Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Grandpa's Legacy

I am half Davis, and half Deckard. What does that mean? Davis’ are stubborn and Christian and try to do good and go to church. Deckards are ornery, sarcastic, and have lots of attitude. Yup, I’m half and half.

My mother is one of 10 kids, and her father is still living, but in the hospital with a broken hip. He can’t hear well, has no teeth, has weak knees, and needs glasses. However, up until now, he only took 1 pill a day—for cholesterol. He worked out daily on an exercise bike or a rowing machine. He’s still strong mentally as well. Have I mentioned he is almost 92?

Grandpa was not a lovey dovey kind of man when I was young. Grandma gave the hugs. He and grandma would argue nonstop about everything. I heard stories of his harshness with his kids and his wife, though I never saw it. But when Granny died and he felt her loss, it all changed. He hugs me when he sees me now, and when we depart company.

Lying in that hospital bed, I have seen him transition from determination to get back home, to being angry and unsure if he has any hope left. I have watched as my relatives catered to his complaints about the nurses, the physical therapist, the food, the pains, the aches, the pills, etc. My mom had expressed her fears that he’s given up, and she just felt helpless, unsure of what to say to him.

During a recent visit, he informed me he won’t walk again, and my Deckard came out:

“Grandpa, why won’t you walk again?” I asked very directly—a little miffed at his statement, knowing the doctor had told him he can walk and will walk.
“Because I can’t.”
“The doctor says you can.”
“Yes, he does. But I just don’t know, myself.”
“Aren’t you a Deckard? Deckards are mean and hardheaded. We don’t give up that easily, do we? You can’t let this beat you!”
He smiled.
“You will only be bound to this bed if you want to be, grandpa. It’s going to take work, but you can and you will do it.”
“OK, then.”

Maybe I was too abrupt. But I wanted him to know that he’s not a lost cause. His kids won’t stand up to him, because they fear and respect him as a tough father. But I do not know that man. I only know my grandpa who doesn’t show weakness and who is always sure of himself. I’ve never been so direct at him, and he seemed to like it. And since I had already shown an unusual boldness, I decided to broach a subject I’ve been afraid to ask about for years:

“Grandpa, I wanna hear about World War II.”
“You do? Why?”
“I want to know what you did. Where you went. Why you joined the navy.”

He looked a little taken back, and then he went deep in thought. Suddenly, the memories rolled off his tongue. As he spoke, he forgot his aches, and stopped complaining about pains. He chided himself for forgetting names from 75 years ago. He would take pauses to make sure he wasn’t confusing 2 different stories. And as he spoke, I began to massage his feet. We joked that we had a barter going on. As I massaged, he spoke. He exercised his arms and showed me how strong he still is, and I provided resistance to make him work harder. He began moving his legs and feet for me. It was like he had a purpose—to leave his legacy. I left on cloud nine, with stories in my head and realizing that this was as good for me as it was for him.

The next day, as I arrived, I found the buzzards (relatives) circling, and he was complaining again about the nurses, the pain, the physical therapist. I was immediately deflated.

But when I reminded him of our good discussion the day before, he began telling his stories again. He would say, “Write this down!” And I would scramble for a pen to get details down. He told the same stories from the day before, only this time with more detail as he was able to recollect more of the past. And the complaints ended. The pain was not an issue. The stories were the focus.

And this time, some of his kids were present, listening in awe and wonder. My Aunt Ruby kept looking at me in awe. “I’ve never heard this stuff! But I always wondered! Please write it down!”

And so, I’m compiling his stories. I’m recording history through his eyes. I’m in awe of the opportunity to do so. Sometimes we have divine moments, where we know we are at a certain place at a certain time for a reason. And this was one of those.


Kimberly said...

Okay first, you are the only other person I know who knows how to spell ornery.

Second, how awesome. I got goosebumps. Those stories are going to become SO IMPORTANT later in life, and you took him somewhere he wanted to be where he couldn't be consumed with his own self! Can he write? Can he write his stories when no one else is there? I imagine he enjoys telling them, are so awesome!

luke said...

That is awesome. Tiff's dad was in WWII also and has stories ... we need to write them down too!