This year’s beach trip has put me in close contact with watching the decline of human life. It’s depressing and weighs on my heart. I see it with my patients, but they’re not directly related to me with many past memories.
Both my grandma and my grandpa are getting on in years, but my grandpa is several years older than my grandma. Every year we’ve gone to the beach with them, he’s been gung-ho about run/jogging/walking to a pier and back. This year I was able to walk with him personally and I even let him walk Gable. He loves dogs and I know it, but dogs are much too powerful for him now. I trust Gable because I know he won’t pull too hard even if he was trying to get back to me the whole time. Glad to have been able to give my grandpa that feeling of walking a dog again. But aside from that we were unable to get all the way to the pier. I asked him if he wanted to go to the pier and he indicated yes (I can’t understand what he’s saying half the time) but he was the one who suggested we turn around before getting there. My grandma usually likes to walk as a group in a similar fashion but she, too, was much slower and unable to go as far this year.
He has a tradition of flying a kite at the beach, so he brought his homemade kite (he’s always had a tendency towards strange “Frankenstein-ed things”) with like a mile of string wrapped around….an empty Centrum Silver bottle. So my brother and I were out playing in the water and sand and he came out to fly the kite. It was a good day to do so, actually: very windy. However, it wasn’t particularly warm. Probably low 80’s, but only partly sunny and lots of wind. He spent a lot of time sitting and enjoying the beach in the chair I brought. I remember looking up and exclaiming that my goodness the kite was realllllllllllly up there! In the end it took him at least 30 minutes to reel it in before my brother and I took over to speed things up. After that, he got sick. Like vacation-destroying sick. The rest of us were fine. Now back home, my aunt and uncle were able to force him to go to the doctor where they diagnosed him with bronchitis and put him on an antibiotic.
The other thing that really hit the whole mortality thing home for me, thought, we his inability to stand up from a beach chair…one of those low ones. My grandpa is a proud proud man. I came to pull him off the chair, which isn’t hard because he weighs at most 100 lbs, but even if I could pull him off the chair, he could not make his legs obey him. His legs could not support him. I had to put him back down and pick him up by his armpits to get him to stand up and I could feel that I was basically his muscles at that point because his weren’t obeying him. Being that close and personally supporting him like that…it was a blow to me…and my gosh I KNOW it was a blow to him. After that, after the kite, after not reaching that pier, I noticed a change in him. I noticed that he was slower, more careful…and that he realized how much weaker he had become. The fight wasn’t there anymore. The fire had died down.
And yet he was/is still as stubborn as ever. My mom was getting frustrated having to talk him into doing things.
When we came home, they wanted to go eat out, and my grandpa refused. I came to pick up my grandma and saw my grandpa busying himself at his home, and before I came out I could just SEE the happiness and relief in him in being back in his house. Came out and he cheerfully answered that they had just gotten home. My mom mentioned later that she doesn’t think he’ll be game for many more trips in the future.
It’s a hard concept to grasp, but it’s a truth that must be experienced. This trip more than anything has made me think seriously about life, mortality and the future…for all of us, my relatives, my mom, and for me. I feel the need to decide on relationship or not, marriage or not, kids or not. My grandparents may not be around too much longer to experience it with me. But. Am I ready to give up what I have now?