say four LIVING grandparents. In the blink of an eye I am down to two. It feels a little unfair.

This past weekend my grandfather took me aside to talk to me.

“Son, at this stage of the game I don’t know how much time I have left. Promise me that you’ll look after your grandmother.” It was hard for him to say it. I pretended not to see the teary eyes and assured him that I would.

“You know your parents are going to be gone a long time. I don’t know if it is going to be the last time I get to see them.”

I took grandpa’s hand in my own and reminded him that he never expected to live past fifty and he is almost 93.5. For a moment we sat there in silence. I tried to think of something that I could say that would ease his mind, but there wasn’t anything more that I could add.

It was hard. Most of his friends are dead, some long gone and others not so long. But still his contemporaries are disappearing at a rapid clip. Sometimes there is such sadness in his eyes. He’ll tell a story about things he did and gradually trail off as he realizes that his crew isn’t around any more to relive the tales.

Don’t get me wrong. More often than not I see him smiling. His great-grandchildren make him beam with pride. And from time to time I can see him take pleasure in my stories.

“Jack, now you understand what your father and grandfathers did. Now you know what it means to be a family man, a provider. You understand the fear, the pleasure and the pain.”

His praise means a lot to me. How can it not. I still enjoy hearing his stories and sharing my own. I feel fortunate to have had as much time with him as I have. Some of my fondest memories of him and my other grandfather have come within the last ten years or so.

They are moments in time in which we spoke as adults about our careers.
Things that happened sixty years ago still happen in the same manner as today. The challenge of being the sole provider for a family is no different than it once was. Some things transcend time. I cherish the moments I had and those that I still get.

I won’t lie and say that I am not distressed by comments about how much time he has left. They don’t bother me as much as when he gets upset about not being able to take care of my grandmother as he once did. I can empathize. I can imagine the frustration of not being physically able to do what I once did. I write about it now. I bitch and moan about aches and pains that don’t quite go away as fast as they used to.

But, I am not 93. I can only imagine that they are more pronounced for him. To use his own line, “at this stage of the game” I want to make life as easy I can for him. So I’ll do what I can to ease his mind and we’ll see what happens. It makes me sad to think that one day I won’t have his counsel anymore.

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11 Comments

  1. Jack's Shack August 16, 2007 at 5:50 am

    Smooth,

    Ask my sisters, mother/wife and you’ll find that I am an expert at making women cry. πŸ˜‰

    It is hard watching family members age.

  2. Smooth August 12, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    So moving, Jack, but now I’m pissed off because I didn’t want to cry this morning. πŸ˜‰ I miss my Dad so, and watching my mother age, she’s 82, is so depressing because I know how sad she really is.

  3. Jack's Shack August 10, 2007 at 4:39 am

    CR,

    Thank you. I am very grateful for the time I have had with them.

    GS,

    He is and my grandmother is something else too.

    PP,

    Enjoy the time. Just four years ago there two more place settings at my parent’s table.

  4. tafka PP August 9, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Amazing post. Especially as I still can’t imagine life without any of mine… And I never, ever know what to say in response when any of them (usually one of the Grandpas) starts a “I might not be around much longer” conversation. Humour is usually the way forward.

  5. Guilty Secret August 8, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Beautiful πŸ™‚
    He sounds like a fantastic man.

  6. Jack's Shack August 8, 2007 at 6:32 am

    Michael,

    Thanks, I appreciate it.

    Eliesheva,

    Thank you.

    Woman,

    It is the least I can do.

    Eliie,

    It is very hard to watch this, but I’d rather have this than nothing.

    Misanthrope,

    I am glad to hear that you miss yours. All too often I hear people say otherwise. It is a special relationship.

  7. The Misanthrope August 8, 2007 at 3:56 am

    I enjoy your grandparent stories. I long for mine again.

  8. MizEllie August 7, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    It’s really tough watching your parents/grandparents age. It’s hard seeing the ones who have provided strength and comfort throughout your life grow weak. Nonetheless, you are also right about what a gift it is to have them around for so long. Many are not so lucky.

  9. WomanHonorThyself August 7, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    its beautiful of u to honor him Jack..:)

  10. Michael August 7, 2007 at 7:51 am

    That was a beautiful post, Jack.
    It put me in mind of my own grandfather. He’s 86 now, and his health is failing, and I know that, living here in Israel on a tight budget, I will miss the inevitable funeral.
    I try to talk to him as often as possible, and to get the kids on the phone with him so they can talk to him, but you’re right: time is limited.
    I try to tell some of the stories about him, to pass them on to his great-grandchildren.
    I’m meandering; I’d better post about his myself. Thanks for talking about this.

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