My Grandpa 4/7/06

Grandpa has been moved to a skilled nursing facility. He shares a room with another man who has a feeding tube. Those machines are REALLY loud. It’s like sitting next to a generator. I don’t think he moves much, or even really wakes up, but he has the window. Lucky guy. Gramps is in the first bed and rests on a hospital bed under a horribly cheap-looking fluorescent light with a little metal bead chain to turn it on and off. I don’t think he can reach it. 
When I came in this afternoon, Linda was sitting beside Grandpa and their heads were close together. It looked like I was disturbing a moment, and I couldn’t be sure but it looked like Linda was crying. She hasn’t really shown much emotion since she flew in last week (which was actually making me a little uneasy around her), but when she stood up to say hello, her eyes welled up with tears and she said “I just told him he probably won’t ever go home again.” To which Grandpa replied in typical Grandpa fashion, “Bye bye house.”  
Dammit. Grandpa has been through too much to wilt and fade like a cut flower.  
Grandpa is not a flower. Grandpa is a song. A strong vibrant song that has built and crescendoed, and resounds throughout the space in which it is played, reverberating the walls, bouncing back and forth. He is a familiar song that will always, no matter what, bring a sweet smile to your face and make you tap your feet. He is the song you stay in your car to hear the end of, and you can’t, won’t, will not stop listening until the last note remains firmly embedded in your mind, so you can take it with you wherever it is you are going. 
Guess I was wrong about the guy in the next bed. He just got up, made a whole truckload of noise (I thought an angry nurse was violently searching the cabinets and slamming them shut in frustration), blew his nose, and ambled out of the room. Lucky him. Meanwhile, the machine drones on, and Grandpa lies in his bed, eyes closed, or staring blankly at the ceiling. 
The nurses came in and changed his mattress. He was quite uncomfortable on the last one, but I don’t think that’s why they changed it. They gave him a pump-it-up air mattress to prevent pressure ulcers. When I came back in after the switch, I asked, “So, Gramps, whatcha thinkin’?” And he said “This feels wonderful.” 
The guy in the next bed blows his nose and it sounds like a television that was on full blast and suddenly went to static. It’s startling in a whole different way than I am accustomed to nose-blowing, and I know some honkers. Gramps is a honker. Always has a handkerchief wadded up in his pocket. He had to blow his nose earlier when Linda was here, and she produced a nice soft tissue (the box o’s they supply here are more in the wrapping-tissue vein of tissue). I thought, “When was the last time Grandpa blew his nose on a piece of paper? I’ve never seen it.” I’m so used to the handkerchief preceding the HONK HONK sniffle of Grandpa’s nose-blowing, that I watch to see if he will blow a hole in this disposable snot-catcher…but he doesn’t. He doesn’t even blow. Grandpa wipes his nose back and forth and grabs it a little through the tissue and wiggles slightly. When he is done, he must relinquish the tissue to Linda who puts it in a little plastic bag that has been taped to the side of his serving tray to serve as a trash repository. I never knew I loved the sound of Grandpa blowing his nose until I waited for it, and it didn’t come. 
Another sound I associate purely with Grandpa and Grandma is the sound of cards shuffling. Not being shuffled by hand, but being hand cranked through a green and black card shuffler exactly three times before the dealing of the cards begins. The cards hit the table sharply – whack, whack, whack – and then they are individually slipped onto the table with a “fwap”, and then the game begins. When Erin and I used to spend the night at Grandpa and Grandma’s house, we would crack our door open so we could hear the shuffle. You needed to get out to the table before the dealing began, so the shuffle was very important. As soon as the cranking shuffle seeped it’s way into our dreams, we roused ourselves as quickly as we could and stumbled into the kitchen to try to join in on Grandma and Grandpa’s morning Spite ‘N Malice ritual.  
If you heard the deal, it was too late, so we would lie in bed and wait for the game to be done and the new shuffle to begin. We could hear Grandma exclaiming “Achtuliber!” which we figured was German for “I’ll be damned.” Grandpa got on a winning streak? “Achtuliber!” Grandma drew three wild cards in a row? “Achtuliber!” Grandpa won another game by the skin of his teeth? “Achtuliber!” I think I don’t want to know what that word means or even how it is spelled. It is Grandma’s word. I’d like to keep it that way.  

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